Karen Pickford

Stoneloch Orchard
Tell us about your background.

We have been kiwifruit growers since 1978. We developed our Katikati orchard from bare land. In 1986 we built a kiwifruit packhouse and coolstore in partnership with other growers. We also ran a contract spraying business in Katikati.
We sold up and had 10 years out of horticulture. When that business sold we decided to go back to what we knew and got back into an orchard in Maungatapere, Northland which was growing kiwifruit – green and gold, avocados and tamarillos. We have since removed the tamarillos.
When we first built the packhouse my role was administration and compliance. Later on I moved into the General Managers position.

What’s the best thing about your role?

I love seeing the changes that we have made to this orchard. It was a bit of a project orchard and we are nearing the end of the big projects that were in front of us when we moved here.
For my NZKGI role – I enjoy the dynamic kiwifruit industry. It is exciting and progressive and is constantly changing.
Avocados are a real growth industry and being involved at an industry level is stimulating

Do you travel much for the role ?

I am often travelling within New Zealand, from Houhoura to Tauranga.
I attend grower meetings and field days all over Northland. Most of the board meetings I attend are in the Bay of Plenty.

Do you have any qualifications?

No – just 40 years experience.

Are you on any Boards? If so which ones?

NZ Avocados, Auckland Growers Ltd

What do you do now?

We own a 13 hectare kiwifruit and avocado orchard. I am also the Northland Representative for NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI), a NZKGI representative on the Kiwifruit Product Group to Australia, a Director of NZ Avocados representing the Mid North and a director of Auckland Growers Ltd.

How did you get that role? What was the pathway to that?

I have always been involved in industry matters. During my time at the packhouse we decided that, as our packhouse was small, we would not have much influence on industry issues on our own. So I decided to become involved as much as I could so that we could and be there when the changes were being developed.
Once we got back into horticulture it seemed natural to me to become involved again. I was asked to stand for election for both of my industry positions and was happy to do so. I respect the Northern growers and try to represent them as best I can

If you have children how do/did you balance your job and family? What are/were the biggest issues? How did you deal with them?

We have two children who are both in their early thirties and so are independent now. When they were younger they spent a lot of time either at the packhouse with me or on the orchard with their father. Those were in the days when Health and Safety wasn’t as front of mind as it is now. I am not sure that we could do something like that now. During the kiwifruit packing season we had to employ a nanny to help out. We were fortunate in that my husband and I worked together so could share looking after the children. Having said all of that there were still plenty of times that I went back to work after they were in bed to finish what I hadn’t got done during the day.

If you had your time again would you do anything different?

No – I am happy with where I am now.