Apples, plums, cherries and cider – Marenny Vale Orchards need a well-rounded team for their busy operations in Shepparton.
Now third-generation fruit growers, Marenny Vale Orchards was started in the 1980s by Mark and Jenny Morey. An abandoned citrus grove was their first venture, which they soon turned into a highly productive apple orchard. In order to utilise all of their apple crop, the family introduced a cider brewing company in 2004.
Today with three locations spread across the Shepparton region, Marenny Vale Orchards primarily produce a large variety of apples, but also have cherries and plums in their repertoire.
The popular Pink Lady and Granny Smith varieties make up the bulk of apple production, but they’ve also introduced heritage varieties for making their signature cider, Cheeky Grog.
Seb Nicholson, Personnel and Harvest Manager, has been with the group for over a year, managing the day-to-day activities, as well as human resources.
Busy harvest periods
The variety of crops at Marenny Vale means a busy harvest season.
The year kicks off with apple season, which generally starts mid-January and runs through to March, and requires up to 80 seasonal staff. The team can pick up to 6,000 bins of pink ladies in a season.
Cherry season starts in October and requires around five harvest workers.
Plum season usually gets going around Boxing Day – December 26.
Working at Marenny Vale
Peak periods see harvest workers primarily out in the orchards from 7am to 3pm. The main role of harvest workers is picking, although there’s plenty of work for those with tractor licences too. Sebastian looks out for tractor licence qualifications when assessing potential staff because it’s a real bonus in terms of getting other jobs done around the properties.
Pickers work in teams of two to four but run separate bins per person
One of the main attributes Seb looks for in harvest workers is being physically fit: “that, and a can-do attitude.”
“Ideally, they are up for trying new things. We provide a lot of on-the-job training and support, and we work with our staff to get the best out of them. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!”
Outside of peak harvesting time, Marenny Vale has about 10 staff working to maintain pruning and thinning functions on the orchards as required.
Attracting and retaining high quality staff
Sebastian says MADEC Harvest Trail has really been helpful in finding quality workers for the business, and last year sourced all of their pickers.
“MADEC Harvest Trail Services staff take the hassle out of finding workers. What is most valuable to us, is that MADEC undertakes visa checks to confirm the workers have the right to work, plus they provide inductions. It allows us to focus on what is important for our business operations.”
Sebastian believes everyone deserves a shot, and actively supports workers on the farm
“We have people from all walks of life who are interested in the work we have available here at Marenny Vale Orchards.
“We always provide guidance where we can. If our workers feel supported, that’s going to result in a lower turnover of staff.”