Sebastian (Seb) Nicholson

Marenny Vale Orchards is based across 3 locations in the Bunbartha and Nathalia area of the City of Greater Shepparton, Victoria.  The family owned farm is third generation ‘fruit salad’ farmers.

In the late 1980’s the owners (Mark & Jenny Morey) bought an abandoned citrus grove in Nathalia which they developed into a highly productive apple orchard.

On their Bunbartha lot they have attached their highly productive cider, Cheeky Grog Co Pty Ltd, which was established in 2004. This was put in place in order utilise 100% of their fruit grown.

The farm consists of a large variety of apples; including pink ladies, granny smiths and many heritage varieties for their cider. The farm is considered a fruit salad farm as it is 90 percent pome fruit but also consists of cherries and various varieties of plums.

MADEC Harvest Trail Services Manager, Tyrell Gilligan caught up with Sebastian (Seb) Nicholson who is the Personnel Manager & Harvest Manager at Marenny Vale Orchards. Seb’s role at Marenny Vale Orchards is to oversee the day to day tasks completed not only in the off-peak season but also in peak season in conjunction with his additional role of the Harvest Manager.

Seb has been with Marenny Vale Orchards for the past 12 months after an interesting start to his career journey.

Seb, who grew up in the region, finished high school and moved to Melbourne to pursue his career in acting where he states ‘I was really good at it, surprising! The money was great too!’ Seb completed a horticulture apprenticeship with one of the biggest growers in the region. After 6+ years of experience Seb then moved to Marenny Vale Orchards where he now feels right at home.

What crops do you grow?

Marenny Vale Orchard’s main commodity is apples and then we also have cherries and plums.

Apple season starts from mid-January and goes through to March in which we normally require up to 80 workers. We traditionally pick 6000 bins of pink lady apples in a season!

Cherry season then starts in October in which we normally require around 5 workers

Plum season starts around Boxing Day in which we normally require around 12 workers.

Explain what ‘A day in the Life’ of your worker entails?

The average shift time during peak is normally from 7am to 3pm. 

Predominately our main role on site is pickers.  If any of the pickers are able to drive tractors then this is considered a bonus and we will seek out these workers to assist us with additional duties.  Our pickers work in teams of 2-4 however, they each pick their bins independently.

One of the main attributes for a picker is to be physically fit and to have the right can do attitude willing to try anything.  At Marenny Vale Orchards we provide a lot of on-the-job training and support and we work with our staff to get the best out of them, which is win-win for everyone involved!

Outside of peak time we have about 10 staff working throughout the year maintaining the pruning and thinning functions on our orchards as required.

What have you found to be the most beneficial aspect of MADEC Harvest Trail Services?

MADEC has really been helpful in finding quality workers for our business. Last season we required between 60-80 pickers for our commodities which MADEC then sourced and provided to us.

MADEC Harvest Trail Services take the hassle out of finding workers and allow us to focus on what is important to continue with our business operations.  What is most valuable to us, is that MADEC undertake visa checks to confirm the workers ‘right to work’ and provide Inductions for our workers.   

We have people from all walks-of-life who are interested in the work we have available and here at Marenny Vale Orchards, we believe everyone needs to be given a chance. We will assist our workers and provide guidance where required. We feel that this goes a long way in ensuring that we don’t have as high turnover, compared to others as our workers feel supported.

MADEC would like to thank Seb for his time and wish him and the business well for the upcoming season.