New Zealand grower Marco Appel: ”We’ve got a nice group of people here”

Tell us a little about yourself?

“I was born in Benningbroek, Noord-Holland province, 27 years ago. My father is a painter and my mother is a bookkeeper. I’ve been attracted to the agricultural sector from a young age. That’s why I chose plant cultivation for my vocational training in Hoorn. After my graduation, I went to New Zealand with four friends, to travel around for a few weeks and to work at Triflor’s bulb nursery over there. We helped them out for seven weeks during the harvesting season. We had a great time.”

And you wanted more?

“Both myself and Triflor were very positive about that first year, so I went back the year after. The duration of my stay became longer each year. And I was given more and more responsibilities. I’m here for nine months of the year now and I take care of many aspects of the cultivation, together with some other Dutch guys. At harvest time, we’ve got about 20 workers here, including trainees.”

What does your year look like?

“Very diverse. I arrive in New Zealand in the beginning of September. That’s when the tulips are about to come up here, which means that we can get down to business. With spraying, selecting, topping, watering and harvesting. By mid February, I go back to the Netherlands for a short holiday and from early March until the beginning of June, I return to New Zealand for bulb planting. When that’s done, I go to the Netherlands again. Initially to take a break, but as soon as the bulbs can be harvested in the Netherlands, I help out on the harvester as a seasonal worker for No Limit BV. After that, I make a quick return trip to New Zealand to spray the weeds and to plant the forced bulbs. They’re forced in the greenhouse in the Netherlands in February/March and then they’re dried and transported to New Zealand by container.”

What is the benefit of New Zealand?

“The seasons are opposite from those in the Netherlands. That makes it easy to grow bulbs from the southern hemisphere in the summer and early autumn seasons in the northern hemisphere. The growing season in New Zealand is longer than in the Netherlands, because the nights are colder there. That means that the tulips have more time to grow. But it doesn’t lead to much higher yields than in the Netherlands. We can rent sufficient good quality land from cattle farmers. But it’s quite hilly here and from time to time we can get some heavy showers.”

Sounds like you’re having a good time?

“We’ve got a nice group of people here – fun, motivated and always there for each other. It’s important to have a good support network when you’re on the other side of the world. Things aren’t always easy. I am still single. Time will tell where I’m going to find a girlfriend.”

Triflor NZ

Triflor NZ is a subsidiary of Triflor in the Dutch village of Nieuwe Niedorp, a tulip company specialising in tulip forcing (20 million stems), bulb cultivation (around 160 ha in total) and bulb export. The New Zealand branch was started twenty years ago and is located in Edendale (in the far South of the southern island). The cultivation in New Zealand consists of around 85 hectares of tulips, partially contracted by third parties. The majority of Triflor’s own bulb cultivation is exported as dry bulbs and a smaller part goes to their forcing greenhouse in the Netherlands. The largest distribution markets for bulbs from the Netherlands and from New Zealand are the USA and Canada.