Sustainability by wise management

Wayne McIntosh (pictured) and his parents, Stuart and Sharyn, hosted a field day on their...
Wayne McIntosh (pictured) and his parents, Stuart and Sharyn, hosted a field day on their Earnscleugh orchard recently. Mr McIntosh and his family won the 2014 Otago region Ballance Farm Environment Supreme Award. Photos by Yvonne O'Hara
Continual reinvestment, innovation and sustainability are some of the key drivers of partners Wayne, Stuart and Sharyn McIntosh's successful orchard business.

As the supreme winner of the 2014 Otago region Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA), Wayne McIntosh and his parents hosted an open day recently, inviting a large crowd to view their operations.

A former teacher and rugby player, Mr McIntosh began managing the 64ha Earnscleugh property about 10 years ago.

About 40ha of that is planted with 34,000 trees, of which 30% are under 7 years old.

In addition to producing cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and apples, Mr McIntosh is also trialling new fruit varieties, including Honeycrisp apples.

He had also planted a feijoa grove and about 200 kiwiberry plants but it was too early to make any judgements about the success of the trials.

''Five percent of production is for new market opportunities,'' he said.

BFEA judge Judy Miller said the family had a long-term sustainability focus through management of soil and water resources, tree health and wise agrichemical use.

They took an innovative and multi-generational approach to the orchard. She said Mr McIntosh had an excellent knowledge of microclimates and soil type and was a keen believer in mulching and fertigation, as well as using green manure crops to improve organic material.

Mr McIntosh said his family had been on the property since 1881, when it was in cropping, and in 1910 the first fruit trees were planted and a sheep farm established.

They employ eight full-time staff and between 40 and 50 seasonal staff.

The property has a nursery and they buy in trees as dormant buds to allow for replanting when appropriate.

''Trees are border planted to ensure that when we do frost-fight, water is not sitting around the roots, and they get more sunshine and more worm activity,'' he said.

In addition to the constant replanting, they have established shelter belts, native plantings and green spaces for people as well as to encourage the birds and the bees.

Visitors to the McIntosh family orchard for the Ballance Farm Environment Awards field day...
Visitors to the McIntosh family orchard for the Ballance Farm Environment Awards field day recently were treated to a crisp autumn afternoon.
Mr McIntosh said they had an integrated, organised water management system, using flood irrigation as well as under- and over-tree sprinklers, a monitoring system and water storage from five dams, plus a new one that was being built.

Marketing their fruit with the slogan ''Capturing sunlight in a form you can eat'', Mr McIntosh said he kept ''tweaking the equations''.

That meant constantly monitoring cost structures. As an example, they pruned trees so that fruit could be harvested by people on footstools rather than on ladders.

They sell to domestic and international markets in China, Europe and the United States, forming exclusive marketing relationships with select companies.

Mr McIntosh encouraged others to enter the BFEA awards, saying there were many benefits to doing so, including having people assess the business and receiving constructive feedback without having to pay for it.

In addition to the supreme award, he won the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management, the Hill Laboratories Harvest, the Massey University Innovation and the Waterford Integrated Management Awards.

Mr McIntosh will attend the BFEA Sustainability Showcase in Christchurch on June 26.



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