Willowford Alma Alta Orchard
Jazz™ was the ‘hope’, the rainbow that would save our orchard.
– Phil Greer
Not many people would gamble their financial livelihood on an unknown fruit, but Phil and Kirsty Greer are growers who know a good thing when they see it.
Despite being told they were crazy, the Greers invested everything they had in growing Jazz™ apples. They wanted to make Jazz™ as popular as Braeburn and believed that Jazz™ would appeal to a wider audience.
“When I first tasted Jazz™ I knew straight away that it was a winner. But the apple market had dropped and we had to decide whether we wanted to sell up or take a risk on a new apple variety. In the end we decided that Jazz™ was too good an opportunity to walk away from and we had a strong belief in ENZA to make it something great on the world market,” says Phil.
In 2007 the Greers planted their biggest amount of Jazz™, 15,000 trees which brought their total plantings of Jazz™ up to 30,000. Their Jazz™ crop in 2014 was 50,000 cartons off 40 acres.
It has taken a long hard 10 years but Jazz™ has finally gained the traction and results the Greers believed in.
This is a vast change from the early days when a young 24 year old Phil scraped together enough money to buy land in Taradale where he planted 10 acres of apples all by hand.
“That was hard work. But I really wanted to give orcharding a go so I just worked hard to make it happen,” says Phil.
Kirsty also grew up working on farms and then orchards, her father planted the first apples on the Willowford block. She works as part of the team throughout the harvest, and enjoys the outdoor life and seeing their years work picked, packed and sent off to the markets.
With a blended family of six children, there has always been plenty of helpers during the season.” Our children have all worked in the orchard at some point-picking, thinning, tractor driving, in their school, university holidays.
We have always encouraged them to follow their own passions, at the moment no one is showing signs of making a career off the land , but who knows , now that apples are starting to pay their way someone may decide it’s an exciting option!” she says.
“It’s a wonderful environment to raise your children; it’s a healthy, strong community of growers that support each other like a family. We all have similar concerns and we want to see everyone succeed.”
During the busy season Phil and Kirsty use RSEs (Registered Seasonal Employees) from Vanuatu for the intensive Jazz™ picking, but most of their main help comes from overseas backpackers who visit New Zealand on 12 month work visas.
“We love hosting backpackers. They come from all over the world and have wonderful stories to share. Most have never picked apples but they all try so hard and achieve great results.
“They stay in tents and caravans around the orchard blocks and we make sure that they are well looked after,” says Phil. “They spend time with us and get to see the countryside as well. It’s a nice way to travel and earn money.”
Although the orchard is ¾ Jazz™, Kirsty says that after 15 years of orcharding, her favourite apple hands down is Envy™. “I love the sweetness and crunch of an Envy™, for a big apple it’s amazing!”
It has been an interesting journey for Phil and Kirsty but as they say “where hope grows, miracles blossom” and in this case the miracle is Jazz™.