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Stories of Resilience - Greenhill Orchards


Greenhill Orchards are located in the rural locality of Arding, in the Uralla Shire of New South Wales, around 370km north of Sydney. It is the last sizeable commercial orchard remaining in the area. For the Yeomans family, growing fruit that people enjoy is genuinely rewarding, so remaining sustainable is more important to them than measuring profit growth. Recent tough times delivered one blow after another but they were resilient and the business survived the dark times.


Extreme Weather Impacts

“Greenhill Orchards has been in the Yeomans family since 1865. The family came from England in 1863 and settled here two years later. They started clearing land and planting cherry trees. I think I am the 7th generation on property, continuing in the same business of fruit growing, as well as some livestock,” Mr Yeomans said.

“The challenges that we faced in the last five years or so began with a hail storm, then an 18 month drought. The 2019 drought was the driest period in 150 years in the Armidale region. We had 220mm or about nine inches (of rain) in that year, which was exceptionally dry. That led into the exceptional bushfire season, with significant smoke around here. Then we headed into a better season but Covid hit and that impacted the way that fruit and food supply has been carried on through the country.”

“Drought recovery is an ongoing process. You cannot just flick a switch. It takes a number of years to recover.”

“We did have mice impacting the orchard, which is unusual to the extreme.”

“Most recently, we have experienced more severe storm damage,” said Mr. Yeomans. “It has been a rather tumultuous and challenging few years.”


An Emotional Challenge

“On different levels, the drought was emotionally challenging. My objective is to grow good fruit. Anything you do in life is about risk management and if you can manage the risk, you can have the opportunity to survive in the industry but you have the challenges of what’s in front of you, but you have what goes on in your head as well. The drought was very challenging on that level, whereas with other things, with years of experience, you’re always flexing and adjusting to the circumstances that you’re in. Five years ago, you could never have foreseen what we have encountered.”

In the winter of 2019, having already encountered half of our drought, I sort of envisaged how was the year ahead going to turn out and it wasn’t looking very good. So, in a time when I don’t normally irrigate, I actually did irrigate all of the orchards to try and create a base of moisture under the trees, when they weren’t growing. That gave them some survivability through the next season because we really didn’t have any rainfall water to grow a crop on. I managed to grow about 20 percent of what I normally grow in that year and I’d say it was an achievement to do that much on so little water. A little bit of foresight and opportunistic action saved the day, certainly as far as the drought goes.”


Seizing Opportunities to Grow

“With other things such as Covid, you sort of have to address market changes as they come, just minor changes in how you sell fruit or market fruit.”


"This was an opportunity to present
a product that was different, even unique
and represents the fruit that we grow"


“Most juice in the market is derived from concentrate. The fruit is mass-processed, put into storage and then reconstituted when the market demands for it to be supplied. What we’re doing is producing a fresh product. It is shelf stable for a couple of years. It’s actually a niche product. You can pick the varieties of fruit. If you put in a Fuji apple, you can taste fuji apple and we do a pear juice, which is not commonly available either. This was an opportunity to present a product that was different, even unique and represents the fruit that we grow. Certainly, it is about adding value to fruit that doesn’t have value or may have been discarded altogether. It is an aspect of our business that has grown. It adds value to a fringe part of the business that normally would be wasted and builds into what we do overall. It’s not a major part of what we do but those little things around the edges helped keep us going.”


"If you are willing to enjoy the moment that you are in,
not always looking for the big financial reward but just looking to
achieve a result for your efforts... that's reward in itself."


“If you have aspirations for being rich and wealthy as far as material things go, those things are hard to achieve but if you are willing to enjoy the moment that you are in, not always looking for the big financial reward but just looking to achieve a result for your efforts, like producing a product that people enjoy eating – that’s reward in itself. Take pride in your work,” Mr Yeomans said.

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