The Accidental Orchardist

The Accidental Orchardist

David Whyte describes himself as an accidental orchardist. It all started four years ago when he and Tiffany were on the hunt for a lifestyle block with the vision of establishing a food forest – a multi-species, multi-layered forest system of mostly perennial plants. Serendipity meant the property found them, and they became the new custodians of a 1/2 hectare citrus orchard. The orchard had been neglected for 15 years and required a massive pruning task, but now in year five they are down to 25% of the trees still needing heavy pruning. David has also, and importantly, put in a concerted effort to learn about the soil, the needs of the citrus trees and the needs of the humans who eat the fruit. This video from September last year, tells the whole story and helps explain why David and Tiffany’s citrus are so sweet and delicious! In addition to ensuring all the trace elements are present in the soil, David has learnt a lot about the colouring variations in citrus. Did you ever notice that oranges you buy in a supermarket, are a uniform orange colour? If you’re curious to know why, David explains it in detail in this video and gives yet another reason to buy from organic growers and those who are spray-free.  In the early days, when they started harvesting, they took the fruit to a Sunday Farmers Market in Clevedon. He said it almost killed them. The orchard wasn’t giving them enough income to live off, and by the time they did a Saturday pick, clean, sort and pack, then got up at the crack of dawn to get to the...
A Challenge Worth Taking On

A Challenge Worth Taking On

When I first reach Frans de Jong at his Matamata orchard Southern Belle, he asks me to call him back in five minutes since he’s busy checking the weather. “A very important part of the job,” Frans tells me through a joyous laugh and a thick Netherlands accent. A family-run business, Southern Belle is the current supplier of delicious Red Sweetpoint capsicums to dozens of Ooooby customers each week. It also produces feijoas. Last April the orchard was announced Supreme winner of the Waikato Farm Environment Awards where it collected the Harvest Award, the Innovation Award, the Integrated Management Award and the Soil Management Award. “It was very humbling,” says Frans who tells me that his arm had to be twisted to even enter the competition. “As a family, we usually work longer hours than most. But I’d like to turn that into a positive.” Frans credits marking oneself out from the crowd as the biggest challenge for smallholders and a factor likely to determine whether or not they will achieve success. “We’ve established ourselves as a quality grower by doing things totally differently,” he tells me. “That’s not to say it’s always easy to do, but you have differentiate yourself to make it work.” So how did he do it? While at first the de Jong’s listened to advice from the previous owners of their farm, it wasn’t until Frans applied his own background in analytical chemistry to processes at Southern Belle that the magic started to happen. “You start to look at things differently and understand the biological system,” Frans explains. “For example, learning to use predator insects to control harmful insects and beneficial soil microbes in the root zone to...
Why we supply Ooooby – Bill & Marilyn

Why we supply Ooooby – Bill & Marilyn

Our 3 acre organic orchard has always produced succulent fruit throughout the year, in quantities too great to be used only in the home kitchen (even though we have a lot of guests) and the roadside stall (and modern day breakdown of the old honesty box system). Six years ago we started doing a Saturday farmers’ market, and that worked well, though often we had either too much fruit for the morning market to absorb, or too little to make the trip and the time worthwhile. Then, we added a Sunday market, and this helped a lot when fruit was abundant, but became a big time and petrol waster when it was not. So, we started making connections with organic shops, cafes and small cooperative buying groups and a few individuals, as a way of more effectively marketing our fruit during times of excess. But this required a lot of running around for a relatively small return. Then, Ooooby came along and made our life much, much easier. Now we are back to just one market a week (and have our Saturdays free!), and whenever we have strong crop(s) of one or more types of fruit, we just let Daphne know 5 days in advance, and she works those items (and available abundances) into her weekly box contents plan. During periods when we have limited supplies of fruit (not enough to satisfy Ooooby’s needs, nor to justify a trip to town for us), we just drop out for a time, and Daphne gets all of her fresh goods from the other suppliers. We no longer waste any fruit, we...