Meet the grower

Meet the grower: John Leonard

Ashburton Baby Pea and Rocket


From along the fertile banks of the Ashburton River comes our delicious Baby Pea and Rocket soup, with mint & crème fraiche. This soup from the farms of Canterbury brings the unmistakable taste of fresh garden peas and peppery rocket, straight to your bowl.

John Leonard is a Field Agronomist at Talley’s Group Ltd, suppliers of our beautiful baby peas. That’s him in the photo – he’s a bit camera shy!

Where did your love for farming begin?
I have grown up and farmed in the Canterbury region all my life, and for the last ten years I’ve been working and growing process peas for Talley’s Group Ltd. I still remember the harvesters pulling into Dad’s paddocks when I was a kid. I was always amazed at how they got the peas out of the pod, into a bag and frozen within a couple of hours.

What signifies a good quality pea?

  • Uniform green colour
  • Tenderness (peas are measured with a Tenderometer – the more tender the peas the sweeter they are, but they can’t be too tender or they turn to mush)
  • No damage or blemishes on the berries/peas

For first timers that might like to start grown their own veggies, what are some top tips on getting started?
The most important thing when growing your own vegetables is having the time. They don’t need a lot of time, just constant weekly if not daily monitoring. Spending this time is ultimately very rewarding, and leads to very passionate growers.

For people that haven’t visited Ashburton, can you tell us why it’s so special?
Ashburton, or Mid-Canterbury, is the breadbasket of New Zealand. Anyone interested in farming will find the region a fascinating place. It currently holds the world record for the biggest Wheat and Barley crops. Mid-Canterbury is also famous for producing seed for the rest of the world’s crops. Producing 50% of the world’s carrot seed, 35% of the world’s radish seed and 30% of the world’s bok choi seed. If visiting Mid-Canterbury, you will be amazed at how flat the countryside is, but constantly overlooked by the towering Southern Alps.

Why would you recommend buying local produce?
In this day and age consumers are very concerned about where their food has come from. Generally, New Zealand farmers are considered world renowned and are expected to adhere to rigorous compliance that ensures food and environmental safety. With New Zealand situated far from many international markets, this has a huge effect both financially and environmentally, when looking to import products from overseas. Buying local gives you the assurance the produce has been treated with the utmost care, and had little environmental impact on getting to your plate.

Favourite and least favourite vegetable?
My favourite vegetable is obviously peas, and least favourite would be kale.