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Episode 13: Apples sour and sweet


People turn their backs on city life for many reasons, but most are looking for a gentler pace of life. Some adapt to rural life easily, others realise their dream is far removed from reality and scurry back to their comfortable, if frantic, urban environment.

But Penny Elliot and David Brosnan don't fit into either category.

Both had professional careers in Wellington - Penny as a partner in a law firm, David a consultant.  Penny describes themselves as the ultimate "yuppies" at that time. One morning when David announced to Penny that he'd like to buy land and establish an orchard.

They found a bare block of land near Featherston in Wairarapa. Initially, David and Penny - who now had two children - continued working in Wellington and travelled to Featherston every weekend to work on their block, planting shelter trees and starting to build their home. 

After three years they planted apple trees and moved onto their land. David commuted to Wellington on weekdays and Penny gave up her job to become a full-time orchardist and mother. Neither knew anything about orcharding, but they learned quickly and eventually began exporting their fruit.

But apple prices have plummeted during the past few years.  Penny says they never made a great deal of money even in the good years - and last spring they came to decision time.  They had to either persevere with the orchard or pull out the trees.

They pulled them out. In just a couple of days, their fifteen years of hard work were reduced to piles of ripped-out stumps.

But right from the beginning, Penny and David diversified their plantings by growing a grove of cider apples - and these were left intact.  In fact they could now be the beginning of a new expansion programme, aimed at producing cider in quantity.

For the past few years, they have been developing their knowledge of cider, perfecting blending techniques and finding new markets.

Penny and David admit that New Zealanders are not cider-drinkers, preferring wine or beer.  But through their efforts, they say they're making progress in changing the Kiwi palate.


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