Bay cou­ple are tops for sus­tain­abil­ity

Te Puke Times - - NEWS -

Bay of Plenty ki­wifruit grow­ers Mark and Catriona White are the new Na­tional Am­bas­sadors for Sus­tain­able Farm­ing and Grow­ing.

The New Zealand Farm En­vi­ron­ment Trust (NZFET) runs the Bal­lance Farm En­vi­ron­ment Awards and an­nounced the Recipients of the Gor­don Stephen­son Tro­phy at an awards func­tion at Te Papa in Welling­ton last Thurs­day night — cho­sen from 11 re­gional supreme winners gath­ered from through­out the coun­try.

Ten years ago, the Whites em­barked on a quest to find an im­proved life­style for their fam­ily away from the city and found it on a bare block of land near po¯tiki. Their work and pas­sion has trans­formed a 5.85ha sec­tion of a former or­ganic dairy farm into the Coastal Ki­wis or­chard it is to­day.

Former na­tional am­bas­sador Dianne Kidd from He­lensville, who chaired the judg­ing panel, says the Whites demon­strate an ex­cel­lent un­der­stand­ing of all as­pects of sus­tain­able food pro­duc­tion.

“They are out­stand­ing strate­gic and ag­ile thinkers on the key is­sues for New Zealand and have strong pri­mary sec­tor and com­mu­nity lead­er­ship qual­i­ties. They com­mu­ni­cate and op­er­ate ex­cep­tion­ally well as a team and are nat­u­ral lead­ers with a wealth of knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence and a will­ing­ness to im­part this to oth­ers.”

She says Mark and Catriona show a re­spect for the Ma¯ori prin­ci­ples of kaiti­ak­i­tanga — act­ing as guardian, pro­tec­tor and con­server — within their ki­wifruit or­chard man­age­ment.

“They are strong users of ev­i­dence-based sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy in their busi­ness and or­chard and demon­strate a broad global mar­ket un­der­stand­ing and a real en­ergy to be agents of change. They come from di­verse ca­reers into the pri­mary sec­tor bring­ing their ex­per­tise and cap­i­tal to their cho­sen hor­ti­cul­tural busi­ness and the com­mu­nity in po¯tiki.”

Catriona’s fam­ily has been on the farm for four gen­er­a­tions. Al­though they ini­tially did not know much about ki­wifruit, the cou­ple did most of the phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment work them­selves, keep­ing costs down and learn­ing by their mis­takes. Mark also did a Na­tional Cer­tifi­cate in Hor­ti­cul­ture.

The or­chard is BioGro cer­ti­fied. It has 3.19ha of Ze­spri Or­ganic Green ki­wifruit, pro­duc­ing in 2017 a to­tal of 23,483 trays of kiwi-start fruit. Ze­spri Or­ganic SunGold (G3) is cur­rently grown on 2.65ha pro­duc­ing 38,362 trays. This pro­duc­tion was achieved in a “chal­leng­ing grow­ing year” which in­cluded var­i­ous cy­clones and a very wet and windy au­tumn. Re­cently de­vel­oped blocks of SunGold have come into pro­duc­tion this sea­son. Along­side Kidd on the na­tional judg­ing panel were Warwick Catto from Bal­lance Agri-Nu­tri­ents, NZFET’s Jamie Strang, Ge­orge Mur­doch from Rabobank and Ju­lia Jones from KPMG. “New Zealand can be proud of the global lead­ing achieve­ments of our farm­ers and grow­ers,” Kidd says. “New Zealand me­dia needs to help tell th­ese great sto­ries about our out­stand­ing food pro­duc­ers. A com­mon theme from this year’s supreme re­gional winners is a fo­cus and clear un­der­stand­ing there is a need to con­nect with our con­sumers — a real mar­ket fo­cus.” The supreme winners of 11 re­gional awards were in­vited to the Show­case in Welling­ton to be con­sid­ered for the tro­phy named in hon­our of Waikato farmer and noted conservationist, the late Gor­don Stephen­son. As a na­tional award it is sep­a­rate to the re­gional pro­gramme and judged un­der dif­fer­ent cri­te­ria. Chair of the New Zealand¯OFarm En­vi­ron­ment Trust, Joanne van Pola­nen, says she is looking for­ward to supporting the Whites ful­fil their am­bas­sado­rial du­ties in­clud­ing an over­seas study tour. “Catriona and Mark will do the coun­try proud as food pro­duc­ers of the high­est qual­ity.”

Catriona and Mark White with the Gor­don Stephen­son Tro­phy.

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