Mining dad returns home for his daughter
ASKED why he has returned to Kia Ora to farm, Lance Bunter's gaze turns to his little daughter Madison.
Working away in the mines meant he'd be missing out on being with her while she was growing up, he said.
Mr Bunter, whose father ran beef and small crops in the area, is no stranger to the Kia Ora area and has demonstrated that local farms are probably best off diversifying in what they produce.
"We run a beef herd, grow tomatoes, garlic and limes," he said.
"That's about as diversified as you can get.
"Within that there are different crop varieties to cover harvest periods, labour and market requirements."
Mr Bunter said while the area's rich red soil, water and climate offered plenty of opportunities for diversification into a wide range of crops, you had to find crops that would give an economic return in today's market.
"We think that selling direct where possible gives better results and closer contact with consumers," he said.
"It does not always apply - and with garlic, almost total mechanisation is something we are looking at closely.
"Unfortunately that is very costly, but may save on growing costs."
A massive shed has been constructed on the property which will be suitable for different packing, processing and storing or value adding operations.
A range of different lime varieties are grown, and a recent visit to China to look at a dehydration process may lead to developments in that direction in the future.
Juicing limes is also in the plans as well as packaging the higher value finger limes.
Mr Bunter said they were doing all they could to reduce their significant labour costs, at the same time adding value to their produce.
"We are trialling the use of plastic mulch in the garlic, and also the use of a specific herbicide that does not kill the garlic but does seem to slow it down for a short while," he said.
"The problem with plastic mulch is that weeds come up through the holes and these have to be removed by hand - a time consuming and labour intensive operation."
Mr Bunter said his tomato crops are still in the 'working out what does best here' stage.
"We are aiming to supply 100 boxes of round and about 50 boxes of egg tomatoes to the Coast each week," he said.
"The types requiring trellising produce well but labour, once again, is high."
The Bunters' beef herd is being built up to run about 150 breeders, selling off calves as weaners.
They are also looking at the possibility of sheep, goats or other grazers that may be able to help minimise slashing in the lime orchard without damaging the trees or fruit.