Earn­scy Weaver

At the Hor­ti­cul­ture Con­fer­ence last month fruit­grower Earn­scy Weaver was awarded life mem­ber­ship of Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand.

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He was un­able to at­tend the event be­cause at the time Earn­scy was over­seas with a group of Cen­tral Otago cherry grow­ers tour­ing North Amer­ica and Canada dur­ing the north­ern hemi­sphere cherry har­vest­ing and pack­ing sea­son.

How­ever in this ex­cerpt, he speaks to Dianne King, for the Or­chardist mag­a­zine, about his mantra of ‘qual­ity”.

He is one of the “movers and shak­ers” of the fruit­grow­ing in­dus­try and he will say there are oth­ers who de­serve that ti­tle. Ask Earn­scy to con­vey in just three words the most im­por­tant cri­te­ria for the in­dus­try and he re­cites Mack Ni­col’s mantra, “qual­ity, qual­ity, qual­ity”.

Ask Earn­scy to con­vey in just three words the most im­por­tant cri­te­ria for the in­dus­try and he re­cites Mack Ni­col's mantra, “qual­ity, qual­ity, qual­ity”.

The Earn­scle­ugh or­chardist, Sum­mer­fruit New Zealand re­search and de­vel­op­ment chair­man, for­mer Molyneux Fruit Grow­ers Ltd gen­eral man­ager, curler and fam­ily man, was just a lad when he started work­ing on the fam­ily or­chard at Earn­scle­ugh.

His grand­fa­ther, Char­lie Weaver planted out the mixed fruit-va­ri­ety prop­erty, in the early 1900s and some of those early trees, par­tic­u­larly pears, still ex­ist.

He earned pocket money keep­ing birds out of the or­chard by col­lect­ing bird’s eggs, paid by the “dozen”.

Egg col­lec­tions were fruit­grower as­so­ci­a­tions’ ini­tia­tive and they used to pay for the young­sters’ ef­forts, sub­sidised by the then Vin­cent County Coun­cil.

“It was not un­usual to pull 1000 eggs and us kids use to have com­pe­ti­tions over who could get the most eggs. If you knew there was one egg in the nest, you would wait and come back when there was four – all those sorts of tricks.”

“I re­mem­ber sod­ding pots – that’s putting a clod on the top of the lid to keep it from blow­ing af­ter the frost pots were filled.”

His school­ing was at the Alexan­dra Pri­mary school and Dun­stan High School in Alexan­dra.

He knew be­fore he fin­ished his school­ing, that he wanted to go back to the or­chard.

The sec­ond son, Earn­scy has five brothers, who have suc­cess­ful ca­reers off-or­chard in fi­nance, so­cial work, in­dus­trial re­la­tions and ki­wifruit.

Af­ter a year in Hawke’s Bay work­ing for Fred Hor­rocks and armed with hor­ti­cul­ture diploma from Lin­coln Univer­sity, Earn­scy re­turned to the fam­ily or­chard in 1971.

“We were plant­ing apri­cots when I first came home and ap­ples were the back­bone of the in­dus­try.”

His in­volve­ment in the po­lit­i­cal side of the in­dus­try started in the 1970s.

“It was a good way to be read­ing the sig­nals and build­ing net­works.”

He has no an­swer to why as­so­ci­a­tions are now no longer as strong.

”These were great fo­rums for catch­ing up with what was hap­pen­ing in the wider in­dus­try and also for dis­cussing hus­bandry is­sues.”

He served terms as as­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent and sec­re­tary and was a mem­ber of ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee, which was re­placed with the re­gional com­mit­tee.

Earn­scy joined the orig­i­nal sec­tor com­mit­tee in 1987 un­til about 1991 and then came back in the late 1990s and was Sum­mer­fruit re­search and de­vel­op­ment chair­man. He was a mem­ber of the early ad­ver­tis­ing com­mit­tee that be­lieved stone fruit was not a user-friendly name.

“Sum­mer­fruit was a pro­mo­tional name and then the in­dus­try de­cided to adopt it as the col­lec­tive name as op­posed to stone­fruit.”

How­ever, the com­mit­tee went out of ex­is­tence when larger grower groups pre­ferred do­ing their own ad­ver­tis­ing and the in­dus­try’s em­pha­sis is now ed­u­ca­tional, with points of sale in­for­ma­tion.

“The in­vest­ment in five-plus a day and in ed­u­ca­tion of the young, is money very well spent – and good for their health as well.”

The ba­sis of good fruit­grow­ing started at the tree, with tree and the crop be­ing grown in bal­ance, he said. “From the mo­ment you pick the fruit it never gets any bet­ter than the mo­ment it was picked from the tree.”

To de­velop best prac­tices, you have to de­fine what the best prac­tice is and de­velop pa­ram­e­ters. We don’t know those pa­ram­e­ters yet.”

Not long af­ter re­tir­ing as man­ager of Molyneux Fruit­grow­ers Ltd near Cromwell, Earn­scy who was of­ten

“The in­vest­ment in five-plus a day and in ed­u­ca­tion of the young, is money very well spent – and good for their health as well.”

sought out in a con­sul­tancy role, set up his own con­sul­tancy firm Weaver Hor­ti­cul­ture Ltd and is called on by many who are plant­ing out new cherry blocks in­clud­ing some in Tas­ma­nia.

He and his wife Irene now live on a lifestyle block at Spring­vale near Alexan­dra but he is not a typ­i­cal lifestyler.

It has a block of newly planted cher­ries and Earn­scy could be said he not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.

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