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Organics Auckland Field Trip 18th.August 2001
Notes taker: Sarah Robinson
Trip to Valley Farm Eco Village, Te Hue Valley, near Paeroa:
Udaya and Elizabeth, founders, and Tim and Vivienne, bus dwellers showed a large group of interested people from Organics Auckland, Tree Croppers and Unitec around their 400 acre property. 86 acres is presently grazed by cattle and there is a substantial residue in regenerating bush with a stream meandering through and some of us were treated to a view of their waterfall. The property fitted Udayas wish list perfectly - not too isolated. The head of a water shed, a sheltered valley, native bush-including access to the 13th biggest Kauri in NZ, sandy-silty soil, bore for mineral water and scope for setting up cottage industries. Currently they are making garments from a blend of merino sheep wool and  possum fur. Tim has been planting fruit
trees, matching soil types to  varieties and aiming at picking a fruit a day for residents.  Udaya has a strong commitment to community concepts and plans to include educational outreach and environmental retreats, building small cabins out of the timber from the pines they are felling. We looked at a map of their proposed land use with locations for 13 future houses, vege gardens, woodlots, beehives and hydro power generation. It will be fascinating to see how their plans shape up over time.
Later on that day, lunch at Tony Belchers orchard at Waihi -
Change and transformation would have to be the catchword here. Tony took over a conventional dairy farm and transformed it into an apple and feijoa orchard which he managed conventionally until he did a trip to the States and brought back pheromone twist ties for codlin moth. Tony's orchard was used for trialing these in NZ. When sprays recommended by MAF defoliated his new blueberry plants for a second time,  he decided to go organic and was able to get premium prices for his fruit for ten years or so. With the recent competition in the apple industry, Tony cut out his apple trees and planted blueberries.  He has extended his operations to include fruit wines and an organic food café which we enjoyed heartily. He has also planted chestnut trees to enjoy in his retirement. He has found a way to make sales of organic orchard blocks attractive to people not familiar with organics. He offers his expertise to new owners, thereby saving them from having to redo the certification which enables the new owners to enjoy premium prices immediately.