Producer Profile | MacFarlane Pomegranates
When Gisborne couple Dean and Sheree MacFarlane returned to New Zealand after 10 years of living in the Middle East with their young family, they decided they wanted to give growing pomegranates a go. The fact that no one in New Zealand had done it before, or even heard of pomegranates at that time, didn’t deter them! Over a decade later, we’re delighted to be selling, New Zealand’s very first locally grown pomegranates on the shelves at Farro. We feel so privileged to have the fruit of such a locally grown labour of love, to be able to share with all the pomegranate lovers out there.
When Dean and Sheree moved to Saudi Arabia to live, they expected to stay for a year. They ended up staying for 10 years. The MacFarlane kids grew to love eating the plentiful local pomegranates.
When they returned to their hometown of Gisborne in 2003, there wasn’t a pomegranate in sight. It is only recently that this exotic fruit has become a more familiar in New Zealand. Until now, all the pomegranates we have here are imported, mainly from India. In Saudi Arabia and the Middle East there is plenty of hot dry weather and sunshine, which is what pomegranates need to grow.
When the MacFarlane family bought their lifestyle property in Te Karaka, 30km north of Gisborne, they thought: why not give growing pomegranates a go? At the time, not many people even knew what a pomegranate was, so initially there wasn’t a lot of local information available. They planted their first trees, 375 of them, eight years ago. It’s taken that long, and a lot of learning along the way, to get their first proper commercial harvest.
They picked the Californian variety called Wonderful, because of the vibrant red arils. They don’t spray the trees at all, other than with a little bit of copper spray at the beginning of summer and winter, and use natural, rich seaweed fertiliser.
It’s been a bit of a bumpy, frosty and rainy road. Dean says there have been a few days over the past eight years when he’s thought: ‘today I feel like chopping them all off at ground level.’ But despite a few tough harvests, Dean’s proud they’ve kept their faith and it’s looking like this year is going to be a stellar crop.
They have been working with a local packhouse to send all the fruit directly to Farro. Pomegranates are a wonderful addition to salads, or smoothies, or serve with grilled meats such as lamb, with roasted eggplant or labneh or, as Dean suggests, feast on them straight from the pod – in all their red, juicy glory. Dean hopes you enjoy them as much as his family does; we are so grateful to him and Sheree for deciding to bring a taste of the Middle East to our backyard.