Guest article written by one of the previous Partners at Gilligan Sheppard, Greg Rathbun.

I retired from Gilligan Sheppard in 2013, I knew I needed to try something new, but I had no idea what.

Eventually, I became the proud owner of an 11-hectare avocado orchard. Back then I didn’t realise how much this had changed my life – a new house, a new partner, a new income, a new life… doing something I had absolutely no clue about.

I can’t say I had a plan, but I continued to earn a living as a consultant/director, as we all know you can’t make money out of horticulture, so that gave me a soft landing. 

The greatest compliment I received came from a property developer I work with; he said, “you know Greg, you only do things you want to do, and I really respect that”, or words to that effect. But this does sum up my new life philosophy…

You only live once so just do what makes you happy.

My partner Tann (hailing from Thailand – yes, I know what you’re thinking!) quickly got sick of me bossing her around on the orchard, so she set about starting a business growing New Zealand native mushrooms. The Covid lockdown gave us time and capacity to take this business seriously, and we were able to build mushroom sheds and grow rooms. Tann caught the attention of many locals because of her hard work and tenacity selling all she could grow.

This culminated in our orchard and mushroom farm being featured on the Country Calendar screening on 6th November 2022. Yes, one of New Zealand’s most loved shows, and I could not let this opportunity go without letting you know in advance so you can tell all your friends, haha. The programme starts with Tann’s’ mushroom enterprise, as this is what makes us unique (sustainability and all that stuff). I can claim all the credit for Tann’s’ success as it is me being such an asshole to work with that led Tann to create her Mushroom business!

So here is the self-promotion bit. Have a look at the Avo’s to Go website, this is an online avocado enterprise set up by myself and a few other like-minded growers. It’s self-explanatory, but in short, New Zealand consumers are treated so badly by our industry, whilst we produce some of the world’s best avocados. Avo’s to Go allows Kiwis to get this perfect fruit direct from the grower for a little more than the supermarket price. If you’d like to buy and try, use the code M8RGR1 to get a mate’s rate discount, and if you buy a subscription (I recommend the two weekly 20 boxes) you get a 15% discount. 

Tann’s mushrooms website is here, we don’t sell mushrooms online yet, however, she’s working hard to increase supply to exceed demand. Tann also won a gold medal for New Zealand’s outstanding food producers awards this year, so her mushrooms are GOOD.

If you are ever passing through Northland our address is 361 Mangakahia Rd, Maungatapere so please drop in for a coffee and we have an Airbnb (search Maungatapere magic) if you want to stay longer.

So, thanks for reading if you got this far, and kind regards,


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