The first market gardens in the Ohakune area were established back in 1925. Even back then Ohakune had real advantages, a railway for fast delivery, a late growing season, inexpensive land and a cold winter climate to discourage pests. Much of the land was cleared by hand and explosives before the first bulldozer arrived in 1937. More hectares were cleared and crops planted as demand increased to feed local and US military troops. After the war years, land was converted to rehabilitation farms for returning servicemen.
In 1984 the ‘Big Carrot’ was unveiled at the entrance to the town, in recognition of the importance of market gardening to the local economy. The industry continues to diversify and experiment, but carrots remain the main crop.
The nature of the industry has changed, from numerous small family businesses to about 20 much larger operators. While hard physical labour is still involved, today the industry is mechanised, with huge tractors and harvesters used in much larger fields. Market Gardeners invest in electronic monitoring equipment, custom engineered washing plant and chillers in washing sheds to ensure that fresh, high quality produce arrives at the distribution centres and markets. Ohakune has a well deserved reputation for quality produce that helps feed the nation.