Keith Nightingale has been growing apples for 68 years. From 20 acres in Doncaster he and his brother stepped up to 100 acres at Wandiligong in Victoria's alpine North East. Since then they've expanded their Wandiligong orchard to almost 170 acres with more trees in the nearby Buckland Valley, Stanley and Batlow in NSW. Keith is not shy of investing in what he sees as necessary to stay ahead of the game. By North East standards, the Nightingale's Alpine Orchards are the largest in the district however they are far from large compared to more industrial scaled producers further afield. In this episode Keith tells me about their very impressive family operation.
Charlie Showers and Jade Miles eat a lot of apples. As heritage apple growers in Stanley, you might say apples have completely bitten them. Like me, they've watched apple orchards being torn out and felt more than a vague, passing sense of sadness. Astute, clever and hard-working, they've thought it through and felt the need to take a stand. Inspired by what they've seen overseas, including in Vermont in the North East of the United States, at Black Barn Farm they're celebrating the seasons, connecting with old ways of doing things and sharing their story.
Henry Hilton from Snowline Fruits is the last full time, career apple orchardist in Stanley. He's regarded by many in the industry as one of the best apple orchardists in Australia, with a clear insight into what apples grow best and how to grow them using the latest techniques.
Rob Tully is a fifth-generation apple orchardist and also the last. Three generations of Tullys grew apples in Doncaster, now suburban Melbourne. In 1955 Rob's father shifted operations to Beechworth and Rob eventually took over their sizeable orchard, producing premium apples for the local and export markets until 2016. Now all that remains is a 600 tree block of pears.
The Thompson family grew apples near Stanley for most of the twentieth century. Retired orchardist Giff Thompson recounts that his grandfather and father saw the end of gold mining and the expansion of Stanley's pine forests. At the same time, the Thompsons' orchard grew from just a few hectares in 1900 to almost 50 hectares when sold in the last 1980s. Giff and his brothers were a vital part of Stanley's farming economy, supplying local, interstate and export markets with fruit. Their ownership saw exports to Europe, increasing economies of scale, automation and the introduction of controlled atmosphere storage.
Peter Chambeyron's family has grown apples in the small horticultural community of Stanley for almost a century. He's tranformed Europa Gully Orchard as a pick-your-own business offering a variety of heirloom apples, cherries and - from 2021 - potatoes. Peter tells me stories of Stanley's rich apple-growing heritage and some of the old varieties that he still grows with bigger markets in view.
Once prolific around Beechworth-Stanley, apple orchards have been disappearing from the landscape over decades. Andy Christesen is the last commercial apple orchardist in Beechworth and fortunately for us still producing table fruit and his delicious clear and cloudy apple juice on site. I spoke to Andy about apples, apple growing and the future.
Now closed, Lauren Salathiel and Chris McGorlick ran their cafe Saint Monday as a 'third place' in Yackandandah, where community culture - both arts and food - flourished. They tell me about their passion for community through food and their latest venture, a market garden for hyper-local Yackandandah food called Happy Underground.
Beechworth's Joan Simms OAM discusses home economics with me, how it was taught via the New South Wales' government's agriculture and education portfolios and provided pathways to leadership for young people through the 20th century.
More North East Victorian and border community residents suffer food insecurity. The bushfires of summer 2020 changed the way our region's food relief agency went about its business. Now COVID-19 has had its own impact. FoodShare chief executive Peter Matthews talks with unpeeled.press about the implications.