Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Jackson Orchards Legacy Continues

Kevin Jackson is a fourth-generation orchardist whose name is synonymous with the flourishing Central Otago fruit growing region. Born in Alexandra, the son of an orchardist, orcharding was always going to be in his DNA.

“My great grandfather established an orchard in Alexandra in the 1860s after coming to the area in search of gold,” says Kevin. “My grandfather carried it on while my father later planted his own separate orchard inside the Alexandra town boundary. After he died in the 1960s the orchard was sold to make way for a housing subdivision.”

While Kevin’s mother encouraged him to finish his schooling and take a university course Kevin had other ideas and left school at the age of 15. With his heart set on owning his own property he purchased a successful apricot orchard in the Cromwell Gorge and Jackson’s Orchard was launched.

Then came the Clyde Dam which led to the flooding of his orchard and in 1989 he bought his present property on the Luggate-Cromwell highway and began planting a range of fruit from cherries, apricots and peaches to nectarines, plums, greengages, apples and pears.

“While we specialised in apricots because of the soil type in the Gorge our new site, now named Jackson Orchards, lent itself to a mixed orchard and because of the diversity of our fruit we have the longest season of any orchard in New Zealand. Starting with cherries and finishing with pip fruit we are harvesting for around five months.”

Kevin says the long season means they can employ more permanent staff.

“There is no break between seasons as once the harvesting is complete there are year-round jobs in the orchards. Due to the extended season we can also offer work to people such as backpackers and retirees who are looking for employment for a few months.”

Kevin’s commitment and enthusiasm has led to a diversification from the traditional orchard operation with guided tours and tastings giving visitors an insight into the daily workings of the property.

“It is wonderful to be able to share our orchards with people from all over the world and for many it is a  first-time and fascinating experience.”

Tours & Tastings

Tours at Jackson Orchards take place throughout the year and owner Kevin Jackson says visitors can experience life on an orchard whatever the season.

“We have four distinctive seasons in Central Otago and although we originally ran tours just in summer, we have extended them to all year round because there is always something different happening.”

Due to demand from both New Zealand and overseas travellers, the company is expanding its fleet of electric buses to cater for more people at one time.

“We have a guide for each trip and during summer visitors can take part in sample picking and eat fruit directly from the tree which can be a whole new adventure particularly for international visitors. We are particularly proud  to show off our new state-of-the art packhouse which will alleviate the cramped conditions in our original packing shed and allow us to increase the size of our popular fruit stall.”