Episode 11 - Queen of the Crop
On the next episode, screening 28 May 2016 at 7pm on TV ONE:
Queen of the Crop
Hawkes Bay orchardist Mark Ericksen says picking the right apple to grow is just like backing race horses – you want to pick winners.
And Mark and his family have gambled on a large, sweet, dark red, shiny apple, the Pacific Queen.
‘It’s not the easiest apple to grow but I love a challenge,’ says Mark, ‘I get a kick out of growing the harder apples rather than the easy ones.’
‘They’re the ones that are potentially going to yield us good money.’
Mark and his family – wife, Leah, and their three boys, Jack, James, and Archer – grow apples and kiwifruit on their orchard, Waima, near Taradale.
The first trees were planted by Mark’s father, Peter Erickson, in the 1980s when he converted the original family dairy farm. At 79 years of age, Peter still regularly helps out.
‘I really enjoy it,’ Peter says. ‘Fresh air and Hawkes Bay sunshine – what more could you want?’
Eight years ago Mark planted a newly-purchased block in the Pacific Queen variety because he wanted to shift their market focus from Europe to Asia, and China in particular.
‘The Chinese have really embraced it,’ he says. ‘Not just the Chinese, but countries across South East Asia. They like the sweetness and the size. It’s a big apple.’
Mark says like any primary industry, orcharding is stressful because it’s so vulnerable to weather. He’s always got an eye on the forecast for rain and wind at harvest time.
‘It’s not for the faint-hearted. You’ve got to have resilience and steel nerves. There’s tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of fruit at risk on the trees.’
But the Ericksons have a track record of doing things right – in 2006 they were named International Fruit Growers of the Year.
‘We were over the moon,’ Mark says. ‘We won the award based on our production, environmental and financial performance. It was a very proud moment, but there are plenty of other worthy recipients in Hawkes Bay and Nelson.’
The Ericksons also value their team of pickers who come from Samoa every year and their Indian supervisor, Gurbachan Singh.
“Gurby’s a very experienced man, and we’ve kept the same team of pickers together for a few years now. They’re very skilled at what they do.”
For Mark Erickson being an orchardist is what he loves. ‘It’s not even work to me – it’s my passion.’
For more about the Ericksens’ international award, visit: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/hawkes-bay-today/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503462&objectid=10947364
For more about the Mt Erin Packhouse, visit: http://www.mterin.com
For more about seasonal employment in Hawkes Bay, visit: http://mrapple.com/employment-opportunities/orchard-opportunities
For more about seasonal work for overseas people in New Zealand, visit: http://www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/stream/work/hortandvit/rse
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