Spectrum 759. It's all go now

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Tono kōrero mai

By the end of this year's harvest it is estimated that more than 10 million cartons of fruit will have passed through the Hawkes Bay Apple and Pear Board stores. Spectrum joins pickers, packers and growers at the peak of the season.

Jerome Cvitanovich visits a Havelock orchard with retired orchard manager 79 year old Ken Waits, who still returns to help out at the height of the season.

He is interviewed while driving through the orchard about the challenges of harvest time due to weather and the effect a bad harvest has on the local community.

Havelock orchardist Les Jones remembers working on the orchard his father planted in 1914. He recalls a vintage year in 1948 when they packed a bumper crop but then in 1936 when he was a boy, a frost meant a whole crop was almost lost. He talks about the diseases and sprays that used to be used on crops, and the effects on workers' health.
He says orchards used to be a lot smaller and a manager nearly knew every tree.

Geoff Hill is interviewed and remembers long, frosty nights when smoking oil pots were used to combat frost, about 100 oil pots to an acre of trees, which would cover the whole orchard with smoke, blocking out the sun. This also had bad side-effects on worker's health.

Horses were still used a lot in orchard work, and fed on apples. Geoff Hill talks about the changes since the Apple and Pear Marketing Board came in. His wife Marion talks about the changes to her life when she married an orchardist, after earlier working in an office. She comments on sayings about pear trees, which are better croppers as they get older. She would have to bring washing in when her husband was spraying and would put her children in a play pen in the packing shed when they were small.

She talks about packing in wooden cases with paper, making sure the layers were level. Now it is all computerised and packers don't need to be as careful. She says she got sick of the sight of apples and rarely ate them, although she bottled a lot of fruit for the children.

She talks about a hailstorm that wiped out their crop one year and went out to work for six months to bring in money. They used to receive a small strip of paper once their crop arrived in England, saying what condition it was in, which they took pride in.

Picker Nigel Burberry talks about the skill involved in his job. He is well-known as a 'gun picker', setting a record of 29 bins picked in a day - over 600 cartons of fruit. He describes how that record was set and some of the tricks of the trade. He talks about the picking lifestyle and why he enjoys it. He describes the scruffy appearance of pickers: rotting shoes, ripped shorts, loose t-shirts. He says many people have an unrealistic idea of what is involved in apple-picking.

North of Havelock, orchard workers are hurrying to bring in the last of the Royal Gala crop. A 35 year-old picker called "Stu" is interviewed about year-round orchard work, which supports his family. An unidentified woman talks about why she enjoys picking which she can combine with night work at Wattie's, getting by on four or five hours' sleep a night.

Richie, a foreman, talks about his role, making sure fruit isn't missed and doing quality control on fruit that is picked. An unidentified picker from Palmerston North talks about this, his first season and how he has found it hard work.

Retired grower George Curtis is helping out at a packhouse outside Hastings, clearing a water canal. He explains how the canal is used to float fruit onto a grader. He says the best orchards in his day were producing 1000 bushels to an acre, whereas now they produce 1500-2000 to an acre, due to better-cropping varieties.

Inside a packing shed, quality controller Joan Cacciopoli [?] talks about the high hygiene standards enforced now by overseas markets, with shed floors vacuumed and dress standards for workers. She talks about her workers who come from all around the North Island - the orchard has more workers than they need and have to put out a sign saying "No Workers Needed".

Geoff Hill talks about seeing local apples for sale on a recent trip to America, covered in chocolate.

Various interviewees talk about why they like the apple-growing lifestyle.

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Year 1992

Reference number 16186

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits Cvitanovich, Jerome, Producer
Radio New Zealand (estab. 1989), Broadcaster

Duration 00:36:06

Date 1992