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