Or­chard wins en­viro award

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

Mata­mata-based South­ern Belle Or­chards is the supreme win­ner of the 2015 Waikato Farm En­vi­ron­ment Awards.

The busi­ness, run by Frans and Tineke de Jong, son Tal­bert de Jong and his part­ner Emily Meese grow fei­joas and cap­sicums on a 5.05ha prop­erty pur­chased in 2003.

The awards pro­mote sus­tain­able land man­age­ment on New Zealand farms and recog­nises and cel­e­brates good farm prac­tices. The awards run in 10 re­gions through­out the coun­try.

The fam­ily-run busi­ness also col­lected the Har­vest Award, the In­no­va­tion Award, the In­te­grated Man­age­ment Award and the Soil Man­age­ment Award at a cer­e­mony on April 23.

The de Jongs were de­scribed by the award judges as in­dus­try lead­ers who are ‘‘paving the way and set­ting ex­am­ples to fol­low’’.

Fei­joas are pro­duced in the 3.5ha or­chard and cap­sicums are grown in 3000m2 of green­house. While a range of fruit and veg­eta­bles have been grown in the past, the de Jongs made the de­ci­sion to con­cen­trate on two main crops, fo­cus­ing on qual­ity and vol­ume.

Fei­joas are grown es­palier- style for ease of man­age­ment and har­vest. This in­volves con­trol­ling plant growth by prun­ing and ty­ing branches to a frame or struc­ture.

The or­chard’s orig­i­nal trees are grad­u­ally be­ing re­placed with new cul­ti­vars with a range of har­vest times from mid- March through un­til June. The or­chard is ex­pected to pro­duce about 20 tonnes of fei­joas this year, but es­ti­mated vol­ume is ex­pected to triple in four years when the new trees ma­ture. About half of the fei­joas are ex­ported.

South­ern Belle grows a range of capsicum va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing trial crops, which are planted in Au­gust and har­vested from early Novem­ber to early July. Most are sold on the lo­cal mar­ket. A small quan­tity of cu­cum­bers and chillies is also grown in the green­houses.

Along with the fam­ily, South­ern Belle has four staff work­ing al­most all year in the green­houses. Up to 20 more peo­ple are em­ployed for fei­joa pick­ing and prun­ing from March un­til July.

Tal­bert and Emily have been work­ing full-time in the busi­ness since 2013 when Frans and Tineke set in mo­tion a 10- year suc­ces­sion plan.

Frans, who has a back­ground in an­a­lyt­i­cal chem­istry and process tech­nol­ogy, has de­vised a green­house heat­ing sys­tem which re­duces en­ergy us­age by 40 per cent and a unique closed cir­cuit ir­ri­ga­tion method which en­sures no nu­tri­ents are be­ing lost.

The judges said South­ern Belle Or­chard was an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of what could be achieved when clear ob­jec­tives and goals were es­tab­lished for a farm­ing busi­ness.

‘‘All de­ci­sions are backed up with thor­ough anal­y­sis, re­search and science. The amount of in­no­va­tion and ef­fi­ciency is amaz­ing.’’

Frans’ in­ven­tive and ex­per­i­men­tal ap­proach to soil fer­til­ity, nu­tri­ent and wa­ter man­age­ment is an in­te­gral part of the busi­ness, en­abling sys­tems to be ‘‘con­tin­u­ally re­fined to pro­duce ex­cel­lent crop health and yield’’, the judges said.

Care­ful and vig­i­lant man­age­ment and the use of some bi­o­log­i­cal con­trols have sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the amount of spray­ing needed.

The judges also noted the ‘‘im­pres­sive anal­y­sis of pro­duc­tion and fore­casts, which prompts man­age­ment to avert risk and drive ef­fi­cien­cies and pro­duc­tiv­ity’’.

A field day will be held on South­ern Belle Or­chard on May 21, 2015.

The full list of win­ners for the 2015 Waikato Bal­lance Farm En­vi­ron­ment Awards are:

Supreme award, Har­vest Award, In­no­va­tion Award, In­te­grated Man­age­ment Award and Soil Man­age­ment Award: Frans and Tineke de Jong, Tal­bert de Jong and Emily Meese, South­ern Belle Or­chard, Mata­mata.

Dairy Farm Award, Wa­ter Pro­tec­tion Award: John Hay­ward and Su­san O’Re­gan, Judge Val­ley Dairies Ltd, Te Awa­mutu.

Farm Stew­ard­ship Award: Anita and Hans Nelis, Ti­rau.

Land and Life Award, Catch­ment Im­prove­ment Award: Peter and Judi Buck­ley and Stu­art and Lichelle Mor­gan, Loch Car­ron, Te Kauwhata.

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