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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

‘I’ve tried everything over the years’: This Riverland family are celebrating 100 years on the land

Frank Heward says his father Amos “Jack” in all probability would not recognise the orchard he planted 100 years in the past.

Just two of the unique olive timber – now heritage-listed — that when lined the Monash property in South Australia’s Riverland stay.

Quinces and pecans are additionally grown on the property, whereas the fig timber and wine grapes, which have been interplanted, stand alone.

“It wasn’t until [Jack] passed away that I was able to get rid of the vines because vines and figs don’t mix,” Frank mentioned.

“They grow up through them and create a lot of work.”

Mr Heward and his family are certainly one of a handful of descendants of soldier-settlers nonetheless working on the unique farming block.

The family began out by promoting dried fruit, however later additionally moved into glace fruit.

Black and white photo of a group of people standing on a flatbed tray pulled by two horses.
Jack Heward along with his spouse Margie and staff are inclined to the orchard’s younger timber.(

Supplied: Sue Heward 


When Jack handed away in 1970, Frank returned from Western Australia to Monash along with his spouse Ros and child daughter Sue.

Frank mentioned he has additionally dabbled in rising button mushrooms and exported wildflowers to Japan for a decade.

He attributed the longevity of the property to success and his father sticking with figs when others acquired out of them.

“Dad was one of the few guys that didn’t clear all the Mallee trees away,” he mentioned.

“And we’ve stayed with them.

“Anyone who did clear them has come again and replanted them.”

An old soldier settlement house.
The home that Frank Heward grew up in nonetheless stands at present. (

ABC Riverland: Eliza Berlage


Frank said the introduction of mechanical harvesting and pruning, and improvements to irrigation had been the biggest changes throughout the century.

“It was all the time a horrible job to have to vary the water each two hours to a few hours throughout to watering interval,” he said.

“Your water got here once they allotted it, as a substitute of now we’re capable of ring up and do it on name.”

As to the next 100 years, Frank said because of the large old sized blocks the family would likely move into growing higher value produce when freight prices reduce.

Catering to the metropolis

Frank said he never expected his daughter Sue Heward to come back to the region after moving away.

But after 28 years of global travel, Sue moved with her partner Mark Biram and daughter Frankie from Melbourne to Monash.

Then in 2017 she launched her own gourmet food business, Singing Magpie, using produce from the family orchard.

“She’s actually seen a market that I used to be by no means able to find.

“Because of exposure to the city she knew people would be willing to pay that sort of money for the fruit, but we were always on the bulk side.”

A tray lined with different types of dried fruit.
Dried fruit package deal gross sales have skyrocketed. (

Supplied: Meaghan Coles


Winning awards, being a part of store regional campaigns and the ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns have boosted on-line gross sales, with Ms Heward flat out packing orders to ship round Australia.

“We’re often packing up to 50 orders a week for Christmas, but this time of the year would normally be quiet,” she mentioned.

When she was recognized with most cancers earlier this yr, Ms Heward, who’s now in remission, mentioned she was initially hesitant to make use of extra workers to assist out.

However, she mentioned stepping again from the manufacturing line gave her some much-needed perspective on her position inside the enterprise.

Group photo of people wearing hair nets in a fruit packing shed.
In the peak of fig harvest, Frank and Ros make use of a group of native pickers and packing shed staff.(

Supplied: Sue Heward


Ms Heward mentioned the family had assembled a group of native pickers to get them by way of the backpacker scarcity.

“I did used to pick but I probably won’t in the future because chemo can make you quite UV intolerant,” she mentioned.

“Dad probably won’t want to hear that.”

Ms Heward mentioned being in a low rainfall space, meant it was essential to maintain discovering new methods to function.

“Pretty much every quince we grow, we use in some way — whether it’s wholesale or sun-dried.

“We even have a sticky quince syrup, which primarily was a waste product.”

With her business continuing to grow, she said the next step was to build a manufacturing shed on the property to accommodate her packing needs.

“We’re figuring out of just a little room in our home proper now,” she mentioned.

#Note-Author Name – Eliza Berlage

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