by Chris Tobin
People once came in droves to admire the thousands of dancing daffodils at Pleasant Valley Daffodil Farm, just outside Geraldine, but it will not be happening this spring.
“We’ve decided not to open to the public now,” Gordon Coombes, who runs the daffodil farm with his wife, Cindy, said.
“By the same token, people’s lives have changed.
“When we started, most worked 40-hour weeks and weekends were free but people’s shopping and working lives have changed.
“The younger generation don’t have the same interest in gardening and they’re too busy.
“They go on the internet to buy. That’s fine but we don’t have the foot traffic we used to have.”
The Coombes have more than 2ha of blooms with about 1500 different name varieties and many more seedlings. Each year they sell thousands of bulbs all around the country.
“There wouldn’t be many gardens in Geraldine that wouldn’t have had our bulbs at some stage,” Mr Coombes said.
“Our market is solely in New Zealand. We could export but it’s quite costly.
“You have to have a licence and every bulb is inspected.
“We’ve always kept it [the farm] at a size to suit ourselves.”
The decision to close to the public is part of a slow retreat from the business by the Coombes.
Two years ago they placed the farm on the market.
Mr Coombes said they were getting older and were keen to pursue other interests, while the physical work was also a factor.
“We’re getting to the stage where it’s hard. Our bodies are hurting.
“I’ve got 10 years until I retire and I’d like to do something different.
“A lot of smaller growers have gone by the way and moved out of daffodils.
“There’s no-one in the country doing what we do.
“We sell a few cut flowers but it’s not the main part of our business. For cut flowers you need to be close to the big centres and the seasons vary.
“The North Island season is over before ours starts for flower growing.”
The Coombes took over 25 years ago from Mr Coombes’ stepfather, Colin Crotty, and his mother, Ness, who started the Brophy Rd business in 1977.
In that period they have seen far-reaching changes in the farming community with the shift to dairying, but Mr Coombes predicted with the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, further change was coming.
“There will be a lot in the dairy industry who will be leaving because they don’t want to start again.”
Yet the Coombes are in no hurry to sell.
“Our goal is for someone to buy it as a going concern. It would be a pity to lose 40 years of breeding and growing flowers.
“We’re prepared to wait.”