Or­gan­ics must pay its way

Te Puna grower, Braden Stra­han pro­duces ki­wifruit both or­gan­i­cally and con­ven­tion­ally.

The Orchardist - - Organics -

His home block in Te Puna has three hectares or­ganic of green ki­wifruit, while 40 mins drive away in Te Puke, he works a 4.5ha block of gold with con­ven­tional prac­tices.

Braden says his fa­ther, Howard, con­verted the Te Puna block 11 years ago.

For the last eight years Braden’s been the boss, fol­low­ing the ini­tial three-year tran­si­tion pe­riod to or­ganic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

“Dad con­verted purely for or­ganic rea­sons, but to be hon­est, I’m not quite so much of a gree­nie. I’m more mo­ti­vated by fi­nan­cial rea­sons but I def­i­nitely like the idea of or­gan­ics,” he ad­mits.

For Braden, the fi­nan­cial bot­tom line has to stack up, and he’s keen to con­tinue with or­gan­ics as long as it pays its way. He says it’s great to be sus­tain­able, but peo­ple need money to live and profit from their work.

Braden’s or­ganic or­chard is of­ten vis­ited by Ze­spri’s vis­it­ing in­ter­na­tional VIPs.

“Ze­spri’s over­seas clients come here and see we live on the or­chard, and that we have a young child. They’re re­ally in­ter­ested in that,” he ex­plains.

“It’s pow­er­ful PR when they learn the fruit off this place is be­ing ex­port­ing to them – from this or­chard in which we live and have our own chil­dren run­ning around.”

SAFE PLACE

When asked where he would rather have his fam­ily – on the or­ganic or­chard or the con­ven­tional one – there’s no hes­i­ta­tion in the an­swer – the or­ganic block.

Braden and his wife, Toni, have a young son, and en­joy know­ing their lit­tle boy is living in a spray free en­vi­ron­ment. As a fam­ily, they can walk any­where the or­chard with a good feeling, know­ing that it’s a safe place to be.

“With or­gan­ics, you don’t have any con­cerns about the times of the year you’re spray­ing dif­fer­ent chem­i­cals. If we were living on the other or­chard we’d have to be more care­ful. Here I take the young fella out on the or­chard any time of year. We don’t have any con­cerns here at all.”

The harsh­est thing in an or­ganic grower’s list is a cop­per spray.

Apart from the money, Braden loves be­ing an or­ganic grower – “I love it, it’s cool,” he smiles.

“Sure there’s a lit­tle more paper work and you have to put a plan to­gether and have it ap­proved be­fore the sea­son. Most con­ven­tional grow­ers would have a for­mal plan to fol­low based on pre­vi­ous sea­sons and tweak it slightly. That’s what we do, it’s not any harder.”

Con­ven­tional or or­ganic the costs are sim­i­lar. There costs in­curred with or­ganic that you don’t have with con­ven­tional, and vice versa, I think they bal­ance out about equal, he says.

PUB­LIC PRES­SURE

Be­ing or­ganic has ex­tra bonuses in that it nul­li­fies any pub­lic pres­sure from lo­cal anti-spray groups. A nearby pri­mary school’s ac­tion group, gets fired up at cer­tain times of the sea­son when the more toxic sprays are used. That’s not an is­sue for the or­ganic block.

The or­chard is au­dited ev­ery year. This process looks at the sprays and other prod­ucts used, soil tests to prove such prod­ucts are re­quired, and check­ing records to show that own­ers and/or man­agers have kept within their lim­its.

RICH WITH RE­WARDS

His mes­sage to grow­ers and man­agers con­sid­er­ing turn­ing green is that the fi­nan­cial re­wards are cer­tainly there to be had.

“If you’re do­ing a good job, the re­turns are re­ally good. Most or­ganic grow­ers are op­er­at­ing well and prov­ing that it can be done. It’s quite a sound and ro­bust busi­ness de­ci­sion. Our or­chard is re­turn­ing well, so we’re happy do­ing it,” he says.

It’s fair to say a num­ber of grow­ers don’t run their own or­chards now. More and more man­agers are hired to run op­er­a­tions and they are the real de­ci­sion mak­ers. Get­ting those along­side these man­agers is an im­por­tant part of or­ganic sec­tor’s fu­ture, he says.

PEST HALTS CON­VER­SION

The main rea­son Braden won’t con­vert the con­ven­tional block is be­cause of one an­noy­ing pest.

Pas­sion vine hop­per lives in a nearby gully, which is prov­ing a breed­ing ground for the bug. Hop­pers are hard to con­trol or­gan­i­cally. Re­search is un­der­way by Ze­spri, but not as fast both Braden and Jon would like.

“Most or­ganic grow­ers are op­er­at­ing well and prov­ing that it can be done. It’s quite a sound and ro­bust busi­ness de­ci­sion. Our or­chard is re­turn­ing well, so we’re happy do­ing it.”

Or­gan­ics must pay its way – Braden Stra­han ( grows both or­gan­i­cally and con­ven­tion­ally)

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