Switching from dairy farming to growing kiwifruit was an easy decision for Bay of Plenty couple Elaine and Wayne Skiffington.
After 28 years of dairy farming, the couple decided to invest all their efforts into kiwifruit about 12 years ago - and have never looked back.
"We saw the potential kiwifruit had to offer and went for it," Wayne says.
They bought their 50ha property in Pongakawa, in the Western Bay of Plenty, 20 years ago for run-off purposes for the dairy farm but it included a kiwifruit orchard.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
They decided to lease the orchard to Direct Management Services while they ran the farm. After seeing its potential over the following four years - and learning as much as possible from DMS through the company's grower field days - they decided to sell their cows and manage the orchard.
The Skiffingtons still work closely with DMS, which packs and stores their fruit and leases a storehouse on one of the couple's two orchard properties.
The couple were early converters to the new gold variety, Gold 3 (G3), converting some "We first grafted on to vines that hadn't yielded any crops so it has been a little slower to take than if we had grafted on to vines that were more established, but it's very easy to grow," Wayne says. They have a total of 7ha planted with G3. In three years' time, they will be in full production of G3 on both their sites and expect to produce more than 10,000 trays a hectare.
DMS director Paul Jones says that as innovative and bold growers, Wayne and Elaine had been ahead of the game in terms of G3, with the rest of the industry now catching up. "A couple of years ago, it was all about just surviving and people were extremely cautious about growing G3 in a Psa environment," he said.
"But after seeing some outstanding G3 crops in 2013 and with better Psa management, confidence is building.
"We're on track for another good-tasting crop this year. Pollination has been excellent and the weather conditions have been favourable as well." Kiwifruit has now become an even wider Skiffington family affair, with one of their two daughters and son-in-law buying a G3 orchard in Paengaroa, encouraged by Wayne and Elaine's confidence.
Their son has worked for DMS for the past eight years, transporting packed fruit and equipment, and has managed the Skiffingtons' Te Puke orchard.