Eggplant jam! Yes, eggplant jam is just one of several goodies that Vee’s Organic Farm from Fiji makes. Some of their range will be onm show at the Path to the Pacific Trade Show this week. The event, open free to the public, will be held at The Cloud on Auckland’s downtown waterfront on Saturday 6 April between 10am and 5pm.

The trade show is part of Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) NZ’s export capability building Path to Market programme, a structured, multi-staged initiative that familiarises Pacific Island exporters with the New Zealand market.

Vee’s organic farm produces honey, virgin coconut oil, aubergine (eggplant) jam and pickles, yellow cassava, tomato, long beans, watermelon and pawpaw.

“Vee’s Organic Farm is exactly that! We only use natural fertilizers and we plan on keeping it that way,” says Vitila Vuniwaqa, the driving force behind the farming enterprise.

It hasn’t been a smooth and easy road for Ms Vuniwaqa.

“For 16 years I flew the skies as a flight attendant, happy in my work and a top surfer. On a typical off-work day in February 2010 I met up with a few friends over a cup of tea. I collapsed and so did my idyllic life when I suffered from a stroke. I was 36 years old,” Ms Vuniwaqa wrote in an email to Pacific Periscope.

“The following two years were spent in hospitals, rehab clinics and home remedies and I persevered with exercising myself back to health. Fast-forward two years and I’ve established myself as a budding entrepreneur and an Olympic hopeful. But it hasn’t been easy,” she added.

Her original plan while recuperating was to make a business of selling seedling of eggplant from her aunt’s garden.

“However, on May 27, 2013, my aunty Lite and I were just experimenting with all kinds of ways to cook all the eggplant spilling out of our garden, when we stumbled on a unique recipe for jam. We thought it would be great to share with our friends.

“We were inspired by the interest and decided to make a business out of it.”

The pair took the jam to a flea market and sold all the jam in less than two hours.

“We were motivated more than ever to make and sell more jam. We created a relationship with a local farmer to buy eggplant in wholesale quantity; we were well on our way. Through this business, we not only feel a sense of accomplishment and freedom, but this has been the best medicine for my recovery and healing,” Ms Vuniwaqa said.

Products from Vee’s Organic Farms will be on show at the Path to the Pacific Trade Show at The Cloud along with about 40 other companies from across the Pacific Islands region.

For more information email PTI NZ Trade Development Manager Ian Furlong at ian.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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