REELTOWN, Ala. (WSFA) - If you think about where kiwi fruit is grown you may come up with New Zealand, Italy, even California. Now there’s a new player in the game, it’s a small orchard in Reeltown, Alabama.
“It’s the only gold kiwi east of the Rockies,” said Clint Wall, owner of Southeast Kiwi Farming Cooperative.
Clint Wall and his wife Jenny met at Auburn University. Their passion for growing took them to New Zealand where they learned all about the kiwi fruit. After being overseas for eight years they decided to come home, and they brought the kiwis with them.
"It's been a labor of love,” said Wall.
The weather and the soil here are just about perfect. The Wall’s got major fruit producer, Sun Pacific from California, to invest and buy the land in 2014, and they've been going kiwi crazy ever since. Folks in the area know something different is going on here.
"Most people who drive by here are swerving and staring,” said Jenny Wall, co-owner of Southeast Kiwi Farming Cooperative. "When you drive through row crops, cotton and normal things in the area, this stands out."
There is a whole lot of science and hard labor involved. They started in 2014. It takes about four years for the vines to produce fruit, so last year they had some fruit, this year should be a whole lot more. They battle bugs, fight frost, prune, and pick. It’s pretty much a year-round deal and most of the it’s just Clint and Jenny. All that work ends with picking time in early September. So how do you know if they’re ready.
"You can't look at them and tell,” said Clint. "I might take a 90 fruit sample, bring it back to the lab, and we will look at internal color, sugar content, and dry matter. Based on those data points we make an informed decision on when to harvest."
And when the timing is just right.
"When you cut into a perfectly ripe fruit it's tender, juicy, sweet, and Irresistible,” said Jenny.
And it’s almost time to start picking. Two Auburn University graduates with a big idea, that they’re hoping is about to pay off. Their kiwis should be on store shelves in the near future but if you want to place an order give them a call at 334-421-3864.