Five years ago, photojournalist TJ Mullinax and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit New Zealand’s fruit country with the International Fruit Tree Association. The growers we met welcomed us warmly, and all were eager to share what they’ve learned from their modern orchard systems.
Hawke’s Bay, the country’s largest growing region on North Island, is known for its fertile soils and long growing season. Today, it’s heartbreaking to see the damage many of those orchards sustained when Cyclone Gabrielle struck the region in February — just as growers were set to begin harvest. Heavy winds uprooted trees, weighed down with a ripening crop, and washed them away, trellis and all. Floodwater inundated other orchards, then receded, leaving mounds of silt behind.
The flooding also forced thousands to evacuate their homes, according to local news reports, and several people died. The prime minister recently called it the country’s worst natural disaster this century and estimated the damage at over $8 billion.
At Good Fruit Grower, our hearts go out to those who lost so much, and to communities grappling with rebuilding an economy that depends on horticultural production. We know very well the time and investment it will take to rebuild.
But it’s also inspiring — though not at all surprising — to see the industry rally to get through this unprecedented harvest season. New Zealand Apples & Pears Inc., the country’s marketing group, set up a site to help growers loan equipment and labor to neighbors in need. The Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers’ Association also set up a donation fund to assist growers who’ve lost crops, orchards and more.
In a land far from other countries and outside assistance, even in our modern times, growers there have learned over the years to fix what’s broken, make do with what’s available and step in to help when needed. It’s a kiwi spirit that permeates all that they do, and one I respect immensely.
So, kia ora to our southern friends. We’re thinking of you and wishing you strength in these very difficult times. Be safe and be well.
—by Shannon Dininny
A note to readers
In our March 1 issue, in an article about pear psylla IPM, we ran a photo of a grower loading Surround, a kaolin clay product, into a spray tank, and the grower was not wearing the full suite of label-required personal protective equipment. That doesn’t align with our educational mission, so we want to take this opportunity to remind readers that while Surround is a natural, nontoxic clay, it can cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory system. According to the label, applicators, mixers, loaders and other handlers must wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and shoes, protective eyewear and a dust-filtering respirator when using the product.
—Kate Prengaman, editor
Leave A Comment