Author - Sam Birrell 27 January 2017

Fruit season in Greater Shepparton

Late January is a key period in the life of Greater Shepparton, as we start the main part of the fruit harvest. The cherries and apricots are picked in December, but the January sees the activity levels rise as the pear harvest begins. The window to harvest the fruit before it gets over-ripe is short, about one month, so we are reliant on backpackers to pick our crop and earn some holiday money. An already diverse community becomes even more cosmopolitan as young people from all over the world come to visit.

First to be picked are the Williams pears, which predominately go into SPC to be processed. After that the Packham Triumph pears, which are sold straight away or put into storage for the fresh market. Increasingly the orchardists of the Goulburn Valley are planting newer varieties, such as the red coloured ‘PIQABOO’ pears. Innovation is necessary but difficult, as it takes many years to go from planting trees to harvesting a crop.

In March, as the weather cools, the apples become ready. Gala, then Granny Smith, and finally in April the Australian classic ‘Pink Lady’ apples are carefully plucked from the trees. Everyone hopes for cool nights during this period, as the formation of dew on the apple activates the colour in the fruit, to give the nice pink blush that the consumer loves.

Harvest is an intense time for the orchardists and their families. After all the money and work that began the previous winter with tree pruning, there is one chance to get the fruit off to storage or market. Storms, heatwaves or labour shortages could mean falling at the last hurdle. But the orchardists of the Goulburn Valley are great business men and women, and risk is managed well. The economy of Greater Shepparton has been built on the successful manipulation of this growing cycle. With the appetite for quality Australian produce growing among the emerging Asian middle class, the sun, soil and water of the Goulburn Valley combined with the courage and skill of the growers will continue to yield export dollars for the Victorian economy for many generations to come.