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Success grows for shot in dark

On a weekday, the Lochloosa Farm Store and Scullery is a small, unassuming building, set back a few metres from the edge of White Rock Rd, about 8km south of Martinborough.

It’s about the size of a shipping container, perhaps.

But, come the weekend, when the Matchett family throws open the wooden double doors of the shiny corrugated metal store just before 8.30am, it quickly bustles with locals and visitors stocking up on homegrown veggies, homemade bread and pastries, and handcrafted pottery.

Lochloosa’s popularity has grown rapidly since Jenna and Mark Matchett first opened its doors for a soft launch in January, thanks mainly to “nothing but word of mouth and Instagram”, Mark said.

“I dare say 90 per cent of our business has been local, Wairarapa support,” Jenna, also manager of the Masterton Food Bank, said. “Wairarapa is just one big community, and I’m constantly surprised by how great this region is.”

The tiny store’s growing reach is the latest stage in a project that started, literally, in the dark.

“We bought it in the dark,” Jenna said. “We drove down from Dannevirke, and we went to the neighbours and said, ‘don’t shoot us, we’re not poachers’,” Jenna said.

“We drove our little hatchback in here and drove up onto one of the little mounds so the headlights lit up the trees and we went for a walk,” Mark explained.

The contours, trees, lake and “interest” of this former council stock-holding paddock swiftly weaved its way firmly into the Matchetts’ hearts.

Jenna and Mark agree: “We will never sell this place. Not in a million years. Ever.”

It’s a feeling of connection and connectedness they hope “comes across in our store”, Jenna said, and is aligned with her life-long love of nourishing friends and family.

“I’ve always loved feeding people, in any capacity, whether it’s inviting people over for dinner, or having an ‘open door’ dinner table, or my work at the food bank, or growing produce.

“It’s tying a passion of mine into another passion – and hopefully that’s reflected in our store.

“Everything we do is literally with love.”

This includes ensuring Lochloosa surplus is directed to Martinborough’s food bank, where Jenna also works 10 hours a week.

“I am a huge believer that you shouldn’t have to be wealthy to afford good food.”

Jenna and Mark designed the garden and store, which is set within a 10-acre lot, “with the environment in mind”.

A lot of their produce is grown in wicking garden beds, a “self-watering” system which “wicks” – draws up water – from a reservoir below and delivers to the plants as they need it.

“It’s a small-scale concept applied at a big scale,” Jenna explained. “The water is absorbed by the plants from below before it can evaporate. You’re not watering from the top; you are watering from the bottom.”

Planning and managing the garden “to tease produce out over the growing season” and avoid gluts and scarcity is “tricky”, Mark said, and Jenna has returned to college to study horticulture “to solidify the learning and hang-out with like-minded people.”

“There are definitely benefits to continual learning,” Jenna said.

The future looks busy and productive for the Matchett family, which includes daughters Poppy and Molly and two puppies, Moose and Puck.

And for those who are looking for a hot beverage to go with their homemade custard square [“made with real custard”], you are in luck.

A coffee machine has been installed, and Mark is getting trained by Jenna, who has barista experience.

“We’ve decided we have to add coffee to our offering, because that’s what everyone’s been saying, ‘you have to do coffee’,” Mark said.

Lochloosa is at 627a White Rock Road, Martinborough and open Saturdays and Sundays from 8.30am to 1.30pm.

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