Producing something special

Huntley Berry Farm is producing something special


Local Business Feature
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While it produces a lot of top quality fruit and vegetables, it is what it is doing for its staff which makes Huntley berry Farm special.

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JAM PACKED: produce from Huntley Berry Farm was used to make more than 30,000 jars of jam last year.

JAM PACKED: produce from Huntley Berry Farm was used to make more than 30,000 jars of jam last year.

You can feel something different about Huntley Berry Farm even as you drive down the rose bush lined driveway.

After speaking to Gianni Belmonte, who runs the farm with his brother Tony, you can't help but get caught up in his enthusiasm for the work they do.

Huntley Berry Farm is much more than just a farm producing berries and vegetables, it also provides an opportunity for people with disabilities to get involved and contribute to the farm's success.

Set on six hectares, 13 kilometres outside of the central west NSW city of Orange, Huntley Berry Farm has been owned by Octec since 1985 but it was not until Tony and Gianni took over that it has begun to flourish.

They come from a farming background, learning the 'Italian style' of agriculture from their father.

The farm is chemical free, relying on organic practices to deliver their crops.

The brothers have helped transform what was an overgrown patch of land at Huntley into a very successful non-profit enterprise which has 15 supported employees.

"Tony and I got involved because we are passionate about helping people with disabilities," Gianni said.

"We have a brother who has a disability and we have seen how tough life can be for people like him.

"Not that long ago, nobody wanted to help them.

"Here they are treated as equals and are valuable members of the team.

PRODUCTIVE: David Quinlon, a worker at Huntley Berry Farm for more than 18 years, and Gianni Belmonte take a look at some capsicum.

PRODUCTIVE: David Quinlon, a worker at Huntley Berry Farm for more than 18 years, and Gianni Belmonte take a look at some capsicum.

"I was working in a retail position and not enjoying my work life.

"Tony, who was already with Octec, invited my family and I to come out to the farm and have a look.

"That day made me want to get involved and now I love my work.

"What we produce is secondary to the skills our team learn here and can take with them into the community."

While their produce may be secondary, they grow a wide range of fruits and vegetables which, when in season, visitors can pick for themselves.

"We grow a number of vegetables including lettuce, capsicum, broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant, pumpkin, zucchini, cauliflower and squash," Gianni said.

"We also grow many berries including raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, gooseberries, silvanberries, boysenberries, blueberries, feijoa and some hazelnuts, chestnuts and walnuts.

SPECIAL: The rose bush lined driveway gives the entrance a special feel.

SPECIAL: The rose bush lined driveway gives the entrance a special feel.

"This past season we made more than 30,000 jars of jam.

"We have become a very popular spot for visitors to pick their own produce.

"Last year we had more than 20,000 visitors.

"It is great when families come out for the day and kids get to learn about where their food comes from.

"We have regular visits from schools and home school groups who come to learn about produce as well.

"As well as learning, they get to take some produce with them too.

"Sometimes we even have visitors from Sydney who have no idea where their food is coming from until they learn here."

Gianni Belmonte talks about Huntley Berry Farm

While a lot of their produce is sold to people who go and pick it themselves, Huntley Berry Farm also has a shop for those who do not have the time to grab their own.

This, and some pop-up shops, also help the supported staff to learn about retail and develop skills in that area.

"While these shops are a chance to generate more sales, they are more important as a way for our team members to develop their retail skills - something which hopefully they can you in the community in the future," Gianni said.

Octec and the Belmonte brothers are in the early stages of implementing an NDIS accredited School Leavers Employment Supports (SLES) program at the farm.

"SLES is a way for Year 12 school leavers to transition into the workforce," Gianni said.

"Hopefully it will open up another five positions here."

POPULAR: Huntley Berry Farm attracted more than 20,000 visitors last year.

POPULAR: Huntley Berry Farm attracted more than 20,000 visitors last year.

Huntley Berry Farm does not only have fruits and vegies to be picked, they have a wide range of animals as well.

Visitors can get an up close view of alpacas, rabbits, ponies, peacocks, turkeys, goats, chickens and Jack the Police Dog.

"There really is something for everyone," Gianni said.

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