On the next episode, screening 14 May 2017 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
Fifteen years ago John and Jan McIntyre took a gamble – they started growing a fruit they knew next to nothing about.
“I’d never even tasted a blueberry,” says John, ‘and I didn’t know how to grow one.”
The couple’s dream had been to own their own dairy farm after working as share milkers for nearly 35 years.
But they couldn’t get a bank loan to buy a farm.
“The bank would always say we didn’t have quite enough money – just work for another year. But the price of land just kept going up,” John says.
In 2002 they decided to buy a small block of land near Matamata in the Waikato, and continue share milking while they paid it off.
But what to plant on their land?
“We got advice. It was only 40 acres so it was never going to be a dairy farm. We decided to trial a few plants and develop it into blueberries,” Jan says.
These days they have 10-thousand blueberry bushes.
“They’re just so sweet, once you start eating them you can’t stop,” John says.
They say the best decision they made was to put up four hectares of anti-hail meshing over the bushes.
‘It created a microclimate and the plants just grew unbelievably. We never looked back, “ John says.
But Jan says the canopy was a mission to put up – and took John nine months of backbreaking work with the aid of only their old Massey Ferguson tractor.
“John was clambering up and down like a monkey. I said never again!”
But on July 18, 2015 they were hit by a tornado and the whole structure was destroyed.
“It was all done in about 20 seconds – 300 millimetre poles were just snapped off and sucked up,” John says.
Jan did wonder whether they had the energy to continue.
But John hired a helicopter, and with the help of family and friends, the mesh was back up within three week
Not only did blueberry production increase, Jan’s branched out into producing her own ice cream – and naturally enough her specialty is blueberry.
She gets the milk from a neighbouring dairy farm – she loves the creaminess of the milk produced by the farm’s jersey herd.
“I know the cows are well looked after – everything about the farm and my ice- cream keeps it honest.”
She sells it in her distinctive Kowhai Creamery trailer in her local village of Waharoa and further afield in the Waikato.
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