Nearly four decades ago, John Brokx and Sue Vause bought a gorse-covered block of land in the foothills of the Waitakere Ranges near Auckland. Now the land is a well-established macadamia nut orchard that produces ten to 12 tonnes each year. HELENA O’NEILL talks to the couple about their organic operation, Macadamia Holdings.
In 1984, when John and Sue bought the ten-hectare property, it was undeveloped and covered in gorse. They gradually cleared the area and planted shelter belts while both working full-time jobs.
Initially, they planted 200 macadamia nut trees as a trial, but now have more than 2000 fruitful trees across seven hectares.
“We planted a couple of hundred trees initially because we didn’t have a horticulture background and we wanted to see how the macadamias coped with our property,” Sue says. “It was a gradual learning curve. John was in maintenance engineering, and I was doing quality control in lab work.”
Ten years into the venture, John and Sue opted to grow organically – a decision made to both improve the health of the soil and grow nuts without compromising the environment.
Macadamia Holdings encompasses the entire operation – from large-scale growing, to processing, to marketing the finished product.
Under its Why Nut? Organic Macadamias branding, the company has evolved to offer natural (raw), dry roasted and salted, milk chocolate and dark chocolate coated nuts, macadamia nut spread (both natural and dry roasted options), bulk nuts, bird food (ground macadamia nuts and shell) and ground nut shells. All its macadamias are sold domestically.
With a focus on sustainability in the orchard, nothing goes to waste. Sue says they are always looking to refine their operation and become more environmentally responsible.
Their drying room boiler has been designed to run predominantly on orchard waste, transforming tree prunings and macadamia nut shells into usable energy. Computers monitor the drying room, ensuring both energy and cost efficiency.
Smaller orchard pruning, nut husks and chicken manure are composted and returned to the trees as mulch, macadamia nut shells are used for gardening as well as road materials, and they even make their own fertiliser.
“We were also growing feijoas, but we removed them two years ago as they were a host for one of the pests for macadamias, the guava moths,” says Sue “We were sad to see feijoas go. We haven’t got the guava moth too badly here, but we want to protect our macadamia trees.
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