Farmers Fast Five : Sue Culham
The Proud to be a Farmer NZ Farmers Fast Five: Where we ask a Farmer Five quick questions about Farming, and what Agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Puripak Avocados Limited Avocado Grower, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Environment Award Winner and Proud Farmer Sue Culham.
How long have you been farming?
Originally a city girl I moved to Glenbervie, Whangarei in 2001. My husband and I were grazing beef on our original 27 hectares whilst working in the family engineering business where I was the Finance Manager. I hadn’t had much to do with country life before this time but once you got me on the land it was hard to get me back into that office. Planting our original 4 hectares of Avocados in 2004, and after having our daughter in 2006 I stepped back from the engineering to focus on the development of the orchard. We now have 8 hectares with another hectare to go in March 2018. When we first planted the trees I was a little concerned with my knowledge around Horticulture (I couldn’t even keep a house plant alive at this time!) so I made a choice to further my studies gaining Level 4 Production Management in Horticulture, this has being invaluable, being a top producing orchard today. Having the right people in your team for the day to day running is one of the most important aspects to this successful business. I couldn’t do it without them and make sure they have a say in the way Puripak Avocados is managed.
2. What sort of farming were you involved in?
I grow food and I have a passion to grow exceptional food. Avocados is a food that is growing expediently, global consumer demand is surpassing current global plantings. Puripak grow our own seedling hass trees to plant in our virgin soils. With the demand for plantings, you can wait up to three years for an Avocado Tree. By grafting my seedling trees I can get them in the ground and have my first crop within 3 years. We are predominately Hass but we also grow Maluma and Reed, covering 12 months of production, giving us monthly cashflow. We are self-sufficient orchard with our own equipment, this gives our orchard the advantage when it comes to harvesting, pruning, mulching, spraying and mowing. We are able to get it done then and now.
3. What makes you Proud to be a Farmer?
I am proud to be living in this beautiful area of Northland and produce quality food sustainably. Puripak Avocados was the Supreme Winner of the Northland 2011 Balance Farm Awards (Proudest moment) and knowing that we are not only looking after our land we are also doing it so that in 100 years so my grandchildren will have this remarkable place to call home. I am proud of the huge native trees (Puriri and Tariare) that we have protected and the choices we made to keep the natural aspect of the property. So many things to be proud of!
4. What do you love about your job as a farmer?
Working outside in the Hydralada harvesting and listening to the birds and being part of the land. It’s my office. Growing trees is diverse and it can change daily, its tracking these changes, to make sure we change with them we need to work smart to be a step ahead and have technologies in place that will ensure we are able to act on change when its occurs. It’s watching the Kereru fly past my office window and sway in the Tariare tress, the daughter’s pet lamb bleating for her food, the rooster crowing and the cows grazing in the paddock. Nothing is better than the smell of Rural NZ.
5. What advice would you give the next generation of farmers?
Protect the land and it will protect you. It produces our food, we have natural eco systems so protecting them is essential we have wild life that make it their home within our orchard we need to protect and preserve what we have. Work alongside and be in touch with your neighbours, your industry, and your councils as everything they do has an effect on what you do on your farm today and into the future. Farming is extremely rewarding and when you see the final product leave your farm you feel proud to know that you are producing a quality product. Its hard work at times but its awesome work, it’s like anything in life, what you put in is what you are going to get out of it. Life has many choices, make the right one choice for you and future generations. I wouldn’t change a thing!