© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

"So many businesses will struggle to survive"

Emma Olsen
Clevedon Farmers Market
Busy Clevedon Farmers Market on a Sunday morning   Helen Dorrenstyn

The owners of Clevedon Farmers Market and Clevedon Buffalo Company believe recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 lock-down will be challenging

Helen and Richard Dorrenstyn, who started the market in 2005 and the buffalo company a year later, feel their biggest obstacle will be restructuring their businesses to ensure they survive.

The buffalo farm, which has won a plethora of awards since including eight gold medals this year, and the farmers market, which has been a Sunday morning staple for lots of Aucklanders, have both faced many challenges since lockdown began.

At the farmers market, there are usually over 60 permanent and seasonal stalls which means many local growers, farmers, and food producers have been left with no outlet to sell their goods. 

The lack of initial information from the Government caused a great deal of anxiety and it was perseverance in those first few weeks that helped show Helen how important local food systems were.

Worried about her staff's livelihoods, Helen set up an online market from which people in a 25km radius of the market can still buy and enjoy some products. 

"Some vendors have enjoyed good sales through this."

The market will not resume for quite some time but Helen believes when it does, people will benefit from shopping and connecting as opposed to clicking and collecting.

"As a safe place to shop and a focal point for the community, I believe the market will be important to our locals and will be a great place to go."

Clevedon Farmers Market busy as usual
Clevedon Farmers Market busy as usual Helen Dorrenstyn

Their buffalo farm, on the other hand, has had significant drought this year, meaning they've had expensive ongoing costs even before COVID-19 started affecting business.

"Hospitality is 60% of our business so there is a large amount of money owed to us from this sector. Our fixed costs with the factory and farm, run to many thousands of dollars.

"With COVID-19 affecting the company we have slashed budgeting costs where we can and have had to put down a significant amount of hard cheese which we can sell at a later date."

Helen has been concerned about the day-to-day costs of running the business and keeping the team employed.

"The wage subsidy helped to retain staff but fixed costs still accumulate so many businesses will struggle to survive. The situation was probably unavoidable but when you have staff and livestock, you have more to worry about than just your own family.

"You are responsible for others' lives and livelihoods. As a business owner, your focus is not on the immediate effect but the long-term effects on the year's budget and your ability to meet commitments over the next few years."

Helen says more importance needs to be placed on keeping small food producers afloat. She hopes that from all of this, more people will value what New Zealand has.

"I also sincerely hope that we don't lose all the people in the industry that are trying to create better products made locally, as they are a link to sustainable food future for New Zealand and they create jobs."

She is yet to see a positive outcome from the pandemic but is looking forward to being able to create accurate budgets and long-term plans for the future of her family businesses. 

Clevedon Buffalo Company
Clevedon Buffalo Company Helen Dorrenstyn