Jennie and Bob Crum on their orchard.

Bob and Jennie Crum are orchardists on a mission – to elevate the humble plum to the top of the fruit tree.

They started growing plums on their small property in Renwick near Blenheim 20 years ago, aiming to grow the tastiest and best organic ones for the local market.

“We grow more than 20 varieties,” Jennie Crum says. “One of our favourites is the Luisa which I describe as the plum for people who don’t like plums. It looks like a mango and it’s sweet and luscious.”

When Bob Crum met Jennie in 1981, he had no idea about growing anything.

“Coming from a small town called Los Angeles there were not many farms around,” Bob says. “I just became fascinated with horticulture and the novelty’s never worn off. There are so many varieties of plums, so much colour. I’m still experimenting with new varieties.”

Their favourite variety is their beloved Luisa.

“We can feel the ripeness coming through when we pick them,” Jennie says. “They’re like velvet. You hardly ever see them in the shop because they bruise so easily, so it’s an ideal fruit for a small grower to specialise in.”

The couple sell most of their plums at the farmers markets in Nelson and their local one in Blenheim, which they helped start.

Plums are the mainstay of Windsong Orchard.

For Jennie, the markets are the best opportunity to get people to taste their crop.

“They’re not aware they’re going to taste the best plums ever! I love watching their faces when they try them and go ‘Wow.’”

Bob loves farmers markets as they help small growers like them stay in business.

“If it wasn’t for farmers markets, small growers like us wouldn’t be able to survive,” Bob says. “It’s also important that people know where their food is coming from. We have lots of regulars and tourists who want to taste the local food.”

They say eating local is also better for the environment because it keeps food miles down.

“We hope that more people will do a bit more growing for their local communities instead of importing stuff from all over the world.”