Simon owns 34 acres of prime orchard land in Dumbarton, just south of Roxburgh. He leases another three acres. His land borders his brother Nigel’s orchar,d and with his parents Evan and Jude just over the road with their three acres of mixed fruit, it could be said that the Donaldson clan is very well represented in the region.
Simon has worked in the market gardening business all his life and on many of the area’s orchards. He bought his first block of land (Elderslea, from Alex and Margaret Caithness) at the age of 21 and hasn’t really looked back. This was an apple block and it wasn’t until he bought the Rosedale block over the road that he ventured into stone fruit.
It was a beautiful day when we visited and the orchards all looked well cared for and very tidy, well laid out and rather idyllic. The Rosedale block gently slopes down to the beautiful Clutha River. Simon enjoys landscaping and building as well as orchard work and his house and home garden evidenced this. While we missed seeing the stone fruit on the trees we did see lots of very red apples and several varieties of pears waiting to be picked.
Simon and Evan grow apricots for export (NZ Gap certified) and plums for Barkers. He supplies Vege Boys with all their pears. His partner Belinda has started growing garlic, zucchinis and tomatoes to bring to the OFM. She does this on the home block which allows her to look after their young children at the same time.
The OFM was the making of Simon. He was one of the very first vendors at the market, and is now one of the biggest all year round fruit and vegetable sellers. It has taken a lot of planning and research into what grows well through the shoulder seasons that enable him to do this. He continues to plant especially for the market. This has involved many disastrous trials before hitting on the right variety to extend the growing season. Unlike vegetables, fruit trees take many years to mature before Simon can even begin to assess whether the tree will prosper and the fruit be as expected.