The Goulburn Valley-based orchard grows, packs and sells apples, pears and other stone fruits such as apricots and the delectable yet delicate cherries.
The orchard was elected by the Victorian Labor government to receive a $100,000 grant in support of its expansion project, which saw its fruit packing and export facilities expanded and upgraded over a period of three years.
In a story by regional newspaper Shepparton News, owner David Vigliaturo explained how the orchard has doubled the size of its packing facility, developed additional cold storage and controlled atmosphere capacity, and enabled the purchase and installation of digital grading and packing technology.
With new technologies which allow the company to produce waxed and un-waxed fruit at the same time, the farm is able to concentrate on “putting the right product in the right spot”.
But packing and storage is just one aspect of the business.
At the more grassroots level is the growing, and picking of the fruit.
Cherry season in Shepparton generally runs from November to December.
Workers who had been picking at Vigliaturo Orchards during this period described the atmosphere as “friendly and family oriented, with children and grandparents all present”.
“Stephen Vigliaturo, the son of the orchard, grows a variety of fruit, and for his relatively small crop of cherries had a staff of 16 to 20 pickers for harvest, with another 15 or so working in the packing shed, most of whom were Fijian,” one picker said.
“They were all very happy workers, housed on the orchards in demountable-type pickers’ huts, with basic facilities.
“However lodging was full when we were taken on to help get the cherries off before rain hit, so we camped near the rather depleted and polluted visage of the Goulburn River.
“The working conditions on the farm felt very relaxed and friendly; loud laughter rang through the cherry trees all day and islander music crackled from someone’s speaker.
“Every orchard is different, and this one was distinct in the friendly atmosphere and the joie de vivre of its workers.”
Another employee described cherry picking as “great”.
“It’s a very friendly vibe there, like small farm vibes,” she said.
Forty per cent of the Vigliaturo Orchards business is undertaking the packing and preparation for market of produce from up to five other northern Victorian growers.
The expansion and new technology of the business has allegedly increased the company’s daily fruit handling and packing capability from 100 bins to 180 bins.
“I’m not sure how big the packing shed is but it looks very big from the outside, and new-ish,” the employee continued.
“People come throughout the day to buy fruit directly off them, which is probably great for them since they make more money and also I’d imagine a nicer experience for the buyer.”
Both employees described the fruit to be in good condition, “with neatly pruned branches and good sized fruit”.
Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp said that “the Andrews Labor Government is proud to invest in growing local jobs, and we’re delighted to make this investment in the Ardmona community”.
“This is great news for Ardmona and the Goulburn Valley region.”
Since its expansion and governmental investment, Vigliaturo Orchards seems to be running swimmingly, although all interviewees mentioned that some kind of protective spray on the fruit had left them rather itchy.
Vigliaturo Orchards were contacted for comment, but did not immediately respond.
As with all farming, work is dependent on the weather, and the last we heard, the incumbent rain had sent the workers “packin’ for Melbourne”.