Northland grower Zela Charlton, 90, enjoys feeding the world from her Glenbervie kiwifruit orchard.
"My reward is feeding the people of the world. Even if it's a bit of a luxury, kiwifruit is a very nourishing food," Charlton said.
The nonagenarian loves kiwifruit - both green and gold.
"You can't imagine what a perfectly ripe kiwifruit taken straight off the vine tastes like – it's out of this world."
Charlton is one of Northland's $76 million kiwifruit industry's longest serving growers, her orchard hand-planted in 1981 and still going strong 38 years later.
She loves the simple things about kiwifruit growing, the vines now budding up still fascinating her as they always have.
"I enjoy the freedom of walking around my own place. I've got a few paddocks where I keep my goat and free-range chickens and I enjoy watching things grow," Charlton said.
The orchard produces half a million top quality gold kiwifruit from a small, highly productive 2ha each year. These are sold as top-notch food to consumers around the world.
Longtime orchard manager Mike Crum (or now his daughter Emily) do the orchard's hands-on kiwifruit management, in consultation with Charlton.
"I like to know exactly what's going on and making sure my workers are happy."
With that in mind, she sometimes takes to her ride-on mower.
"Sometimes I'll zip around the orchard on my ride-on mower - it's a great way to exercise my labrador," she said.
Charlton turned 90 in August 15.
She likes to walk through her kiwifruit orchard at least once a day to enjoy the fresh air and chat with workers. "I like to keep an eye on things. We've been very busy lately."
She's currently watching the vines spring into leaf and bud and is eagerly awaiting bud break.
The last couple of months have been busy with all the necessary orchard management work required to produce top quality fruit for next season.
Management tasks over this time have included August shelterbelt trimming, ongoing kiwifruit vine pruning - 'the most important task on the orchard' and more.
"From now on there won't be a week that goes by without someone coming in to do something. There's lots of hands on deck - from pruning experts to pickers at fruit harvest time - and lots of equipment too."
Charlton's been on her land for 45 years, she and her husband planting kiwifruit by hand on the property 38 years ago.
"We planted all the vines by hand. My husband was going through chemotherapy at the time, so we thought working on the orchard would be something he could do on the days he was feeling well."
They had no prior experience with kiwifruit. It was one of the best decisions they had ever made.
"The process was more interesting than I could ever have imagined – I became fascinated with horticulture in general," Charlton said.
She very quickly realised the blood, sweat and tears that go into producing kiwifruit.
This year is no different. Charlton is gearing up for another big season on the orchard.
Being involved in the kiwifruit industry has been a positive.
"I've come to learn over the years the kiwifruit industry is very supportive - we help each other out."
The systems in her orchard now run well, due to years of operation.
"We've got the orchard running like a well-oiled machine.
"My orchard is a small one but it has wonderful soil so it's productive."
In the most recent 2018/2019 season it produced about 18,000 trays of class one gold kiwifruit.
Charlton switched to producing gold kiwifruit in 2011 after three decades producing green kiwifruit. She likes both green and gold.
"I love green so I was a little hesitant to make the switch to SunGold. But this variety is absolutely delicious - and it's also more resistant to Psa (the bacterial disease that affects kiwifruit vines) which is a plus."
Charlton was a journalist, artist and teacher before she became immersed in orchard life.
"I've been a few things in my life, including a journalist for Northern Advocate many years ago. I still love to write now – I recently published a book of poems."
She's always had a passion for the environment and is a huge climate change awareness advocate. She's known to attend the occasional protest and council meeting and has put up a huge extinction rebellion climate change sign in front of her orchard - along with another bright artist Hundertwasser-inspired sign.
"I try to do my bit by creating awareness and talking about important issues," she said.