The NZ Truffle Association Executive is made up of a wide range of people with different experiences and background. As volunteers we juggle executive work, day jobs & family life while promoting truffles in NZ.
President – George Wilkinson
Tasman District | Truffle Grower | 0292313743
George has been involved in the truffle industry for 10 years and has traveled fairly extensively checking out what others in the world are doing with growing, selling and eating of truffles.
Secretary – Fiona Johnson
Wairarapa | Truffle Grower
Fiona came across the idea of truffle growing reading an Air NZ magazine about 10 years ago and, after some investigation and eating of truffle, became hooked. Six years ago, she and husband, John planted some trees with the first (and only!) perigord black truffle arriving five years later.
Treasurer & STNZL Officer – Steve Hart
Tasman District | Truffle Grower
With his wife Jenny, Steve bought land in Riwaka at the top of the South Island. Their idea was to try developing a truffiere but cultivation showed many large rocks, requiring screening of a significant part of the truffiere and a very large pile of rocks. After several years of applying lime, about 90 T.melanosporum infected trees were ultimately planted in spring of 2010.
During his time in Central Otago, while working on construction of the Clyde Dam, Steve was a director of a company that developed stone fruit orchards and operated a large pack-house that provided a packing service for both local and export markets. During this period Steve was also a representative on the local irrigation scheme which provided water to irrigate the flats around Cromwell for the local horticulture industry.
The skills developed in these roles and in civil construction are what Steve brings to his interest in the development of both their own truffiere and the NZ truffle industry as he moves onto a new stage in his working life.
Research & Development Officer – Dr Alexis Guerin-Laguette
Canterbury | Truffle guru
Alexis is a mycorrhiza scientist (MSc. and Ph.D.) who specialized on edible mycorrhizal fungi (EMF). Alexis worked in France, Japan and Canada before joining Plant and Food Research (ex-CFR, Invermay, Dunedin) in 2004. Alexis is now based at Lincoln, Canterbury, where he leads mycorrhiza research at PFR for edible fungi production and plant bio-protection.
His main interest is knowledge, cultivation and conservation of all EMF species (over 500 worldwide!). His passion for this field stems from his early works on red milk cap mushrooms (Lactarius deliciosus and related species) at INRA-Montpellier France and on the Japanese delicacy matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake) at the University of Tokyo. In New Zealand, Alexis extended his activities to more EMF species, including truffles, alongside Dr Ian Hall and Prof Yun Wang. Alexis’ research interests include the development of field cultivation techniques, i.e. from seedling inoculation right through to edible fungi harvest and commercialization, for saffron milk cap and gourmet truffles (Tuber melanosporum, T. borchii, T. aestivum, T. brumale etc.). Alexis hopes to help growing the young New Zealand EMF industry by sharing his knowledge and expertise with all players, i.e. growers, nurserymen, investors, and the food sector. Alexis maintains and monitor the PFR-Lincoln plantation trials (saffron milk caps, bianchetto, and porcini). Alexis has authored over 20 research papers in international peer-reviewed journals.
Alexis is the Secretary of the International Workshop on Edible Mycorrhizal Mushrooms (IWEMM) whose next edition will take place in Cahors, France, in 2016 (http://www.iwemm8-cahors.com/). Alexis has started a collaboration on truffle and mushroom cultivation with the Kunming Institute of Botany (Yunnan, China) funded in 2015 by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Alexis will visit KIB again in 2016 to pursue the cooperation which is part of a wider collaboration between PFR and KIB.
Since 2012, Alexis extended his activities to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), the most widespread type of mycorrhizal fungi on earth. He is working alongside PFR pathologists to assess the potential of AMF to protect commercial potato cultivars from soil borne diseases.
Science officer – Annette Munday
Bay of Plenty | Truffle Grower
Annette joined the Executive team in 2018. Annette comes from a background of Science and works for a Regional Council analysing all waters, soils and shellfish for Nutrients, Chemistry and Microbiology. Working full time, as well as continuous study through Massey University, and running the farm means some extremely busy times.
Annette currently lives in the diverse BOP on a lifestyle block which consist of sheep, pigs, chickens and Children. Amongst this lot are 200 mandarin trees, and every other fruit and nut tree you could imagine as well as our truffière, Truffiere Croix du Sud, Ōhiwa black diamonds, (tuber melanosporum), which consist of 140 trees.
Annette hopes to enhance the truffle association by bringing knowledge and change, as well as to focus on our growth and with our exporting.
Regional Coordinator and Conference Officer – Karen Drummond
Waikato | Truffle dog handler
Karen has been involved with dogs and training for 20+ years. She facilitates and organises world leading lecturers on scent work, canine behaviour, and dog training techniques to come to New Zealand to speak and teach, so others can benefit from the experts as well.
Karen began offering Truffle Dog Services in 2011. Karen has found a new passion and love in truffle hunting. She enjoys undertaking truffle surveying for owners in New Zealand as well as teaching them to hunt with their dogs, whilst sharing in their excitement as each and every truffle is pulled out of the ground.
Karen is a reward based trainer with a holistic approach to training focusing on operant conditioning and building a dog’s confidence to create a scenario with a successful outcome.
Newsletter editor – Maureen Binns
Bay of Plenty | Truffle Grower
Maureen is a trained teacher, librarian, office manager who has reinvented herself as a truffle grower in the beautiful Bay of Plenty village of Paengaroa. Married to Colin, Maureen and Colin have a lifestyle farm where they manage a QEII covenant forest and farm sheep, chickens and ducks. With only 212 trees to manage in the truffiere, Maureen says they are coping well with all the tasks that need to be done. As a passionate foodie, Maureen has been relishing the opportunity to try out lots of new recipes with truffles. Maureen wants to see our Truffle Association grow in membership and wants the Association to be able to provide support for all our members at whatever stage they are in the lifespan of their truffieres.
Executive member – Lisa Williams
Canterbury | Borchii Truffle Grower
Lisa is a trained teacher specialising in early childhood, special needs and management in centres and schools. During her childhood she worked with and alongside her father in both the agriculture and horticulture industries. Keen still to surround herself with the “good life”, she and her husband Stephen returned to New Zealand purchasing a lifestyle block where they developed a Finn Sheep stud.
In June 2016 they purchased their Bianchetto truffiere located in West Melton 15 minutes away from the Christchurch airport, which has 1000 inoculated hazelnut, pine nut and oak trees which are producing truffles. Lisa and Stephen along with their two teenage daughters are really enjoying the truffle journey from developing truffiere management techniques, training their truffle dog Bess, harvesting and marketing their truffles for the local markets. Using their prior horticulture knowledge they hope to achieve organic certification using ducks for example as pest control.
Lisa would like to bring openness and collaboration to the Canterbury growers, encouraging growers to continue to upskill in all areas of truffiere management through the regional meetings. Lisa believes that sharing knowledge is significant to growing the truffle industry in New Zealand.