Tavendale Farms, Redcurrants

Meet James – Tavendale Farms

Redcurrants may not be commonplace throughout New Zealand yet grower James Tavendale harvests 25 tonne of these delicious berries each year from his 3 hectare planting in Ashburton, Mid Canterbury.

Tavendale Farms have been growing redcurrants and blackcurrants for Barker’s for some 35 years and James has been a major part of this all of those starting out as a youngster on the grading belt.  There is a mutual respect for the value and tradition of family businesses working together to grow and produce quality New Zealand products. 

Tavendale Farms’ redcurrants hero in Barker’s newly launched Squeezed Redcurrants with Cranberry & Pomegranate fruit cordial.

james tavendale
Tavendale FarmsThe climatic conditions of Ashburton are ideal for currant growing. Cold winters and frost free springs help with the 800-1500 chill hours required each year to grow redcurrants successfully.

Being prepared for the inevitable winter frost is essential. The cruel icy chill can decimate a crop as the October flowers can be irreparably damaged. Frost protection comes in the form of overhead sprinklers as water droplets create a layer between the flower and the ice, encasing and protecting them from damage. Mid-winter maintenance is transformed into Mid Canterbury magic.

unripened redcurrantsredcurrantsUnlike blackcurrants, redcurrants grow on second year wood, taking around 3.5 years before producing a crop capable of contributing to the annual harvest with any vigour. Much patience and care is required however the hard work pays off with a well pruned and looked after redcurrant bush productively cropping for some 30-40 years during its life span.  

Proudly boasting an Integrated Pest Management system, environmentally friendly pheromones ties are used to help banish currant stem borer (also known as clearwing) a major threat to a currant grower’s crop.


January marks a busy time, harvest time.  A year’s worth of growing harvested in one day. While the currants may be obviously red, James is guided by a brix test (which measures the amount of sugar levels in the fruit) to ensure the harvest timing is perfect.

A grape harvester is used to shake the berries off the bush before transferring to the grading belt. It’s become a family tradition for the whole family including grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins to help on harvest day. It’s an annual event they look forward to share together.

Home Gardener Tips:

  • When pruning redcurrants remember the adage that the new crop will grow on old wood, so don’t be in a hurry to prune it all away!

  • Birds enjoy redcurrants too, but don’t be too concerned. There’s only so many currants a bird can eat! To be sure if it’s practical, cover your fruiting redcurrant bush with protective netting.

  • Redcurrants don’t ripen off the bush, so once picked there’s a short shelf life. Enjoy fresh or frozen as they they freeze beautifully.

Farm Life

James and family enjoy rural life on the farm. The family enjoy days on the skifield or walks in the hills. The Tavendale’s embrace the magnificent outdoors that the South Island has to offer and James is heavily involved with Mid Canterbury Hockey, having held the role of President for several years.

Tavendale's farmlifeWith an abundance of fresh currants after harvest James recommends redcurrants on vanilla ice-cream.

Tavendale Farms
Ashburton, Mid Canterbury