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Central Otago ‘fruit salad’ orchard for sale after ten years of loving care

October 2021

In 2012 Mike and Helen Darling purchased a 10 hectare property 10 kilometres north of Cromwell. Naming it Moorpark & Mulberry, their aim was to create a ‘fruit salad’ orchard, leaving 300 of the original trees and planting 6000 new ones, as Mike explains.

“We planted to purposely coordinate our varieties to mature from early December through until March. To ensure it has the best possible flavour, we hold our fruit a wee bit longer on the tree. We grow apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, greengages, tomatoes, courgettes, purple passion potatoes, heritage apples, pears, Nashi, mulberries, walnuts and figs.

“Most others in the immediate area are single variety orchards, usually export cherries. What we do is slightly different. We supply the fruit of yesteryear with the genuine old fashioned taste of Central Otago. In doing that we have limited our labour requirement: because we are only a small family orchard, we can call on family members to help out, then we have one or two regulars helping through the busier times,” he says.

Moorpark is an intense flavoured, succulent variety of heritage apricot, with 80 year old Moorpark trees growing on the orchard. Mulberry trees were also growing when the Darlings took over. Considered a super-fruit due to antioxidant properties, vitamins and minerals, they also have a unique taste that wins over many fans.

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Around 40 per cent of Moorpark & Mulberry’s business is through their roadside shop, though since last year they have added an online store, drawing customers throughout the country to take their fresh, tree-ripened produce.

“Using the web has been excellent: mail order and freight, fully functioning across the whole country. Rather than selling to a wholesaler, we make a much better return going direct to the consumer. People are prepared to pay if they know they will receive great flavour. We put produce online and it sells out in a few minutes. So long as you keep customers happy, making sure they have a positive experience with fruit, they will come back,” says Mike.

After almost ten years, Mike and Helen are proud of what they have built.

“It is now at a point where we have a super viable business, giving customers a real taste of Central Otago. With the young trees we have planted, it has the potential to go forward and up another step. There is more to come,” he says.
However, the Darlings have decided that someone else can take those steps, and have listed Moorpark & Mulberry for sale, with Neil Bulling and Jo Nieper of PGG Wrightson Real Estate, Cromwell presenting the property to the market. Neil Bulling says it is an exceptional opportunity.

“This property has many aspects that make it unique. Mike and Helen have built a solid business reputation, developing an excellent mix of varieties of healthy, vigorous trees. Road access is a plus, and their efforts to build an online dimension improves business viability. With additional land ready to plant in fruit trees, grapes or olives, a new owner will make their own mark. Meanwhile, the four bedroom house features an art studio and a private courtyard, and is surrounded by a woodland garden of established specimen trees, which is a rarity in Central Otago.

“Moorpark & Mulberry offers an ideal combination of lifestyle and income,” says Neil.

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