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Rocky Varapodio

Tatura, NSW

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m 53 years old and married to my beautiful wife Carolyn. We have three children, aged 25, 21 and 19. I was brought up with one sister in an Italian family, and am now a third generation apple and pear grower.  

How did you or your family come to be a grower?
My grandparents were Italian immigrants and moved over to Australia to live and work in the area. When enough savings had accumulated, and they were finally able to afford their own block, it was then that they started their farming business. I’m a 3rd generation grower, so this has been passed down through the family line. I don’t think it was something that was ever in question, whether or not I would get into this family business, it was always just a given. It’s just who we are. 

What did your family grow/Pack  when you first started? 
We have always grown fruit but in the early days the family also grew a lot of vegetables. 

What makes you proud to be an Australian grower?
I get a lot of satisfaction out of producing a nice quality product that gives the consumer a good consumption experience. It’s about seeing the result of all the hard work and effort put into getting a produce that’s good enough to put on a family table, and good enough for the kids. It’s a healthy food, and we keep it that way, so it’s really meaningful to be able to contribute in this industry. 

What advice would you give the next generation of growers?
Have a good understanding of the market demands, and make careful and informed selections on new varieties that you plant. Ultimately you need to be growing something someone actually wants, otherwise it will never reach the consumer. Don’t assume you know everything because there will always be something new to learn. It’s a very dynamic industry that sees changes year to year, so always be well informed and be hungry to learn, and stay in there even when the going gets tough. The reward in the end may not always be easy to reach, but it is hugely rewarding when you get there.  

People often think all fruits are created the same, but in reality, quality is hard to produce, can you tell us the hard work that goes behind the cultivation?
This industry at times can be very challenging, dealing with the things that are out of your control particularly the extreme weather events. You need to know this is a given, and be mentally prepared to overcome it if Mother Nature throws you any curve balls. It happens to all of us. At the point, it’s about dusting yourself off and getting on with it. 

Growing requires a high level of dedication to work hard at producing good quality. You need to have your goals and you need to be ready to put in a lot of effort to get there, and know that there are no shortcuts.   

Do you work the growing business on your own, or do you work with the family? What role do they play?
I manage the business now after working with my father Santo for more than 35 years, he has recently retired

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