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A change of pace

A change of pace

Starting an avocado orchard and glamping business would not be considered the traditional career path for dairy farmers, but that didn’t stop Richie and Kate Bocock.

The couple gave up dairy farming six years ago and moved to the tranquil Bank Peninsula property Te Wepu to begin a new chapter in their lives.

"I didn't feel like the pressures were getting to me, but I did feel like I wasn't enjoying what we were doing any more," Richie Bocock says.

The equity partnership in their Mid Canterbury dairy farm, while successful, had run its course, and they decided it was time for something different.

Drawn to the 30-hectare property for its stunning vistas and seaside location, the couple started renovating the house while considering their options for what to do with the land.

The property could run 30-40 cattle, but Kate and Richie thought the property had potential for other income streams.

Richie noticed some Kauri growing in one of the gullies and had an idea.

"I thought, if some Kauri is growing here, avocado should be able to grow."

Avocado seedlings need to spend two years in the nursery before they can be planted in the ground, but this gave time for the Bocock's to prepare the paddock they had set aside for the orchard for planting.

They ordered the 80 trees from a nursery in Gisborne and set to work getting the ground ready.

"In October 2018, we planted the trees.

"We had everything prepped, and we had done the homework on what needed to be done."

To the Bocock's relief, two years later, the trees produced their first fruit.

By the following year, the trees had produced a reasonable crop of around one thousand avocados.

Te Wepu now holds the impressive title of being the southernmost avocado orchard in New Zealand and the world.

"The avocados are every bit as good as what you get up north," Bocock said.

While the trees are still maturing and not yet at peak production, the avocados are being sold locally around Banks Peninsula via Facebook.

"If they start producing at their maximum, we will have to do something different and probably look at a wholesale market in Christchurch.

"At the moment, though, we've only got about 1500 avocados on the trees this year, and they'll go quickly over summer."

While the operation is still small-scale, the success of the trees proves that they can be grown this far south, Bocock said.

With the avocados and the 30-40 head of cattle run on the property, the Bocock's still felt there was room for further diversification.

The next idea came when the couple were chopping firewood on the top of the farm and admiring the spectacular view across Akaroa Harbour.

"We thought this view is pretty cool; we should put a seat up here.

"Then we thought, why don't we put a shed up here we can stay in? Then we thought, why not do a glamping business?"

The idea quickly grew wings.

The couple decided to do something different to glamping tents but were unsure what alternative accommodation would work at the three sites earmarked for the new venture.

The answer came when the family visited the Ashburton A&P show and stumbled across Mt Hutt Pods, who were exhibiting.

"We thought that's going to be perfect for our place, so we went to Mark Brown, who owns the business and told him we'd have six.

"He just about fell over," Bocock laughs.

The pods were helicoptered onto the three sites.

Each site has a pod for sleeping and a pod with a changing room, storage and a composting toilet.

The pods arrived in October of 2017, and with the accommodation being open for bookings that December, the couple went to work on the landscaping.

Next, hot tubs were installed on each site from Alpine Tubs in Geraldine.

"There are cedar on the outside and stainless steel on the inside, so they are really easy to clean.

"Most other ones are cedar on the inside."

The hot tubs are emptied and cleaned after each guest, with the water being recycled and used to irrigate the avocado orchard.

Each site has a fire pit, and guests can enjoy a hamper of local produce curated by Kate, which includes Te Wepus' beef and when in season, avocados.

"We wanted to showcase the grass-fed beef from here, and Kate has this amazing cob loaf she makes from her mother's recipe.

"Then there's fresh fruit and vegetables and Akaroa salmon."

The pod accommodation is managed by the Bocock's rather than through a third-party business.

Because of this, guests visiting Te Wepu have a much more personal experience.

Bookings have been consistent, with guests from all walks of life, from farmers and urban professionals to rugby players and even the odd celebrity.

"We get a massive range of people, but what I enjoy is the people that have really busy lives.

"They come here, they look exhausted, but when they leave two days later, they leave happy."

by Claire Inkson