"Feeding ourselves and having fun with our land."
Those are the goals of Janet and Peter Neilson, of Titoki.
Janet is the chairwoman of the Northland branch of the New Zealand Tree Crops Association.
The voluntary organisation promotes interest in useful trees, and members all share an interest in making the best use of their land in productive ways.
"Quite a few members have nurseries, some have orchards and some want to make a living from tree cropping of various sorts," she said.
"There are also a lot of people who are interested in self-sufficiency."
Huge expanses of lawn are anathema to a tree cropper. They would rather see trees and plants providing harvests for the future.
Janet and Peter's journey into tree cropping was strongly encouraged by her parents who gave them a membership of the association in the 1990s.
"My parents had been members for years so it was something we always knew about. We weren't quite ready to do much with it then but we always loved reading the magazine," Janet said.
The couple lived in town and quickly outgrew their quarter-acre section.
About 17 years ago they bought 10ha of land with two deep gullies running east-north-east and a large patch of bush which had been damaged by grazing.
"There was no undergrowth. You could see right through the trees. The first thing we did was fence off all the grass areas."
These are now used for grazing steers and a small flock of sheep and the bush is being allowed to regenerate.
The soil is predominantly Waiotira clay and there were some poplars planted but apart from that the canvas was bare for them to stamp their influence.
"There wasn't even a driveway."
They set about building a house overlooking the valleys, providing an outlook over their large orchard of trees. They are off-grid, using solar power to generate electricity.
There is a huge range of fruit trees, including bananas, peaches and table grapes, figs and plums. Nut trees include macadamias and almonds.
Two varieties of passionfruit vines drape over their verandah railing, with the stunning red-flowered Passiflora antioquiensis providing a prolific crop of sweet fruit that has a distinctive flavour. The other variety is Passiflora ligularis, which flowers in autumn and the fruit is ripe in spring.
Garlic grows in abundance, with Janet wanting to remind people that buying a single bulb in the supermarket makes little sense when it can be grown so easily in Northland and provide for a family all through the year.
"Garlic is harvested in December and you don't need to dry it. You can start using it straight away."
Tree croppers grow a huge range of trees.
"It's not just about fruit and nut trees. Other useful trees are grown for shelter, stock food and for amenity values."
Cuttings from trees are used as supplementary feed for their cattle.
"We just drop the prunings over the fence. They love banana leaves, grape and poplar prunings.
"They also love sugar cane, which is a perennial grass which is high in energy."
Other prunings are put through the shredder and used as mulch.
A non-invasive bana grass, also known as elephant grass, is used as a low shelter and for stock food.
"It's a good source of nutrition, including protein and fibre."
The prolific produce from the property keeps the couple well supplied in food all year round.
Janet and Peter enjoy venturing out to gather ingredients for dinner.
"It is like an outdoor pantry. First, catch your veges," she said.
They make about 70 jars of fruit preserves, which they either keep for themselves or use as a trade for items they want.
"The barter system is alive and well," Janet said.
Through the association, they have learnt skills needed for grafting, budding, pruning and taking cuttings.
A national trial is under way of the honey berry, which is a relative of the honeysuckle from Canada.
Two Northland growers are taking part, in an effort to find out where it might grow best.
"As it is from Canada, we are not expecting it to do that well up in Northland."
The couple says they always look forward to field days as plants and ideas are freely shared.
"You get to meet people who are passionate about useful trees."
Anyone wanting more information on the association can visit treecrops.org.nz