27 October 2008
Whangarei avocado growers Stephen and Samantha Wade, Lynwood Orchards, say the benefits of participating in the Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards extend far beyond hanging a certificate on the wall. Lynwood Orchards and persimmon and lemon orchard, Natural Touch Limited, were joint winners of the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award in 2008.
Situated west of Whangarei, Lynwood Orchards spans 13 hectares and produces up to 200 tonnes of avocados a year. Stephen and Samantha also operate a nursery business that supplies avocado tree stock to orchards and retailers in the Northland and Auckland regions.
The Wades were encouraged to enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards by 2007 Harvest Award winner Leonie Batt. Stephen says they liked the fact that the awards take a pragmatic approach to sustainable farming “because our aim is to be as green as possible while making sure the business stays profitable in the long term.”
Farm Environment Award judges were impressed with the Wade’s overall management of their operation and their use of sustainable growing practices. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is used to good effect and Stephen says they aim to minimise chemical inputs and use ‘softer’ sprays whenever possible.
Judges also noted the innovative technology employed in the Wade’s nursery. The couple have put much effort and research into clonal root stock – and this is a growing part of the business. “It’s definitely the way of the future for selecting superior plant genetics and making the management of tree crops more efficient.”
The Wades have also fenced and protected native bush on the orchard. Stephen says the judging process proved an enjoyable and educational experience, providing a valuable outside perspective on the business.
“We had seven judges here during two judging phases. They all had different areas of expertise and their questions made us think hard about what we are doing.”
He says the judging panel offered constructive feedback and useful suggestions for the future.
While winning the Harvest Award was a pleasant surprise for the Wades, “even if we hadn’t won anything, the experience was still well worth it for all of the free advice we got out of it”.
Stephen says the publicity generated by the win and the credibility that comes with winning such a respected award has certainly helped the orchard with its marketing of nursery tree stock.
His advice to other orchardists considering entering the 2009 Ballance Farm Environment Awards is simple. “Go for it.”
As for handling the judging process; “You don’t need to worry, they are all very friendly. But giving them scones probably helps”.