1 Aug 2014

Fresh is Best

From Country Life, 9:29 pm on 1 August 2014

Debbie and an avocado tree and (below) a bunch of mandarins ready to be picked.

Debbie Campbell was a jet-setting corporate businesswoman until she swapped her heels for gumboots when she bought Bay Subtropicals. It is a 7 hectare BioGro certified organic property near Takaka that she now runs with Lex Taylor. The unique micro-climate in the area allows them to grow avocados, mandarins, limes, oranges, feijoas, tamarillos, sapote, nuts and an assortment of other subtropical fruit.

The farm has 5,000 producing trees. Many of them were planted by Peter and Kerry Geen who established Bay Subtropicals over 20 years ago and now run the EarthSea Gallery, near Pohara Beach. There's also a large commercial greenhouse on the property where Debbie grows most of the vegetables that are sold locally.

Not only do Debbie and Lex get a lot of help from travellers on the WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) scheme, they have a flock of sheep who mow the grass in the orchards, two cows which supply meat and manure for compost, as well as dozens of free range chickens, turkeys and ducks.

Debbie is particularly proud of the liquid worm, fish, seaweed and comfrey fertiliser she makes and feeds to the trees every couple of months.

Debbie was 18 when she came here on an OE from Canada in 1978 and, after falling in love with New Zealand, she ended up staying, but it took her 27 years before she resigned from her job as business systems analyst to become a farmer. She's never looked back.