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roper-and-son-1Fifteen years ago former MG Marketing sales representative Roger Geddes asked grower Lance Roper if he could supply a quantity of then uncommon red peeled onions for sale. At the time, the Canterbury onion grower was finding it tough going to make a return on the local market and exports were producing some of their worst ever returns. That invitation was an opportunity Lance grabbed with both hands and subsequently Roper and Son went on to expand the red peeled onion category with great success.

Currently the Roper’s 62-hectare property near Lincoln produces over 500 tonnes of red peeled onions a year, in addition to growing squash, pumpkin, peas, barley and wheat.

Since helping stimulate the category expansion, MG has built an ongoing supply relationship with Lance and his partner Makereta and seen their business go from strength to strength.

From their first packhouse in a converted Halswell gazebo, the Ropers established a four-bay facility in Lincoln in 2001.

“Within a couple of years it was clear Makereta was needed to work on the farm as production was increasing rapidly,” Lance says.

“She gave up her job at Christchurch Polytechnic and took over running the office and packhouse, going from high heels one day to gumboots the next.”

roper-and-son-3This then let Lance focus on growing and harvesting crops, using skills gained from the age of 19 when he worked on the Tucker family’s market garden for over a decade before venturing out on his own. The Ropers feel especially indebted to the Tuckers for the knowledge they openly shared whilst Lance was working for them plus all of the time and guidance they have shown since.

In 2007 the Ropers purchased a defunct chicken farm and built a purpose designed peeling plant and a new packhouse.

They have invested heavily in technology to ensure they produce the highest possible quality of red onions for today’s discerning consumers.

A key component of the category’s success is the ability to convert red onions to a peeled condition with no blemishes or damage, and to do it repeatedly and cost-effectively.

In this respect, Lance and Makereta say the technical input provided by MG has been invaluable, as has been the role of local sales staff, especially Dave Barrie.

Both Lance and Makereta are closely connected with the wider community and run numerous fundraising events to support their local school and Scout group.

roper-and-son-2With two of their three children at school and the eldest Alisha making her career in the hospitality industry, the family still finds time for hunting, fishing and diving trips together.

The younger sons Lincoln and DJ also do their fair share of work on the farm when not at school and will hopefully take on more of the business in future years.

As a fourth generation grower in the district, nothing would please the Ropers more than the prospect of continuing with the family tradition in horticulture.