Farming enterprise starts with cold beer

HERE'S CHEERS: Twin Pines Limes owner Joel Herlaar with the farm's new processing equipment.
HERE'S CHEERS: Twin Pines Limes owner Joel Herlaar with the farm's new processing equipment. Megan Masters

A BEER can quite often make a bad day seem a little better, but not many people find it can change their lives.

But after a hot day on their cattle farm at Hampton, Joel Herlaar brought home a carton of Corona beers to share with dad Mark.

The eyebrow-raising price of $2 per lime came up in conversation and the idea for a new enterprise was born.

They started out by planting a lime tree in the back yard to supply their own limes for fresh water and icy-cold Coronas and soon discovered it was not too hard to keep it alive and fruiting. Five years later they took the plunge and bought 300 trees, creating Twin Pines Limes.

"I nearly killed them in the first year,” Joel laughed.

Not to be daunted, he threw in a further 200 trees and cottoned on to the importance of water and fertiliser.

They never looked back and ended up with 4000 trees planted over 7.2ha.

This year the Herlaars were set to haul in their biggest crop to date.

"Our first commercial pick was 520kg and the second one was 15 tonnes, then from that we got to 97 tonnes last year,” Joel said.

"We processed 97 tonnes of fruit through a double garage.”

But after picking up an incredible bargain on some processing machinery, the packing side of things is set to expand nicely and the old double garage can be retired.

Joel said the only thing that stopped them from expanding the orchard further was water security.

He said the farm was just outside the Hampton Irrigators Scheme, where operators could draw unlimited water from the town supply when the farms were unable to cover their own water needs.

They had plans to sink another bore this year to help keep the trees watered during periods like the recent one with no rain and plenty of heat.

He said the ideal would be to lobby for a similar scheme to help farmers outside the Hampton scheme's boundaries.

As he chatted away, Joel kept one eye on storm clouds over the hill, willing them to come close enough to make a difference to this year's pick.

He said the trees had suffered some heat stress, with leaves beginning to curl within two days of being watered.

It was dicey times for a bit, with prices listed only a few weeks ago at $4 a box and the heat making it harder to leave fruit on trees.

"That's no good though because the boxes cost $2,” he said.

"The price a few weeks later went back up to $14 a box.

"This is the hottest summer they've probably been through - that last weekend they were stressing bad but we're on top of it now.

"But as long as it doesn't wreck the fruit we could hold them for another two or three weeks and they could keep sizing up while we wait for a better price on the market.”

He said Hampton was ideally placed climate-wise to time the pick for the best prices, which rose dramatically as the coastal crop started to dry up and the cooler-climate places like Hampton got to work.

Topics:  hampton horticulture limes

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