Oakley Family History
There are five generations of growers in the Oakley family starting with Great Great Grandfather John Oakley. Then there was Great Grandfather William Henry Oakley, who was the foreman on the Waimakariri River stop bank project, originally only a 20 acre farm. William went on to farm 50 acres, growing potatoes commercially with oats and wheat. He retired in 1947.
Grandfather Oakley, Walter Mark William Oakley farmed with his father until 26 years of age and bought his first farm at Hororata in 1934. He also leased land off neighboring farms to grow potatoes commercially. Walter soon purchased land previously leased by his father and farmed together with his wife Rose Oakley. Walter was an inventor of revolutionary farm equipment and a champion marksman winning many trophies including the Ballinger belt, the oldest sporting trophy in New Zealand. He died in 1995 at the age of 87.
Graeme William Oakley, son of Walter and Rose, bought the first titles of the Halkett Farm in 1957. In 1961 the balance of the farm was freehold and by the mid 60’s was fully irrigated. He worked together with his father until the early 1980’s on the Hororata and Halkett farms. On the Halkett farm Graeme diversified into barley, fodder, beet, seed potatoes and red clover for hay. Graeme worked together in Halkett with his wife Dorothy. He retired in 2010 and still lives on the original farm in Halkett, providing a valuable source of knowledge and support for Robin Oakley, his son and now grower of the Oakley’s business.
Vegetable growing is not just a business for Robin, but a life long passion.
Robin’s motto is:
Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
(Extract from Christchurch Press interview 2001)
“I had a keen interest in growing vegetables and after winning awards at the local school, Halkett Primary, school’s garden competitions ………my Father then offered me the opportunity to use one of our farm paddocks to grow vegetables commercially by phone orders. At age fifteen when I was in the fifth form, I was growing certified seed potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, sweet corn and pumpkin for local sales. I sold produce from a roadside stall, selling to neighbours and the local community. I left school at fifteen to work on the family farm and also to pursue and develop further in my vegetable growing interests. At this time we had no specialised machinery for any of the new vegetable crops, so all work was done by hand. I was able to use my father’s machinery in exchange for my labour on his potato farm. At this stage of my business enterprise, I had identified vegetable cropping as a good option due to the following factors; more intensive use of land requiring less area, irrigation, low capital initially, (as I could provide the labour) , 4 – 5 months return on capital, and I could pay for land and machinery in exchange for labour. By 1985 I was leasing an area of approximately 15 acres off my father and growing cauliflower and cabbage for winter production, pumpkin, sweet corn and seed potatoes. With the exception of seed potatoes that were sold to merchants, approximately 25% of my production was sold at local produce markets through Turners & Growers. I transported this personally on Dad’s Land-rover, leaving home at 5am in the morning.”