Tree fruit growers, industry specialists, researchers and assorted guests from around the globe traveled the length of New Zealand in February to learn how the country is growing their tree fruit industry.
In the balmy southern hemisphere summer, guests were treated to some of the must-see locations in both the South Island, where fledgling Honeycrisp blocks show promise, and the North Island, where breeders develop varieties successful in various microclimates.
For two weeks IFTA New Zealand attendees were bussed from unforgettable location to the next, bonding with each other during the sessions and in leisure activities.
Our group, clad in hi-visibility vests, were an orange herd moving through planar hi-density tree systems. A big orange dot seen from the sky in a sea of green rolling hills.
The vests, when first put on, set a tone that we were together in this long journey.
– by TJ Mullinax
Flor Maldonado, from Kershaw Fruit and Cold Storage, takes a photo of a computer screen during a demonstration in Nelson, New Zealand, during the 2018 International Fruit Tree Association Study Tour on February 19, 2018. The large group traveled for two weeks learning together about some of the latest tree fruit growing techniques in the country. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
Justin Wiggs, from Wenatchee, Washington, looks out at one of Waima Orchard’s unique orchard hedgerows, filled with mature palm trees, citrus and other tropical plants during the IFTA New Zealand Study Tour on February 24, 2018, in the Hawke’s Bay area. Wiggs along with every attendee was asked to wear orange hi-vis vests when touring each farm in New Zealand. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
Future orchard systems at the The New Zealand Plant and Food Research center. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
Kiwifruit and apples. This tour at Waima Orchard in Hawke’s Bay was a highlight for many attendees because it provided deep agricultural learning about growing New Zealand’s national fruit alongside new apple plantings. Huddle under the Kiwifruit canopy at Waima Orchard with IFTA attendees below. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
Adam Peters, left, Tom DeMarree, and Flor Maldonado closely inspect drape netting shortly after it was installed during a demonstration at Birdhurst Orchards in Motueka, New Zealand. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
On the final day of orchard tours, the first group of IFTA attendees escape the hot summer New Zealand sun against bins lined up at Mr. Apple Orchards in Hawke’s Bay. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
After spending two weeks on the road traveling from the South Island to the North Island of New Zealand, IFTA attendees enjoyed one final night together, dancing and singing with a Māori dance troupe to wrap up an extensive tour of the country. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
2018 IFTA New Zealand attendees during a hike at Abel Tasman National Park. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
Many of the orchards IFTA attendees visited were newer apple tree systems, utilizing a mixture of mechanization, close-row spacing, netting, reflective materials and newer varieties coming from New Zealand breeding programs. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
A running joke about IFTA study tours centers on unexpected problems that crop up along the way. From broken busses, impassable roads and a few near blizzards are known by tour veterans. However, 2018 tour would make its mark on attendees who weathered Tropical Cyclone Gita, that swept in between the North and South islands of New Zealand. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
The first group of attendees get the royal treatment kicking off the 2018 International Fruit Tree Association New Zealand Study Tour onstage the Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch in February. For many in attendance, the tour is their first time in New Zealand. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)