Fruit grower Charlie Owen puts the quirks of his orchard down to 'location, location, location'.
The fruit from Otoki orchard beats other fruit to the market by up to three weeks because it's grown in a micro-climate. The orchard is 12 kms north of Wairoa, in front of the Whakaki Lagoon and its wetlands .
Charlie says the warm air from the wetlands is blown by the sea breeze over the orchard, hits the hills that are the orchard's backdrop and is circulated again onto the orchard. He says his father used to farm stock on the land but, 30 years ago, they looked at diversifying. It was suggested an orchard would be a good option. Charlie says fruit had always matured early in the back yard.
"Dad used to grow maize here. He wasn't the first to be planted but he was always the first to be picked."
Some of Charlie's apples are ready for picking in the first week of January. He also grows many varieties of nectarines, plums, peaches and apricots. All of the fruit is sold on the domestic market and there is a shop for gate sales that Charlie says does well over summer.
"The holiday makers...yeah they come in and the idea is they don't just walk out with a bag of nectarines.. they walk out with a bag of apricots, nectarine peaches and plums," he says with a grin.