Apples and cherries keep the Hall family’s orchards at Orange, NSW, in production year-round.
Their Bonny Glen Fruits company, on Caernarvon at the foot of Mount Canobolas, operates a slick production line that supplies all major supermarkets, many independents and Harris Farm outlets domestically, plus runs a major export operation.
Their packing operation across the region also handles fruit from other growers who have the growing expertise but not necessarily the supply chain know-how.
The shed at Caernarvon has clever, high-tech sorting machines that measure by size and colour. One machine takes 10 photos of every cherry to measure sizes to a difference of 0.1 millimetre and sort firmness and for blemishes. The business is headed by an all-star cast. Second-generation orchardist Bernard Hall takes charge outdoors. His wife Fiona looks after marketing and branding, and is a past president of the NSW Cherry Growers Association and current committee member.
And sales manager Ben Harris was a buyer for 20 years for his brother David’s Harris Farm independent chain of fresh food stores.
The business has 146 hectares under cherries and apples, and markets under the successful BiteRiot! brand.
Apples are harvested from February to May, but packing continues until November.
A team of mostly backpackers handpick Fuji, Pink Ladies, Kanzi and Royal Galas.
“We keep up with the fashion,” Fiona said. They have grown Red Delicious, Cameo, Crimson Snow and Sundowner in the past, and adapt to suit demand.
A regular, seasonal team of grey nomads help manage the staff, while a full-time team runs the sorting and packing facility.
Christmas is cherry season and the operation is in full swing. The orchard has 12 varieties, including Lapins, Kordia, Sweethearts and Black Star. Varieties depend on market demand as individual countries have their own preferences.
The export crop makes up 60 per cent of the output. Produce that does not make first grade is turned into BiteRiot! cherry juice.