Monavale Blueberries

BioGro Number 511

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Monovale Blueberries are the result of three neighbouring orchards amalgamating to form what it is today, three generations of family working together to manage 110 acres of fully certified organic blueberries.

Paul & Mieke immigrated to New Zealand from Holland in 1980, with their two children Marco & Marije with a dream to own land of their own. Initially living in Warkworth, and then basing themselves in Auckland with Paul working as a green keeper and a landscape gardener. In 1985, he saw a small advertisement in the NZ Herald advertising a 10-acre property covered in scrub near Cambridge, and with a very high interest loan - they purchased it.

Whilst continuing to live in Auckland, we spent every weekend at the farm ‘braking’ the land in and began building a house on the property. The first blueberries were planted in 1985, alongside pip-fruit trees, feijoas and boysenberries. In 1987 the house was complete, and as a family we officially moved to the Waikato to live and work on the orchard.

Over the years many other crops were planted including beans, lettuces, tomatoes, courgettes and strawberries that were all sold at local auction markets whilst trading under the name ‘Goodlife Gardens’.

As we learnt and grew with the land, it was evident that blueberries grew well with the peat bog that were over 8 metres deep in places. Because of this, blueberries became our niche and the other crops were slowly phased out. By 1991, Mieke and I had purchased two neighbouring 10-acre blocks and we began to develop this land into a viable orchard block.

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We wanted to farm the land in an environmentally sustainable, natural and chemical-free way – providing people with good quality organic certified products

During this time, our children had both spread their wings, with Marco working as a Civil Engineer in the UK and Marije working as a Marketing Consultant in Auckland with their partners and children. By 2002, both had purchased neighbouring 10-acre blocks, and the family decided to merge the orchards which would form todays Monavale Blueberries.

Monovale Blueberries Limited has full BioGro New Zealand organic status. Our reasons for this are threefold. Firstly we want to farm out land in an environmentally sustainable, natural and chemical free way. Secondly, we wanted to provide those who wish to eat healthy with a good quality, nutrient-rich, organic certified product. Thirdly, we wanted to maintain a healthy and chemical-free lifestyle as each of the three families that form Monovale Blueberries, live on the property.

Monovale Blueberries was the first substantial sized orchard in New Zealand to grow blueberries organically, and remains the largest. A safe and healthy working environment was paramount, as the owners not only work, but also live on the orchard. Growing organically involves a lot of extra time and resources compared with non organic growing. These are outweighed by the positive environmental impacts and sustainable land management benefits that growing organically generates alongside producing a high quality nutrient rich product.

We currently employ over 150 seasonal employees, as well as 12 full time staff, on our 110 acres of fully certified organic orchards and grow over 20 different varieties.

In 2009 we opened up ‘Café Irresistiblue’ on the orchard decorated with handcrafted wooden tables, iron chandeliers, leadlight windows, large wooden decks and of course a phenomenal view of the orchard itself. The focus of the café is the delicious organic blueberries and organic blueberry products, as well as other products sourched organically, locally or both. The café was developed so guests can see first-hand what organic growing is about. We also offer orchard tours to locals and tourists and educate students from schools and universities who are learning about business and hortiticulture on the importance of organics. Be sure to drop us a visit if you are ever in the Waikato area.

www.monavaleblueberries.co.nz