Ellen Watt

On Orchard / Waitaki Orchards Ltd


Current Employment: Orchard Technical Advisor, Southern Cross Horticulture

My parents purchased Waitaki Orchards Ltd in Kurow, North Otago, when I was seven, and we made the move down from Patumehoe. After growing up on the orchard, I concluded that there was nothing I wanted less in life than to become an orchardist.

I became an orchardist.

Now, there is nothing that I would rather be doing. I love the diversity in horticulture, how no two days are the same. I love meeting other growers and hearing their passion for our industry when they talk. Growers are passionate people.

My current role on the orchard includes overseeing our spray program, overseeing our compliance programs, and co-managing the packhouse during harvest. We are also moving into fruit processing, creating a range of summer fruit sorbets using fruit that is too soft or damaged to sell to the supermarkets. Diversifying our business spreads out the risk in case of a severe weather event, as well as making what we grow more sustainable.

Stepping into fruit processing has been a hugely frustrating process at times, but it is also incredibly satisfying to look at our end product range. Working on the family orchard has exposed me to a wide range of tasks and given me a broad understanding of what it takes to run an orchard.

Some days I wonder what on earth I’m doing, being tied down to our 36ha of land instead of being off roaming around the world.

Other days, I am in awe of the fact that I get to grow food that is sent across the world for people to eat. It’s a very cool – and important – thing to be a part of.

Horticulture is a great place to be as a young person. There are some amazing opportunities out there – such as the Young Grower of the Year competition. After winning at a regional level, I took part in the national competition, which was a fantastic experience that I would highly recommend to all younger growers. Horticulture is a great field to work in. The only thing you’ll regret is if you don’t give it a go.