Bay of Plenty organic Zespri kiwifruit growers Mark and Catriona White have taken the top trophy in a national farming contest.
The orchardists from Opotiki in Eastern Bay of Plenty collected the sustainable farming and growing national ambassador prize at last night’s Balance Farm Environment Awards in Wellington.
The couple gained entry to the event by scooping four awards, including the supreme one, at a regional competition in February. They competed against dairy, sheep and beef farmers as well as beekeepers and orchardists who promote sustainable land practices.
Judging panel chairperson Dianne Kidd says the Whites demonstrate an excellent understanding of all aspects of sustainable food production.
“They are outstanding strategic and agile thinkers on the key issues for New Zealand and have strong primary sector and community leadership qualities,” she says.”
“They are strong users of evidence-based science and technology in their business and orchard and demonstrate a broad global market understanding and a real energy to be agents of change.”
Kiwifruit marketing company Zespri today congratulated the Whites on their win, which includes an overseas study tour prize.
“We’ve long known the Whites are outstanding growers and exceptional people and this win on the national stage is thoroughly deserved. They are real heroes of sustainability which is right at the heart of the Zespri brand promise of premium, safe, healthy fruit to our consumers around the world,” says Zespri Chief Innovation and Sustainability Officer Carol Ward.
“Mark and Catriona run a sustainable, high-performing orchard and they generously share their knowledge with fellow growers – this generosity shows a real commitment to building sustainable growing across our industry. We often call on them to be organic kiwifruit ambassadors with our offshore customers.”
Ms Ward said the judging panel also singled out the Whites’ respect for Maori kaitiakitanga conservation values, their communication and teamwork and natural leadership.
Their BioGro certified orchard encompasses 3.19 ha of Zespri Organic Green kiwifruit and 2.65 ha of Zespri Organic SunGold (G3) fruit.