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Pick-your-own apples returning

A Greytown family is reviving pick-your-own apples this harvest season, while working to protect precious orchard land.

Between March and May, rows at Molewood Orchard are being thrown open, with the public invited to bring baskets and buckets to pluck globes of goodness straight from the trees.

The family business is the domain of co-owners and long-time Greytown locals Ed and Juliet Cooke, who run the orchard alongside their son Wendell.

“No one else here does pick-your-own apples,” Ed said.

For decades, Greytown was a hotspot for pick-your-own fruit, but opportunities ceased as businesses closed and land was used for housing. Maps from 1988 showed about 25 orchards in the immediate vicinity of the town, Ed said. Within 30 years, most had disappeared or shrunk, with just three commercial apple orchards remaining.

Ed and Juliet, who moved to Greytown more than 50 years ago, bought 11 hectares of former dairy farmland in Mole St in 1989, with growers Graeme and Helen Gray. When the Grays left orcharding in the early 2000s, Molewood Orchard was leased to Greytown’s JR’s Orchards.

Last year, JR’s gave up the lease and the Cookes decided to take over. Wendell moved home from Wellington, his brother Grayson designed Molewood’s website and their sister Merran handles social media.

The Cookes chose to revive pick-your-own not only as an outlet for their fruit, but to provide a nostalgic activity.

“There is birdlife here and it’s close to town,” Ed said. “It could be part of the Greytown experience.”

Wendell added: “The apples will be reasonably priced – cheaper than at the supermarket.”

The Cookes took over management of the orchard last year with “just one old ladder” and a few apple bins.

“It was the season from hell rain-wise,” Ed said. “We’ve had to spray to prevent fungal issues, but our spraying is a lot less rigorous than export orchard requirements.”

Ed, a long-time advocate in favour of preserving high-quality soils for horticultural use, said Molewood’s soil was classed as “elite”.

“There are sub-divisions taking place all around us. Our soil is precious and there is very little left.”

    Molewood Orchard at 17 Mole St, Greytown, will offer Pick-Your-Own Apples at weekends from March 11 until May 31. For more information visit www.molewoodorchard.com.

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