Meet the Grower: Pete Mitchell

Meet the Grower: Pete Mitchell

We’re lucky to work with cultivation partners who are as committed to quality as we are. And because they’re nearly all based close to our Oamaru base, we can always drop by to see how the crop is coming along – or just have a yarn, which is what Meet the Grower is really about! This time around we caught up with Pete Mitchell for a quick chat (it’s harvest time, after all!) about what’s happening at Rosedale Farm.

Peter & Sandra Mitchell Rosedale Farming Company
Harvesting barley

The Mitchell and Webster families go way back to the early days of Topflite, when they worked together to plant the first sunflowers at Rosedale Farm. These days Pete Mitchell is a director and co-owner of Topflite as well as the lead grower of many of our central ingredients, sunflower seeds, canary seed, wheat and barley. Pete, with his wife Sandra and the team at Rosedale Farming Company now farm in a 10km radius around the original sunflower site, with five main blocks as well as a couple of leased paddocks. 

First things, first. Best view over the paddocks – sunrise or sunset?

Oh good question. I'm going to say early morning sunrise, you get some nice views of crops. They can look their best in the morning.

What do you love about crop farming?

It's really neat to be able to grow something and then be part of the journey of watching it land on the retail shelf. It’s that knowledge of how something goes from paddock to plate – or feed bowl – that gives you a sense of pride, I suppose.

To do crop farming really well is hard. It’s actually really complex and requires a whole lot of input and knowledge – and then there's an amazing amount of weather risk to manage too. It’s always challenging and sometimes heart-in-your-mouth stuff as you try to predict future weather and make crop growing decisions. What's the best way to maintain the quality of the seed in four months' time? What do we do today to preserve that quality? But when you get a good result it's a really cool feeling and that's why we continue to do it. This is a crazy game but fortunately we’ve got a lot of experience to draw on.

And now your son Henry is stepping up?

Yes, Rosedale is where I grew up and we've just shifted off site recently. Henry and Briar and their wee daughter live in the original family homestead now, so the next generation's coming along. He organises the day-to-day work for the five of us, so everyone knows what they're doing for the day and where and what we're going to be harvesting.

What do you most look forward to about harvest season?

The excitement of reaping the rewards of all your efforts over the growing season. It’s our pinnacle, really. The autumn wheat, for example, was sown in April and we have to wait almost a whole year to see the yield. It’s a bit like waiting for your birthday all year as a kid and unwrapping your presents, hoping you got a good one. It’s a long wait!

Watching the harvest go out the gate with our name stamped on it is a great feeling too, something you really feel proud of. I pride myself on growing good quality – the way I see it, there's no point in just me being satisfied, it's got to be the customer at the end of the day, otherwise we won't be here next year.

What’s one tool you couldn’t do without?

Our head snatcher. It fits to the front of the combine and enables us to harvest the sunflowers so without it we can't do much!

Lastly, what’s the most beautiful flower you grow? The sunflowers must be hard to beat.

It would probably have to be sunflowers, yeah. It’s a nice crop to grow and creates a lot of interest. After 30 years of growing them, I do take that for granted sometimes! We also grow a lot of radish which has a small flower, just a couple of centimetres, but is very pretty. Having some diversity in flowers is good.

Made in NZ New Zealand grown Topflite Team