Profile: Wilflora Flower Farm

Successful farming can be demonstrated further afield than grassy dairy pasture and acres of crops. Manawatū farmer Martin Wilson has created his own niche market centred around fresh flowers.

For Wilflora Flower Farm owner, Martin Wilson, the joy of business comes from knowing his work will make someone’s day.

Whether it’s for a special occasion or no particular occasion at all, the specialist freesia and mixed cut flower farmer works hard to provide Kiwis with top-quality flowers, all year round.

Located in the Manawatū-Whanganui region, Wilflora was initially purchased by Martin’s parents and is a legacy he’s proud to continue.

“When my father first purchased this block of land in 1973, it was completely bare. He started the farm as a grow-your-own veggies garden until the flower crops were established.”

A team of eight staff members help us with the operations

For Martin, blossoms are in the blood. His mother was a florist, and he spent his childhood days lending a hand on the farm.

“Back then, the farm operation was very small. We only had two or three staff working on the farm, so I always helped after school.

“It has always been a part of who I am. We live and breathe the flower industry.”

Working in a small team and surrounded by flowers all day, the setting became the catalyst that began Martins’s love story.

“I actually met the love of my life Jennifer, right here on the farm,” laughs Martin.

High-quality machines are used to assist daily operations

“She started working here when she finished her studies in 2003. Surrounded by flowers, working side by side all day long, one thing led to another.

“We now run the business together.  I couldn’t do it without her support.”

The farm has expanded rapidly over the years. What began as 4500sqm of greenhouses has now more than doubled, and Martin wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I love working in the greenhouse,” says Martin. “It can be a miserable day outside but as soon as you step inside, it’s warm and you get an overwhelming scent of flowers.

“The greenhouses operate at an optimal temperature, warm in the winter and cool in the summer.”
More greenhouses are on the cards, with Martin hoping to expand the business into his very own flower empire.

What began as 4500sqm of greenhouses has now more than doubled

Business is blooming

“We’re in full expansion mode. We have a team of eight staff members to help with our operations.”

The wholesale flower industry in New Zealand that Wilflora supplies flowers into utilises the Dutch auction system used to sell flowers across the country.

The Dutch auction starts with a high asking price and incrementally lowers until a bid is placed to buy.

“We sell all flowers we produce at United Flower Growers Auctions every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the country. This is where wholesalers, florists, and flower resellers participate in the auction to purchase flowers.”

“Our partners have the chance to bid on the flowers that we send to auction in the consignments freighted overnight. They get sold early the next morning and in the afternoon.

Wilflora was initially purchased by Martin’s parents and is a legacy he’s proud to continue

“The way the auction system works is like a sudden death. If you want the flowers, you have to press the button and make your bid, otherwise, you’ll miss out.”

With prices fluctuating regularly, Martin says it’s important to establish trust and good connections with partners to ensure the best sales.

“Our products are perishable, so you need to have trust from the buyers,” says Martin. “Our partners see our products once we send out the boxes to auction, so we always make sure we have the best quality flowers in the market.

“My team just focuses on the growing side. If we can provide our partners with the best flowers, the sales just follow through.It’s just about doing our job right.”

Martin with his Kubota U17 excavator that he purchased for trenching purposes

To ensure Martin produces the highest-quality flowers, he relies on premium machines to assist his daily operations.

“We can’t afford to slow down. We’re always on the go here at Wilfora, and we need our machinery to keep up with our pace.”

With more than 10,000sqm of greenhouses growing flower crops in the soil, crop rotation is not a possibility, and so the risk of soil disease increases.

To control this, Martin has established a deep soil steaming drainage system with a large network of drainage pipes, allowing for the best quality flowers to be grown.

Partnerships key to success

Creating this network marked the beginning of Martin’s relationship with Kubota.

Martin says it’s handy to have the Kubota U17 around

“We needed to build a huge network of drainage pipes under the flower beds. The area we needed to trench to grade was 7000 metres long.

“This was no small task having to complete trenching in between the change of crops.”

Martin says Kubota’s easy-to-use machines were the perfect fit for working indoors, providing him with an exceptional power-to-weight ratio.

“We purchased the Kubota U17 excavator for trenching purposes, but 18 months later, once the drainage operation had finished, I realised how handy it is to have the excavator around.

“If a crop comes out with too much residue, we just use the excavator to easily scrape it out and put straight onto the trailer. It’s also been really helpful with levelling off the growing beds.

Kubota’s easy-to-use machines are the perfect fit for working indoors

“We have now purchased our second excavator, the Kubota U-55, in March of this year, as it’s perfect for the bigger jobs around the farm.”

According to Martin, Kubota just keeps ticking all the boxes when it comes to performance, enabling him to innovate
on farm.

“People initially questioned why we were purchasing an excavator for our farm, but farmers are now asking to hire it because it’s been so useful.”

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