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Hills orchard a family affair

Danella BevisCountryman
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Just like the many fruit trees in their Karragullen and Jarrahdale orchards, life working on the land for the Borg and Ghilarducci families continues to bloom with opportunity.

With a long line of ancestors who had a deep passion for the industry, it seems life as an orchardist is well and truly in the blood for these third, fourth and fifth generation growers.

Fill coverage: 2013 Field Days |

The families were initially brought together by the marriage of Matthew Borg and Catherine Ghilarducci in the early 1990s which eventually inspired them to link their long-running businesses.

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In an effort to diversify and create an alternative avenue of income they developed Jarrahdale Roses in 2003, producing potted roses and hibiscus for the retail market alongside the orchards.

Between the families, which include Catherine's parents Eric Ghilarducci Snr and his wife Jeanette, and Matthew's parents Charlie and Elaine Borg, there are 14 family members working together across four orchards in Karragullen and Jarrahdale.

The most recent enthusiastic additions to the workforce include Catherine and Matthew's three eldest children, Joseph, 18, Jacinta, 17, and Chantelle, 15, who will join the family business later this year.

With a hefty workload involving at least 15,000 stone fruit and 5000 apple trees, not to mention the roses and hibiscus, there is never a moment to spare.

After growing up surrounded by family on both sides that had the same interest, Catherine said the children wanted to return to the family orchard once they had completed their Year 10 studies.

"The kids are keen as anything, they don't want to do anything else," she said.

"To be able to work with your children and all have the same goal, all wanting to go ahead and just loving what we do is fantastic."

The jobs are many and varied on the orchard with picking, pruning, thinning, deliveries and administration work all part of an average day - all skills the children have taken to with gusto.

Joseph said the variety of jobs was never ending and, despite involving a lot of hard work, there was nothing better than working on the land.

"Being able to work with dad and pop, I couldn't ask for any more - it has been the best thing," he said.

"When you're working out there you can see what you're growing, you can see the flowers and the small apples and you get excited to see what is going to come of it."

The family considers pest and disease management, as well as imports, amongst the biggest challenges facing the industry, but Jacinta said while it was not going to be an easy road, she was optimistic about the future and intended to do the best job possible.

She said the support of her family meant she learnt new things every day while the latest developments in technology, which would help them to become more efficient, were exciting.

"(I love) working on the land, getting that fit feeling and not sitting down in the office and doing that all of the time," she said.

"No other job would be able to replace what we do here and being able to work around everybody and all of the things you learn. I couldn't really picture myself doing anything else."

In an ode to their fruit-growing roots the close families' favourite dishes include homemade apple pies, while fresh nectarines are never far from the dinner table at Christmas time each year.

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