Update from the Southern Hemisphere
It’s almost hard for us to believe, but the chance seedling that was discovered in the Mennell’s orchard has become an international sensation! That’s right, Ambrosia apples are now grown around the world. So while our farmers are thinning their trees, and getting ready for harvest in the Fall, the farmers in the southern hemisphere have just finished harvest and are getting ready for winter.
We thought it would be interesting to reach out to one of these growers and get a perspective from the other side. We caught up with Richard Hoddy from Vailima (Five Waters) Orchards, a 220 hectare property in Nelson, New Zealand.
With an ideal growing climate, Nelson produces all of New Zealand’s commercial hops and has consequently become the country’s craft brewing capital, while the region’s boutique wineries excel at producing aromatic wines. Nelson has been a centre for apple growing since 1913. It has a unique maritime microclimate, surrounded by hills and sheltered from adverse weather by mountains on three sides, and the sea on the fourth. This creates a warming influence in winter and a cooling one in summer. Combine the high sunlight hours and cool nights for the perfect environment for producing crisp, juicy, flavoursome Ambrosia apples.
Vailima Orchard has a long track record producing top notch apples. Third generation orchardists Richard and Susan Hoddy and their sons, Tristram and Matthew, have significantly extended the orchard across multiple Waimea Plains properties. Vailima has been a significant local leader in adopting new apple growing techniques with the single purpose of producing a remarkably consistent premium quality apple. With this in mind, they planted their first Ambrosia apples in 2007, after a local nurseryman brought the first Ambrosia trees to Nelson in 2002.
Richard’s two sons, Tristam and Matthew, manage the orchard operation, which employs 25 permanent workers along with seasonal casuals who are mostly New Zealanders, working holiday visa holders, and Pacific Islanders, peaking at around 175 workers during harvest.
Richard’s story of how he got into farming is familiar to many of our own local growers: “Growing apples and other fruit crops is in my blood,” he tells us. “I do enjoy the challenges involved in all aspects, and the rewards of seeing trees grow and the seasonality of spring flowering, fruit to harvest and ending up in a box ready for market.” The downsides are also familiar: “The weather can be challenging, particularly hail storms and sometimes disease,” Richard admits.
Richard and Sue are familiar with the Okanagan-Similkameen area of BC. They visited the region during the Ambrosia harvest in September 2018. “One of the highlights of the trip was standing under the original Ambrosia tree with Wilfrid learning how Ambrosia was born,” Richard recalls.
Richard notes that Ambrosia is fast becoming one of the favourite varieties for shoppers in New Zealand, and also for the Asian market. “Growing quality apples requires skill and attention to detail,” he says.”Nelson has a great climate and we pride ourselves on growing apples that people will want to eat. Ambrosia apples definitely fit the bill.”