Hang on – I don’t own the trac­tor any­more!

God­frey and June Dooney sold their suc­cess­ful passionfruit plot this year, and wanted to en­sure the new own­ers prof­ited from their hard­earned mis­takes.

The Orchardist - - Passion Fruit - By Denise Landow

“You learn a lot by your mis­takes and just by do­ing, so I’m try­ing to avoid that hap­pen­ing to Re­bekah. I’ve done some silly things with spray­ing, and had a lot of fruit re­jected through it,” God­frey says with a wide grin.

If he hadn’t sold the or­chard, God­frey would have been in his eighth sea­son.

He ac­knowl­edged he had the help of many peo­ple dur­ing his time. Many years ago, Pat Sale, who goes way back with passionfruit, talked it over with God­frey and June, and the cou­ple, de­cided passionfruit was the way to go. “In the be­gin­ning we re­ally flew by our pants. I was go­ing to start with 400 plants. The best ad­vice I got was from an older grower who said to plant 200 vines and see how I got on.”

God­frey took that sage ad­vice and found that num­ber was more than enough to es­tab­lish and train in the first year be­cause passionfruit’s phe­nom­e­nal growth rate.

Later he started an eight-year re­place­ment regime to keep young vines com­ing on.

“If you put 400 in, you’ve got to toss up what you’re go­ing to do. I don’t like ran­domly plant­ing be­cause you have to make room for the young plants com­ing on.

“You’ve al­ready ex­tended the lead­ers of the older plant, so that gets very messy. I take out 150-200 vines per year to keep the younger ones com­ing on be­cause I’ve found that between two to five years old is the best pro­duc­ing time. Oth­ers may find dif­fer­ently, but I’ve found on this block, it works well,” he ex­plains.

In his ex­pe­ri­ence, the big­gest thing is look­ing af­ter the plants and mak­ing sure that brown spot and other fun­gal dis­eases are kept on top of.

He ap­pre­ci­ates the tech­ni­cal help from Nik Gr­bavac, a Christchurch-based As­sured Qual­ity Plant Pathol­o­gist.

Nik takes sam­ples from the or­chard and is in­ter­ested to get on top of any dis­ease sam­ples we send down, says God­frey.


God­frey and June’s or­chard­ing ex­pe­ri­ence also ex­tends to tamar­illo grow­ing, but God­frey’s main pro­fes­sion was as an en­gi­neer.

“I’m a jack of all trades, and was an en­gi­neer, a dairy farmer, and for­mer Hawkes Bay farm man­ager.

We love the land here and when this block be­came avail­able, we jumped at it.”

How does he feel about Re­bekah com­ing along and tak­ing over?

“It was quite strange for a while, be­cause it all hap­pened quite quickly,” he ad­mits.

“I got up on the Mon­day morn­ing the week­end af­ter Re­bekah took over, and thought I’ll hop down and get the trac­tor out, and thought ‘hang on, I don’t own the trac­tor any­more!’. I took a while to ad­just.

“I’m get­ting used to it now. I en­joy work­ing with Re­bekah be­cause we get on well. She likes try­ing her ideas, and I think that’s great. She’s an amaz­ing per­son, and as good as any man on a block.”

God­frey ad­mits he’s from the ‘old school’ and treat­ing a wo­man with re­spect and a lit­tle for­mally, was in­grained in him by his fa­ther.

Some­times he has to stop him­self half-way in a sen­tence which starts, “you can’t do that.”

“I’m in my mid-70s and I don’t like see­ing women do­ing man­ual work – put it this way – I can re­mem­ber Dad say­ing that if a wo­man walked into the room and I was sit­ting down, I would have to stand up. Even to­day, I al­ways walk on the out­side of a wo­man while walk­ing down the street; I take my hat off when I meet a wo­man.”

It’s not a case of think­ing Re­bekah can’t do it, but it’s more a nat­u­ral re­ac­tion of hop­ping in to do the hard man­ual tasks.

It’s quite clear that Re­bekah’s teach­ing God­frey a thing or two, as well.


“She’s taught me a lot, and she’s ca­pa­ble. My main con­cern is that with my ex­pe­ri­ence, she can avoid some of the pit­falls, be­cause a cou­ple have been quite ex­pen­sive.”

He re­mem­bers when he put Rhino in with a spray to try and break the re­sis­tance of the skin.

That mis­take ru­ined two-thirds of the crop by burn­ing the fruit – it looked a ter­ri­ble mess. God­frey mis­un­der­stood what an ad­vi­sor said, and got his mixes wrong.

“I can see the point in pro­vid­ing hands-on guid­ance, es­pe­cially with an ex­ist­ing or­chard. I started off with 200 plants and learned by my mis­takes, one was a very ex­pen­sive mis­take and I want to avoid that hap­pen­ing with Re­bekah.

“She’s do­ing a great, and it’s look­ing fine. She keeps the or­chard in a top-class fash­ion.”

The passionfruit in­dus­try is full of prom­ise, he feels.

“I think there’s tremen­dous po­ten­tial for the fruit, es­pe­cially with over­seas mar­kets.”

He sees Re­bekah’s in­tel­li­gence, drive and en­ergy are just what the in­dus­try needs.

“I be­lieve peo­ple such as Re­bekah will get passionfruit up and run­ning to the way it should be. There’s po­ten­tial for more grow­ers to sup­ply the mar­ket.”

“You don’t need a lot of land, but you’ve got to choose it well.”

“I be­lieve peo­ple such as Re­bekah will get passionfruit up and run­ning to the way it should be. There’s po­ten­tial for more grow­ers to sup­ply the mar­ket.”

The ‘old school’ teacher passes on hard-earned tricks to the newbie.

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