I’m an elder-millennial. If we’re buying into the stereotypes, I’m supposed to be willing to sacrifice my chance of secure housing for avocados. But I’m not a huge fan, if I’m being honest.
I like a good guac over wine with friends in summer, but otherwise I’m just not that fussed. I don’t really see what the big deal is. Put peanut butter on my toast!
You’d think that with so much land I would have put in a few avocado trees by now anyway. They’re basically money trees.
Even if I don’t eat them myself, surely my millennial friends without back yards would greedily take them in bulk for a good price each season.
Well, they might. But yeah, nah.
It takes two
There are tricks to growing avocadoes, and they have particular needs.
Firstly, you need an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ pollinator in order to get fruit. Unless you’re willing to pay a premium for the ‘Cleopatra’ variety, in which case they can be self-fertile (but still do better alongside an ‘A’ pollinator).
When you live in the suburbs and get avocadoes from a single tree, it means one of your neighbours has a pollinator. You’re working together to both get avocado harvests, even if you don’t know it.
Without complaining about the space we have here, I don’t have that small advantage. So I can’t have one avocado tree, I need (at least) two avocado trees.
Not only would I have to work out what to do with two trees worth of avocadoes (and harvest them in the first place), avocado trees are kinda pricy. There’s always another tree I’d rather spend $65 on – let alone $130. I can buy at least 50 natives for that!
Avocadoes need water, but not too much water. If they get too much water, they’re susceptible to a fungal root disease that will basically kill the tree without immediate treatment.
But if they don’t get enough water, they lose their leaves and fruit for the season. They’ll probably survive, but they’ll struggle.
Our rainfall is not remotely predictable, except that winter is usually ridiculously wet and summer is usually very dry.
In order to grow avocadoes successfully, I’d need both perfect winter drainage and summer irrigation.
Further, avos don’t like wind much and being in the hills, we have a lot of that from all directions too. That means wind-protection. One of the dead-giveaways of an avocado orchard is the huge wind-nets that go up around it.
I am slowly achieving wind protection through planting, but I’m years away from having a good spot for avocado trees.
To be honest, it’s a lot of investment and work for a fruit I’m not too fussed on.
But, the money!
From about 2016-2018 we saw the prices of avocadoes skyrocket. I think at one point I was seeing $8 avocados. Growing avocados would be like printing money, right?
Well, living in prime avocado growing territory, I also saw a lot of farmers converting to become avocado orchards.
Of course, the events of 2020-2022 have severely impacted horticulturalists and trade routes. Those trees will be ready to come ‘online’ and produce fruit… oh, about now. Whether they’ll have the labour to pick them, or the ability to export them is another matter.
Maybe time will prove me wrong, but for years I’ve been predicting a good, if not excellent supply of avocadoes to the domestic market in the coming years. Growers should be pretty keen to sell what they can to recoup investments, but there are a lot of new commercial growers about to enter the market.
Supply could outstrip demand locally; while logistically, getting fruit to export markets isn’t becoming cheaper or easier.
Even with (or perhaps because of) high inflation, I don’t think avocadoes are a good cash crop for a small grower because we don’t have the scale. They are literally everywhere further north of us grown by much bigger guys with much deeper pockets.
Put simply, I think avocados will probably be one of the more affordable crops in the coming years, especially if you can buy them locally.
Weighing everything up, I just haven’t got around to it yet.
Probably one day I’ll plant some avocados, but the right spot is critical, and it hasn’t made itself known yet. I have a lot of plans and ideas for this place, and a limited budget. Which means I have to prioritise.
I guess I’d rather build my house.
Header image taken at Redwoods Garden Centre in Kerikeri, Northland, 17 October 2022.