Families that stick together and share a vision are unstoppable. The Watt family have faced large stumbling blocks since they moved South in 2002 but on the day we visited there were nothing but smiles, beautifully tended fruit trees, well organised cool stores and a very efficient looking commercial kitchen.
They have 32 hectares 5km east of Kurow in the Waitaki Valley where they grow a variety of stone fruit, predominately apricots for export.
The Watt family comprise of Mum and Dad – Justin and Julie and 8 off spring - Irene, Ellen, Geraldine, Alistair, Fergus, Duncan, Brian and Heather. Together they make up the formidable team that runs the orchard and has developed the cool shed and commercial kitchen to snap freeze non-export fruit and add value to it by producing a selection of delicious baked goods and sauces.
The family moved south in 2002, fulfilling a lifelong dream to live in the South Island. The children have grown up on the orchard and been involved with pruning, thinning, packing, attending farmers markets, fixing irrigation, driving tractors and hydraladas, administration, building construction, staff recruitment and management and vehicle maintenance.
Unfortunately since the move south both Justin and Julie have become quite unwell. If it weren’t for the children taking over operations they would have had to move off the orchard.
The Watt children have been home schooled. The orchard environment has been perfect for providing real life, real time, practical projects across a broad spectrum of activities for them to learn from. Justin and Julie have provided the frameworks and support for the children (mostly young adults now) to develop great problem solving skills and practical expertise. It is humbling to see what this family has accomplished.
The Watt family is very good at scouring Trade Me for equipment that they can up-cycle to fit their needs. Creating the expansive chill store and the bakery on a very tight budget necessitated this but their family ethos is to recycle and modify rather than buy new anyway.
At the market Waitaki Orchards sell a range of fresh stone fruit over the season complemented with their delicious baked goods, sauces and galettes. In winter they also have frozen apricot halves. Their market stall is adequate with items clearly priced and tastings for customers to sample. They engage very well with customers and are developing a loyal following.