Episode 11: Golden Harvest
On the next episode, screening 13 June 2015 at 7pm on TV ONE:
Former corporate high-flyer Debbie Campbell made the move from the office to the orchard and hasn’t once looked back.
“I had a great career as a business analyst but one day I woke up and thought I can’t do this anymore,” Deb says. A friend alerted her to an organic farm for sale in Takaka, and by four o’clock the next day Deb had bought the farm unconditionally.
“My family said to me, ‘Hold on; you don’t do farming, how’s this going to work?’ I said ‘Dunno, but I guess we’re going to find out!”
Debbie’s orchard is on seven hectares near Takaka in Golden Bay. They grow mainly citrus: mandarins, limes, oranges, but also several varieties of avocadoes.
Bay Subtropicals, as it’s known, is certified organic and Golden Bay is the perfect place to run such a business. Deb often re-stocks the honesty-box stall at their farm gate three times a day, such is the demand from the locals for organic produce.
Deb’s partner Lex Taylor is a former electrician but pretty handy around the farm too. “He’s my MacGyver” laughs Deb. Lex built the fruit stall from an old pub beer chiller, a deep-freeze has been repurposed as a chicken feeder, and a pump from a kids’ bouncy castle now pumps air into Deb’s organic liquid fertiliser.
Driving the tractor for mowing and spraying is just one of the new skills Deb has acquired since making the transition to being a farmer. “I did a course in small motors and a chainsaw course. And the internet is a great resource for the first-time farmer!” says Deb.
In a good season the orchard produces over 20 tonnes of fruit. Of that, most goes to wholesalers Fresh Direct, and on to supermarkets in the main centres.
Labour for the orchard comes from “Woofers” from the “Willing Workers on Organic Farms” scheme, who work in exchange for food and board. And Deb and Lex keep food costs down by growing a huge array of vegetables in the massive greenhouse.
But they also have 13 sheep and two beef cows on their seven hectare block. “It saves lots of mowing,” explains Lex. “Plus there’s the side benefit of really lovely organic meat.”
It’s been ten years since Deb made the move the stilettos to the gumboots, but she’s still delighted with the decision.
“It’s a fantastic place to live, I just love it. I love trying new things and every day here is different. It’s not just plonking in front of computer at the office.”
For more about the orchard, visit: http://www.baysubtropicals.co.nz/
For more about the region, visit http://www.goldenbaynz.co.nz/
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