Southland lawyer-turned lettuce farmer increasing hydroponics enterprise

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Southland lawyer-turned lettuce farmer expanding hydroponics business

Angela Beazer overlooks her hydroponic salads. Photo / supplied

A Southland lawyer who turned lettuce farmer looks forward to devoting all of her time to expanding her hydroponics business.

Aviation attorney Angela Beazer, who worked part-time for the Civil Aviation Administration, recently received a $ 2.5 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund.

While she is flying high, the 45-year-old has her feet firmly on the ground. With the plans to triple production at the salad farm, she realized that she could no longer do both jobs and had to give up one.

“But now I’m ready for change. I’ve tried juggling both of them, but they don’t complement each other.

“I have a life that many people would envy. I can work on my own schedule. I can be there to pick my daughter up from school, but like I said, they (lawyer / lettuce grower) don’t complement each other. I could not giving 100 percent for both, when I do something, I like to do it right.

“I’m really looking forward to just focusing on the salads.”

If someone had said to the former career professional eight years ago that she was destined to be a salad farmer, she would have laughed.

“I imagined salads being sown in the middle of the muddy paddock. Not my cup of tea at all.”

She and her partner, Craig Macalister, had already made a leap in confidence when they moved from Wellington to Invercargill to take on a new position with the financial advisory and accounting firm Findex.

However, it was her frustration of not being able to find a suitable rural lifestyle block that led her to real estate in Myross Bush.

Pounded on the shoulder by a real estate agent, they went out and looked at a place that happened to be a hydroponic plant – Drysdale Hydroponics.

“I didn’t know anything about growing lettuce. We were down here for about a year. I had a piece of land where I grew vegetables – a little broccoli, some cauliflower, a few potatoes. Actually the potatoes were already there. That was about the extent of my horticultural experience. “

Eight years later, she is growing hundreds of lettuce on her Southern Hydroponics farm, which still operates as Drysdale Hydroponics near Invercargill.

And with the expansion, which will employ an additional 30 people, she will grow more and other vegetables, including peppers and tomatoes.

“We make a pretty fixed amount of products. The business has to expand because there is more competition. The minimum wage has gone up, so either you shut down or you expand and make it worthwhile.”

The increase in production and the decrease in costs resulted in better economies of scale. Beazer liked the concept of hydroponics as an efficient way to grow food on a large scale.

While it was a great move, it was also a great lifestyle change.

“I sometimes think, ‘why am I doing this?’ But you work at waist height – you don’t have to bend over and I really enjoy working under cover, but I still feel like I’m working outdoors.

“On the other hand, this is a 365-day, 24/7 operation. Somebody has to be here all the time and watch. A lot happens behind the scenes.”

It was difficult at times to close the greenhouse door and walk away when you had to keep checking things like nutrients and temperatures, she said.

“One thing I’m really looking forward to is the ability to upgrade to a heat pump from the boiler.”

It might also be time to resume some interests – like Zumba.

“I did, but since the lockdown and everything I haven’t done, I’ve been a little lazy and haven’t done it.”