Father and son duo, Nigel and Joe Burbury are investing in the future of their summerfruit orchard, Te Hapua, by expanding the number of commercial IP varieties grown.
Their growing operation is in the rich fruit growing country in the Tuki Tuki Valley of the Hawke’s Bay, where the family grow peaches, nectarines and pears. Originally based near Hastings, they moved out to Te Hapua Orchard in 1990 where the home block and adjacent leased block spans 26Ha of productive land.
A 15-year relationship between the Burbury family and MG Marketing (MG) has culminated in a partnership that has resulted in a large portion of the orchard growing Tatura Belle peaches. More recently they have planted a broader range of IP, including Sweet Dream Peaches, August Fire Nectarines and various Star Nectarine varieties.
While they will continue to produce traditional Golden Queen peaches, which are mostly supplied to Wattie’s for canning, they see enormous commercial opportunities with IP varieties.
“Like a lot of growers in our area, we run a small shop and supply Wattie’s but for us, IP varieties will be our main revenue stream moving forward,” says Joe. “We like the diversity of what we do but it’s hard work so the values we get from IP make it an important focus for us.”
Father, Nigel, said MG recognised the opportunity that IP varieties deliver and helped get the new growing programme off the ground. “We had discussions about the unique IP fruit with MG a good few years ago,” said Nigel. “Procurement Manager, Rob Hollier, was really positive about their potential and that was good enough for us.”
“It was also good timing as we were pulling out some trees that never seemed to crop and were considering our options.”
“We spent some time at the New Zealand Fruit Tree Company trial orchard in Havelock North and saw the new Star 152 and 153 nectarine varieties. We were lucky to have the opportunity to start growing them.”
“We liked the fact that they have superior qualities, especially being a highly coloured and better tasting fruit.”
“The fact that MGs were looking after them, we knew we’re in safe hands. They’re a big company who know the market.”
“It was a great idea – no regrets,” added Joe.
Nigel, calls their orchard “tiger country” because it’s situated on an old riverbed with a lot of silt and shingle and is fairly infertile. However, the conditions are fine for fruit trees, with the hard ground producing a sweeter fruit.
Irrigating is a constant challenge and the orchard is very much a family run operation. Like many New Zealand growers, they rely on RSE workers to help during the season.
“We monitor the water closely and sometimes that means getting out in the field late at night to get the irrigation system working,” says Joe. “Luckily we’ve had a good amount of rain to start the season this year.”
“We don’t have any permanent employees, so it’s pretty much Dad, my wife Tina and me with our 11-year-old twins who are great little workers.”
“We have support from a great group of RSE workers, and most of them have been here with us for six years. It’s amazing talking to these guys and hearing that they head back home, to Vanuatu, and have brought their own land and are farming - it’s life changing stuff.”
“Unfortunately, with COVID, they haven’t been able to join us this year, so like many other growers, getting labour maybe challenging.”
Image: Nigel and Joe Burbury with MG Representative Rob Hollier