Green gold

By Andy Kenworthy

Wayne Reed pictured examining the crop in amongst his organic avocado orchard near Katikati in the Bay of Plenty. Mr Reed is now supplying an Auckland supermarket directly with organic avocados he pic
Wayne Reed pictured examining the crop in amongst his organic avocado orchard near Katikati in the Bay of Plenty. Mr Reed is now supplying an Auckland supermarket directly with organic avocados he pic

Primary industries: The fact that he had to live beside his crop made eschewing sprays for organic farming a logical decision for avocado farmer Wayne Reed.

Avocados line up with kiwifruit as crops that have come from overseas to become proud produce of New Zealand. Wayne Reed and his family have taken it a step further, producing certified organic avocados from their Katikati orchard.

The farming family bought the property in 1995 and then expanded it three years later to cover a total of six hectares, producing about 60,000 kilograms of the fruit each harvest. The new trees they put in were organically certified by BioGro from day one, and in 2007 the Reeds converted the old existing trees too.

"We got into it by chance really," says Wayne. "As we live on site we didn't really like the idea of living with all the chemical spraying, and it just seems a more natural way to grow. You just work through what is required for the certification. Now we are established being organic is relatively straightforward."

The greatest challenges to the business are ensuring a bumper harvest per hectare and trying to overcome the avocados' natural tendency of only providing a good crop every other year.

"The whole industry has a biannual bearing problem, which is our biggest bugbear," explains Wayne. "We are trying to change our management approach to eliminate that problem."

This can lead to fluctuating income for the farmers, as the Reeds found as recently as the 2011-2012 season, when they were actually considering taking a chainsaw to the trees when New World Remuera stepped in with a new deal to take about 85 per cent of the farm's produce.

Wayne says: "The industry had been through some poor pay-out years and we thought, well, it's time for a change. We just weren't really getting our reward for what we were achieving here."

Now with a firmer financial base the team are working on ways to increase the quantity and consistency of yields, as well as getting out there more and marketing their hard-earned organic credentials.

"It gives us a point of difference in the market and gives consumers the choice of an organic option," says Wayne. "We are getting a lot of good feedback. People are enjoying the product and really appreciating it, which is what we are really doing it for."

The health benefits of avocado
Avocados originated in Mexico, and is one of the few fruits to contain fat. However, this is healthy monounsaturated fat, which helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Avocados also contain essential Omega 3 fatty acids.
When used instead of other fats, avocados contribute nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and other kinds of important nutrients to your diet.

Organic avos
BioGro now has about 25 organic avocado producers on its books.
According to the NZ Avocado Growers Association the domestic industry consists of 1600 growers who collectively manage more than 5000 hectares of mainly the Hass variety of avocados, mostly centred around the Bay of Plenty.
About 80 per cent of export grade fruit goes to the Australian market with the balance going to Japan, USA and South East Asian markets.

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