Everything you ever wanted to know about kiwis….fruit & birds

  • Did you know that the kiwi is a type of Chinese gooseberry.  Then some smart dude, Hayward,  from New Zealand started working on it and turned that gooseberry into what we know as a kiwi today. 
  • Ninety-five percent of all kiwis are grown in this area.
  • Kiwis growers are the largest employers at 25% of the country
  • This is the Kiwi capital of the world.
  • Kiwis are the most nutritional fruit in the world.
  • They are grown on vines propped up six feet plus off the ground and all work is done underneath the vines.
  • They are all picked by hand.
  • They need 25,000 seasonal workers, who make between six and eight thousand dollars every season.
  • After being picked they are put in a chiller at one degree and they will keep in that state for 6 months.
  • On the cargo ships they are kept at that temperature until just before getting to their destination then they raise the temperature one degree and the kiwis start ripening and are ready to eat one and a half days later.
  • One time the kiwis were shipped with a cargo of apples.  By the time they got to where they were going the kiwis were all rotten.

Hint  if you purchase kiwis and they are hard – and who hasn’t – put an apple in a bowl and place your kiwis with the apple and they will ripen within a day.  Or, if you have a tough steak.  Put slices of kiwi on the meat, cover, and put in fridge for two hours, and  voila! the meat will be tender.  But no longer than two hours otherwise the meat will turn to mush.

Kiwi farm

Then, we have  their national icon, the Kiwi bird.  Its closest relative is the Elephant bird in Maagascar.  The Kiwi does not fly.  It lives under the ground, lays eggs, and is nocturnal.  In the 1950s the kiwi was close to extinction so they started to breed them in captivity to save them.   Today there are approximately 65 thousand kiwis.  They lose about 2% of unmanaged kiwi every year.  So it is still not a great situation. 

  • They got to be almost extinct because of whaling.  The whaling ships had rats.
  • The rats were eating the eggs of the kiwi.
  • So then they brought in weasels to eat the rats.
  • But the weasels ate the kiwi eggs and chicks.
  • So then they brought in opossums to control the weasels.
  • But then the opossums got out of control and in the 50s there was a bounty on opossums.  Five shillings for each opossum you brought in.
  • They finally abolished the bounty and they use poisonous carrots and pellets today but they are still out of control.


Which brings me to sheep and cows.

Sheep farming – was the main industry until the late 1980s, when the price of wool dropped.   Today there are approximately thirty million sheep in New Zealand and most of the money comes from meat not wool.  Farm tours are the big thing right now attracting tourists mostly from Asia.  A good sheep shearer can shear 200-300 sheep per day.

With the decline of wool prices, the farmers laid off workers, sold off sheep and bought cows and the dairy industry took off.  But they had to scramble and look for new markets, and turned to China and India.   Today the dairy industry is the largest exporter of dairy products in the world.  Small co-ops merged to form Fonterra, the largest dairy company in New Zealand and they all work together.

  • It is the fifth largest dairy business in the world.
  • There are 2.65 million cows in New Zealand.
  • 12,000 dairy farmers
  • average dairy herd – 350, but in NZ it is 800-1000
  • the industry is high tech and 800 cows can be milked in two hours
  • the quality of the milk and butter is very high
Nineteen different varieties of sheep

The second largest industry is actually Forestry.  Mostly pine.  So the economy in New Zealand  is in very good shape right now.


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