Humbled fruit man gets life
Special honour for a nurseryman who has been a keen educator
by Joe Dawson
A NEED to have a good idea of what was happening in orchards around New Zealand led Hawke’s Bay nurseryman Lawrie Cooke into the region’s fruitgrowers association.
A passion for the industry kept him there, and now his work has been recognised with a life membership of the Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers Association, one of three awarded at the recent AGM.
There haven’t been any life members of the association made since 2001, and Mr Cooke said he had no idea that he was in store for one.
“It came out of the blue,” he said. “I had no idea except that they wanted me to be at the AGM, and I thought they wanted me to talk about the bud wood selection scheme which went into recess this year.”
When, along with Stewart Horn and Philip Mardon, he was announced as a life member he was stunned:
“You feel very humble when you get something like that. I was dumbfounded.”
His efforts in educating the next generation of growers were particularly praised.
“I got involved way back in the 1970s.
“As a nurseryman who grew fruit trees, it tied in. You need to have a fair idea of what’s going on in the orchards.”
From his early days he put huge weight on the value of training, and got involved in that side of things as soon as possible.
He went to the initial meeting held about setting up a cadet programme, and has had an input ever since.
“I’d been through an apprenticeship of my own when I started out, and I thought there was a need for horticultural training.
“I was on the committee since its inception and became the chairman of the Hawke’s Bay cadet programme.
“I have been very involved in training cadets, and am very proud of the cadet scheme even though it was disbanded – horticultural training is very worthwhile.”
These days he has an advisory role at EIT and is a judge at the Young Fruitgrower of the Year competitions.
He even offered this year’s contestants a lesson in grafting after a number of them struggled with that section in this year’s competition.
The nursery business is still busy, with 100,000 fruit trees of all varieties sold this year, and Mr Cooke is excited about work done in the last two years on two apple varieties in particular: the Mawfu, a variety of Red Fuji, and Lady in Red, a sibling of the Pink Lady.
The fortunes of those varieties comes down to one of the things Mr Cooke has tried to teach scores of young growers over the years.
“This is a very exciting time, there’s a great future for the Lady in Red. Something I try to teach is to be observant – the Pink Lady was out there and one red apple turned up, and that’s where it began.”
Now the patent is held in New Zealand and it is being planted internationally.
Photo caption – EXCITED: Lawrie Cooke has high hopes for two new ‘ladies’ in the apple business. PICTURE / GLENN TAYLOR