Tuesday, July 25, 2017
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Farming family on Country Calender

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Te Puke-based avocado industry stalwart Ron Bailey and his family will feature in an episode of popular rural TV show Country Calendar this Sunday.

The half-hour programme will explore how Ron and his family have diversified their rural business interests after purchasing a dairy farm on Rangiuru Rd in 1963.

With the support of wife Shirley and their three adult children, he now oversees productive avocado and kiwifruit orchards as well as continuing to operate a 300-cow dairy unit.

Filming took place earlier this year, coinciding with filming for a promotional video for avocado export supply group AVOCO.

“The producer was filming for AVOCO and realised there was another story to tell about how we’ve put together a family enterprise in which everyone has their own area of responsibility,” says Ron.

“We’ve never been involved in anything like it before so it was intriguing to see just how much footage they need for television and learn about all the technical stuff that happens behind-the-scenes.”

Ron and Shirley bought the Rangiuru Rd property not long after getting married and moved there with Ron’s parents who were nearing retirement and wanted to be close to town.

They built houses for each couple and got started improving what had been a rundown dairy farm.

They made steady progress until the 1970s when Soldier Fly decimated large areas of ryegrass, prompting them to start planting alternative crops, including citrus and tamarillos.

In 1976, they planted their first avocado trees and more than 40 years on, have established a 15ha avocado orchard.

“We were early movers in the avocado industry,” says Ron.

“But in the 1980s, we decided that if we’re going to get into horticulture, we would need more than one crop.”

They planted kiwifruit vines and now have 20ha made up of gold and green varieties with much of it planted on a property they bought across the road from the original dairy unit.

“We’ve been farming folk for several generations and experienced all the ups and downs that go with that. But we wanted to set up a business entity that didn’t have to rely on the price of milk or avocados.”

Their deliberate management strategy to diversify has kept the Baileys going despite having to deal with the effects of PSA wiping out sections of their kiwifruit orchard, falling global milk prices and Mother Nature dumping snow on their avocado orchard during pollination.

“We’ve always managed to keep the businesses rolling along because if one unit was down, the others could pick up the slack. It’s a management strategy that seems to work well.”

All three adult children have been given responsibility for different areas in the overall business.

Steve Bailey oversees the dairy farm and two run-off blocks while brother Chris manages the kiwifruit and avocado orchards.

Daughter Karen contributes by managing the accounts and compliance issues.

Their involvement has enabled Ron to take on a more active role in the avocado industry. He has served as chairman on the New Zealand Avocado Industry Council and in his role on AVOCO’s grower-led management committee, he has witnessed the industry transform.

“It was a fledgling industry when I first got involved. Now it’s grown significantly off the back of avocados becoming such a successful product category. To have been part of that industry for many years now is very rewarding and it’s so satisfying to see how AVOCO has added valued to growers’ pockets and created stability for everyone.”

Country Calendar screens at 7pm on Sunday on TV One.


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