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 market, there was no down time before heading back to work on Monday morning. Now they receive an order from Ooooby on a Friday, and Monday is harvest day which is also the day the produce is delivered to the Ooooby hubs in Auckland and Hamilton.
As for the lifestyle goal that got them on the land in the first instance, David explained to me that having an orchard and a family with three children has been a wonderful combination as they’ve regularly done the tasks together, making it quality time and less like work. In addition David has time for his writing and to steadily develop the food forest design that was a key part of the original vision. There are now 200 nitrogen-fixing trees supporting the citrus trees, and the 200 new fruit trees they’ve planted.
If you are an Auckland or Waikato Ooooby customer, you will very likely have enjoyed some of David and Tiffany’s citrus. Feel free to leave a comment if you have enjoyed it or want to give them some feedback or encouragement.
For David’s selection of videos about the orchard and why and how it’s different, this YouTube playlist offers a wealth of knowledge.