ViBeri NZ | Blackcurrants
Meet the grower!
Picture this: leafy-green blackcurrant bush rows stretch in all directions; the birds chirp synchronously; 200 fallow deer peacefully graze in the neighbouring paddock; the sky is blue; you can feel the crisp air from the Southern Alps wash over your cheek bones.
Welcome to ViBeri NZ Ltd - Pleasant Point, South Canterbury, New Zealand
ViBeri is one of Anathoth Farm’s main blackcurrant suppliers, providing berries for our delicious Three Berry Jam.
Meet Steve Harvey. He’s the ViBeri Farm Manager tending to 80 hectares of blackcurrants and, although he was up at 3.30am due to a frost alarm on the morning we met, he seemed decidedly chirpy.
ViBeri Farm Manager, Steve Harvey
The Super Fruit
Blackcurrants are packed full of nutrients, known for their high level of vitamin C and are naturally loaded with antioxidants. They have more than double the antioxidants of blueberries and more Vitamin C than any other commercial fruit!
Blackcurrants like a cold winter needing many hours of below 7°C temperatures to thrive, a mild summer and free draining soils. South Canterbury provides ideal growing conditions with pure water from the Southern Alps and fertile South Canterbury soil.
ViBeri grow their blackcurrants as naturally as possible. Most of the farm is either organic or in transition (a lengthy quarantine process that is required to progress from non-organic to certified organic over a three year period).
Growing naturally means strict control over what goes into the ground and onto the plants.
To combat insect pests such as Clearwing (a small moth that burrows into the shaft of the plant to lay its eggs) pheromone ties help fend off the males, a natural alternative to sprays.
Soils are also fertilised naturally with the likes of planting green manure crops. Cultivated they are then dug back into the soil providing nutrition (oats for phosphate and legumes for nitrogen, for example). New Zealand kelp is also used as a foliar feed for plants.
In some instances weeds are actually beneficial, bringing in predators such as ladybirds, which attack aphids.
Other natural tools include a spray derived from pine needles that burns the foliage of weeds. You may have noticed that nothing grows at the base of a pine tree!
Combating Spring Frosts
Automated throughout the paddocks are air temperature monitoring devices sending radio-wave signals back to base. Spring is a critical time for the crop. Unwelcome frosts, hail and winds can cause mayhem. The alarm can make the difference between a full crop surviving a spring blast or devastating crop failure. It doesn’t always require the need for aviation intervention however as often a Frost Pot (a diesel burner) can recreate enough heat to help reduce the severity of a frost.
Afsaneh & Tony Howey, ViBeri Directors/Owners
Harvesting begins after Boxing Day and continues until the job is done in February. A harvester straddles the bushes, shaking it gently using beaters and the berries drop into cups.
A big part of the year is spent nurturing seedlings for the next planting season. Thousands of cuttings are propagated in ViBeri’s nursery on site.
Tiffany Payne inspects the growing cuttings for next season
When Steve’s not working hard on the farm, he’s exploring the South Island. Through his love of mountain biking and tramping he has plenty of destinations to last a lifetime.