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Lex & Merryll McKay - Brookevale Cherry Orchardists, Cromwell

Lex & Merryll McKay - Brookevale Cherry Orchardists, Cromwell Lex & Merryll McKay, Brookevale Cherries

Bigger, brighter, better thanks to Superior
Brookevale cherry orchardist Lex McKay of Cromwell likens a cherry to a chronic alcoholic. “It will just drink and drink and drink until it bursts”, and a burst cherry, Lex states “is no good to anyone”.

The unusual summer rains New Zealand has experienced in the last four years has seen the cherry industry take a huge financial hit and it is understandable then any small gains Lex and his wife Merryll can achieve in their business in spite of the rain risk is well worth pursuing.
An orchardist’s cherry is graded on size; the bigger the cherry, the better the price. A grower with a 26mm cherry will get around $10.50 per kilo in the export market whereas a 34mm cherry – not a huge difference in size – will achieve a much more desirable price at around $22.00 per kg.

Lex says using Superior solid fertiliser has seen a “huge” change in his fruit size and appearance and it has meant the business has been able to capitalise on the higher grade prices by producing a premium brand designated for niche export markets.

“I discovered Superior when we were packing for another grower about eight years ago. His fruit just looked amazing; it was bigger, glossier, the stems were thick and green. I asked him what he was doing differently and he said he had been working with Superior for the last two years. I said ‘I need their number’!”

Since 2007 Lex has been using Superior fertiliser and he too has seen phenomenal results in his orchard’s cherry appearance and size.

He says: “Before Superior came on board, around 25 per cent of our cherries were 28mm or less. Last year, out of the 30 tonne of cherries we put through the packing shed, we packed virtually nothing under 30mm. We have also seen our premium 30-34mm cherry go from being 20 per cent of our total export to 50 per cent. We had to add another conveyor line to our packing shed to cater for the bigger cherry that was consistently coming in!”

Lex says using Superior’s product wasn’t an overnight fix. He, Superior territory manager Anthony McLean and agronomist Scott Eckhold continue to work on the soil’s chemistry in order to get the right balance. He admits it took him a number of years to understand what the soil’s test results actually meant but says it’s been worth persevering as the results are having a positive impact on the business’s bottom line.

Lex and Merryll McKay directors of Brookevale Cherries, Cromwell
Cherry grower and contract packing and marketing for six other growers.
Superior client for seven years

Q & A

Q: What is the ultimate goal of your business?
A: To put at least 100 tonne of cherries through our packing shed per season and to grow the biggest, healthiest cherry possible.

Q: How did you discover Superior?
A: I discovered Superior when we were packing for another grower about eight years ago. His fruit looked amazing; it was big and glossy and the stems were thick and green. I asked him what he was doing differently and he said he had been working with Superior for the last two years. I said ‘I need their number’!

Q: Have you seen results since using Superior?
A: Yes. Since using Superior our smaller and less economic grade of cherry has significantly reduced from 25% to around 2% of our export product and our larger, premium grade cherry which gets more than double the price per kg has gone from 20% to 50% of our export product.

Q: What do you like about Superior solid fertiliser?
A: We are achieving balanced soil chemistry and our fruit trees are healthier and producing better fruit because of it.

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