Orchard changes hands after 76 years

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LIFE'S WORK: Orchardist Nelson King picks oranges in his Onepu orchard.

THE end of an era has come with the sale of King’s Orchard on State Highway 30 in Onepu.

The orchard, described by Phillip Berry of Harcourts Whakatane as “one of the most recognisable properties in the Eastern Bay – a much-loved orchard, and a true credit to its current owner,” has sold to a Kawerau buyer after 76 years in the King family.

TIME FOR A CHANGE: Nelson King arranges oranges on his roadside stall on State Highway 30.

Nelson King, now in his 78th year, moved onto the property with his family when he was two years old. Working alongside his father from an early age, he took over the orchard in 1972 when his parents retired to Auckland.

Originally purchased by his parents, Lucy and Ronald King, in 1941, and run as a small dairy farm “with a herd of about 55 cows,” the seven-hectare property has now long been known for the bounty of its orchard.

Nelson King said the first crop of fruit to come off the property was in 1955 when “four-and-a-half-acres of apple trees had reached maturity”. He said his father had been inspired to plant the apple trees on the land to provide work for son Nelson when he’d left school.

The orchard flourished and developed, with additional crops being added over the years; oranges, mandarins and tangelos, a “three-quarter acre patch of tomatoes” at one stage, and “eight or nine years of kiwifruit”, with most of the produce being sold directly from the orchard.

“I think people eat less fruit these days,” Mr King said. Recalling sales in early days of the orchard’s operation, the 1960s, he said customers would typically buy apples by an (equivalent) 18kg box. “These days, a two or three kilogram bag is a typical purchase. Things have changed.”

“I’m going to miss the lifestyle alright,” Mr King said, “it’s been a wonderful place to be”. But though cherishing the life his land has given his family, Mr King said being now in his late 70s, he and wife, Paula, agreed “the time was right for change”.

Purchasing a section in Kawerau, and with plans for their new “retirement” house well under way, the Kings are both “happy and excited” at what lies ahead. “We’re looking forward to having more time with our friends, though I’ll be looking to make use of my skills too,” Mr King said. With a lifetime of horticultural work behind him, he said he was keen to assist the community and get involved in community projects.

“Teaching our young people to make gardens and grow things well is something I’d think I’d like to do”.

Mr and Mrs King will leave their King’s Orchard property early next month.



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