North­land grow­ers win en­vi­ron­ment prize

Bay of Is­lands hor­ti­cul­tural stal­warts Alan and He­len Thomp­son have won the North­land Bal­lance Farm En­vi­ron­ment Awards.

The Orchardist - - Recognition -

The Thomp­sons grow ki­wifruit, le­mons, mel­ons and grapes on 70 hectares at Kerik­eri.

Their win was an­nounced at a gala din­ner at the Waitaha Events Cen­tre at the Copthorne Re­sort Bay of Is­lands, Wai­tangi. They also won the CB Nor­wood Dis­trib­u­tors Ltd Agri- Busi­ness Man­age­ment Award and the Hill Lab­o­ra­to­ries Har­vest Award and will host a field day in early May.

To­gether with wider fam­ily, Alan and He­len Thomp­son have de­vel­oped a com­plex busi­ness through di­ver­si­fy­ing, tak­ing risks and putting back into their com­mu­nity and en­vi­ron­ment.

LD Fam­ily In­vest­ments Ltd was es­tab­lished in 2008 when Alan and He­len sold their pre­vi­ous part-owned busi­ness, Ker­ifresh, to Turner & Grow­ers. A decade on, it has grown into a fam­i­lyrun busi­ness with nu­mer­ous ele­ments – ki­wifruit grow­ing and orchard man­age­ment, le­mon grow­ing, melon crop­ping, grape grow­ing and wine mak­ing, beer brewing, and posthar­vest pack­ing and stor­age. It also has a 25% share­hold­ing in a pro­duce ex­port com­pany, Te Mata Ex­ports.

The Thomp­son fam­ily en­ter­prise also in­cludes Kainui Road wines and Kainui Brew Com­pany beers, the cel­lar door and two open-air con­cert venues within their Kerik­eri home orchard.

It is also one of the big­gest em­ploy­ers in the Kerk­eri district em­ploy­ing a per­ma­nent work­force of be­tween 25 and 30 and up to 150 sea­sonal staff mem­bers, many of them in the leased Kerik­eri pack­house.

The judges said Alan and He­len were a team with com­ple­men­tary skills and their vi­sion, pas­sion and drive had pro­vided em­ploy­ment for many peo­ple.A gen­er­ous com­mu­nity spirit was ev­i­dent by host­ing var­i­ous events and con­tin­u­ing to im­prove ac­cess and at­trac­tions for up to 5000 peo­ple at one time. The con­cert ar­eas and the sur­round­ing vine­yard, with ad­ja­cent three-hectare re­ju­ve­nated wet­land, board walk, bush tracks and wa­ter­fall showed Alan and He­len’s love for the land and drive for con­tin­ual im­prove­ment with sus­tain­abil­ity, the judges said.

An ex­ten­sive na­tive area has been de­vel­oped around the wet­land and wa­ter­fall and has been covenanted for fu­ture pro­tec­tion.

They had built and in­vested in the area for sev­eral decades, grow­ing many fruit va­ri­eties and help­ing to es­tab­lish hor­ti­cul­tural ser­vices such as the Kerik­eri Fruit­grow­ers’ So­ci­ety, the Kerik­eri Ir­ri­ga­tion Scheme and LD Pack­ers.

Ki­wifruit is the foun­da­tion of the orchard side of the busi­ness, con­sist­ing of 14ha of gold un­der con­ver­sion to PSA-tol­er­ant G3 va­ri­ety, and 6.5ha of Hay­ward’s Green. To­tal pro­duc­tion in 2016 was over 200,000 tray equiv­a­lents, al­though yields were down be­cause of con­ver­sion. New frame­works and orchard cov­er­ings are be­ing tri­alled and new va­ri­eties eval­u­ated for Ze­spri.

Yen Ben le­mons are the pre­ferred citrus cul­ti­var for win­ter har­vest and ex­port trade devel­op­ment and there are 2ha of new plant­ings. Up to 4ha of rock mel­ons pro­duc­ing 200 tonnes are grown each year as well. The Kainui vine­yard on the home orchard has es­tab­lished rows of five grape va­ri­eties – pinot gris, viog­nier, sau­vi­gnon blanc, tem­pranillo and syrah – and two newly planted va­ri­eties – chardon­nay and gewürz­traminer. Wines have won sil­ver and bronze at re­cent Bra­gato awards and at Air New Zealand and New Zealand In­ter­na­tional Awards.

Un­der the Kainui Road brand, the Thomp­sons have made 6000 to 8000 bot­tles a year at a nearby win­ery. These are sub­se­quently sold at the cel­lar door, in lo­cal restau­rants and on­line.

Alan was a found­ing di­rec­tor of the grower-owned Kerik­eri Ir­ri­ga­tion Scheme and uses the scheme’s wa­ter at each of the or­chards he owns or man­ages. Ten­siome­ters are in­stalled in all or­chards.

LD Fam­ily In­vest­ments fol­lows in­dus­try best prac­tice with Global GAP, NZ GAP, Sus­tain­able Wine­grow­ing NZ ac­cred­i­ta­tion for or­chards and BRC (Bri­tish Re­tail Con­sor­tium) ac­cred­i­ta­tion for the Kerik­eri pack­house.

The fam­ily has in­te­grated grow­ing, pack­ing and ex­port­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to add busi­ness sta­bil­ity and has been ac­tive in ki­wifruit risk man­age­ment with PSA dis­ease re­sponses that in­clude con­ver­sion to a new gold va­ri­ety, in­dus­try va­ri­ety tri­als and shel­ter con­struc­tion.

The Thomp­sons will host a field day on Wednesday May 3 at the Kainui Road Vine­yard, 15 Conifer Lane, Kerik­eri.

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