Five Minutes with Jerry Kliewer

Kliewer family produces world-record breaking kiwifruit.

Four generations of the Kliewer family and their kiwifruit.

Three generations of the Kliewer family from Reedley MB Church grow fruit on their Central California farm. In 1973 they were one of the first local farmers to grow kiwifruit. This year they broke new ground, marketing the Mega Kiwi. They established a Guinness World Record with a kiwifruit weighing over 10 ounces. The Christian Leader talked with second generation Kliewer farmer, Jerry.

Where did this new kiwi come from?

Many new fruit varieties come from cross breeding, but this one came from a natural selection of plants grown from seed by this old Greek farmer. Since it grew naturally, the Greeks call it a gift from God.

How did you connect with a Greek kiwi grower?

The Greeks contacted a University of California professor I know, looking for someone who would be interested in growing their new kiwi. I’ve gone to Greece three times to meet with them. They gave us exclusive rights to the fruit here in America.

What made this Mega Kiwi an appealing product?

It’s 50 percent larger than a typical kiwi so after you peel it there’s plenty of kiwi to eat. Plus, kiwi is one of the most nutrient-dense fruits already and this one has twice the vitamin C and 60 percent more antioxidants.

How long does it take to develop a new crop like this?

Eight years ago, they shipped me about six pieces of wood. We grafted them onto some of the plants I had, and a couple of the grafts took. After two years of quarantine, we were able to get more wood to graft more plants. This year the plants were mature enough for our first commercially marketable crop.

Do they require special cultivation techniques?

Our Central California desert is a different growing environment than Greece. When temperatures get over 100 degrees the plants shut down, so we’re growing everything under shade cloth and have cover crops to keep the humidity high.

How do you see your faith intersect with farming?

As farmers, we realize that everything we’ve been given is owned by God—not just the land and the plants, but also the earnings that might be generated from them. We want to make the most of what God has given us to manage.

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