What you can do with 100,000+ feijoa
Matt and Melissa’s
block was originally home to 2000 feijoa trees. The previous owners were commercial growers Linda and Trevor Swan; Linda’s father, Dennis Barton, developed feijoa varieties including Unique (the one you’ll find in most backyards), Barton and Den’s Choice. The Swans thought no-one would be crazy enough to buy land with that many feijoa trees, so they chopped out 1500 and left Matt and Melissa with enough to keep them out of trouble.
“We touch-pick them so they don’t fall off the tree,” says Melissa. “That’s so that they don’t bruise and they have a longer shelf life. They go off to Turners and Growers and supermarkets, and we sell them at the local farmer’s market, at a couple of little local stores, and at a friend’s roadside farm shop.”
Their first crop was just a couple of tonnes, but it was enough.
“The first year we basically would pick and sort it all by hand, and we working up until 10-11pm every night,” says Matt. “We’d just had James – he was born during the second week of the feijoa harvest – and if we had done nine tonnes back then I think we’d probably have bulldozed the lot.”
Things took a turn for the better when the Swan’s sold them their fruit grading machine, which sped things up dramatically.
“Initially it was quite funny,” says Melissa. “I couldn’t understand why Matt wanted to spend more money on these bloody feijoas! Then after the first year I was like ‘I get it, I’m glad we bought it’.”
Selling fresh fruit only gets rid of so many feijoas. The answer to the glut was to turn it into juice.
“We send it up to Greenways Juices (in the Waikato) and they make it for us. They’ve got a big commercial juice press that does two tonnes per press so we grow it, they send it back and then we sell it. They do a lot of juice themselves so we buy apple juice from them and they mix it.”
“The first year we basically would pick and sort it all by hand... if we had done nine tonnes back then... we’d have bulldozed the lot.”
The couple processed nine tonnes of feijoa this year, turning most of it into their own juice products.
Top: the feijoas are the remains of a much-larger orchard and feature original varieties by renowned growers Linda and Trevor Swan. Right: the sheep keep the grass down, and are eventually turned into the family’s homekill meat supply.