Key Facts

The Heritage Food Crops Research Trust (HFCRT) is a charitable trust, established to research the early prevention and treatment of disease through the medicinal properties of plant-based food. The Trust is embedded in its Whanganui community, with a vision of helping members of the local and wider global communities to enhance their health and quality of life.

Throughout the world there are local forms of fruits, grains and vegetables that have recognised superior health benefits, based on robust research. The Trust’s role has been to identify and research local varieties, particularly heritage ones, for prospective benefits. It has also imported a range of traditional cultivars for assessment. Using the Trust’s Whanganui facilities as a base, research has in particular focused on the following food crops, apples and tomatoes, two of the most widely consumed foods in the world.

The Trust’s belief is that, through the research and selection of suitable varieties, food can be used to prevent disease and encourage wellness. It is working to identify dietary options that may prove to be low-cost anti-cancer strategies. Specific foods may contain bioactive compounds that target hereditary cancer cells and prevent them from initiating a disease process or limiting their rate of proliferation. Already research initiated through the Trust has led to the identification of natural food compounds of particular benefit. These include the high levels of cancer-fighting properties in a unique seedling apple variety discovered by the Trust, and in certain golden/orange heritage tomatoes. As a result, the Trust is able to recommend simple dietary changes that anyone can take to reduce their susceptibility to chronic diseases such as cancer.

Further information on the philosophy of the Trust to health issues can be found here.


The Trust exists to research food crops using a cooperative, multi-disciplinary model, identifying and researching varieties which promote optimum health and the prevention of chronic disease; and distributing these high-health dietary solutions to the community.


• Sourcing, cultivating, and conserving a range of crops, particularly heritage ones.
• Initiating health research to explore the potential health benefits of these plants.
• Identifying plant varieties that contain superior health benefits.
• Disseminating information on plants and practices to empower people to improve their lifestyles and health.
• Distributing seeds and plants with proven health benefits to the community, to encourage healthy living options.


  • To work with plants using natural processes.
  •  To use organic principals for plant management.
  • To interface rational evidence-based science with wider holistic and spiritual dimensions.
  • To network with the community, building partnerships.
  • To empower and motivate people to grow and consume their own high-health medicinal food.
  • To work for public good

Trust Officers

Mark Christensen

Mark is Research Director for the Trust, having worked for 6 years through the New Zealand Tree Crops Association (NZTCA) Central Districts Branch, instigating and co-ordinating the research on heritage apples and cancer, and the Monty’s Surprise variety. Mark manages the Trust’s research property and facilities in Whanganui and co-ordinates activities of the growers, researchers and scientists working on the Trust’s projects. In 2006, Mark received the Dr Don McKenzie award from the NZTCA in recognition of his research efforts and in 2007, was voted the Gardener of the Year for the Whanganui/Manawatu area by the New Zealand Gardener magazine. In 2016 he became an honorary associate of the Universal College of Learning (UCOL) in Whanganui.

Murray Woodhouse

Murray is the Trust’s chairperson, and brings to this role a great deal of experience, holding a number of current directorships as well as having served for twelve years as a Porirua District Councilor. Murray has a 2.2 hectare lifestyle block with mixed fruit and nut species.

Hinemoa Ransom-Boyd

Hinemoa is the Trust’s secretary. She owns and runs a successful printing business in Whanganui. Hinemoa has a great interest in growing plants and fruit trees using organic and permaculture principles. She is developing her own area of land along these lines.

Dr Gordon Lees – BSc, PhD

Gordon formerly chaired the Research Committee for the New Zealand Tree Crops Association and was their Research Coordinator specialising in the medicinal qualities of plants. Previously Gordon was a Research Scientist for the University of Auckland where he held a joint appointment as a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science and Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology. Retired from the University, Gordon is now on a two acre lifestyle block at Kaiwaka, pursuing his interest in cultivating fruit and nut varieties.