24 Aug 2018

Gone troppo: the Northland couple growing bananas, pineapples and coffee

From Country Life, 9:45 pm on 24 August 2018

Tropical fruits cope extremely well in New Zealand conditions and Linda Schafli is baffled as to why more people aren't growing them commercially.

She and her husband Owen - who moved here from South Africa ten years ago - grow bananas, pineapples and coffee on a seven-hectare property east of Whangarei.

Since the Schaflis moved to Parua Bay from Hamilton seven years ago, the couple have worked extremely hard not only getting a semi-completed house up to scratch, but clearing patches of scrub and bush to provide a sheltered dell for their beloved bananas.

Their property does get some frosts, but the bananas, pineapples, coffee bushes, cherimoya, prickly pear and sugar cane are all looking great, Linda says.

Even in July, the trees were still groaning under the weight of healthy hands of bananas.

Owen expects at least two large bunches from each tree - which is actually a herb but grows more like a grass.

When you push through manuka, totara and rimu, suddenly a large field of pineapples appears.

Owen says a shortage of rootstock means he's having to slowly build up his plant numbers, but two years from now he'll have a commercial crop.

Pineapples produce fruit around Christmastime and again between March and June and will eventually be worth about $120,000 a hectare, he says.

A dense stand of sugar cane provides shelter for the Schafli's coffee bushes.

They're producing large volumes of beans and this year the Schaflis will be roasting six varieties of their own coffee, Owen says.

People are welcome to come to the property and take cuttings from the bushes, he says.