Eugene and Gail Henningheim tell an epic story of starting out with no farming experience but a passion for the countryside and a desire for a tree-change.
Eugene & Gail Henningheim. Source: Henningheim Farm

In late 2001, they bought a 104-acre farm with a run-down old farmhouse, some dilapidated farm structures, and a young 300-tree avocado orchard with weeds taller than the trees! What a learning curve!

So, what to do? Well, rather than jump in blind, thanks to the amazing local community, they took up opportunities on other local farms to gain knowledge and earn income which they could later put back into their property.

In 2003, they grew some more avocado trees from seed and grafted them themselves so that they could begin the expansion of their orchard. These small but significant steps led to many hundreds of trees purchases each year, whatever they could afford, to increase the size of their orchard and finally start to earn an income from it. As of today, they have 5,500 Hass avocado trees ranging in age from 2 years to 25 years!

Their two grown-up sons, Riley and Josh, are also involved in the farm, with Riley working full time alongside Eugene managing the orchard, and Josh doing what he can to support whilst on holidays from university where he is finishing his third year studying Agricultural Science & Agribusiness.

With Riley’s Cert IV in Agriculture (with a focus on horticulture), the two brothers are primed to run the farm once Eugene and Gail decide it is time to hang up the boots.

Riley Henningheim on his cherry picker looking out across the orchard. Source: Henningheim Farm

Running a large operation like they do now definitely comes with its challenges. The increased supply of avocados on the market has reduced their return prices, whilst the costs involved with growing and harvesting the fruit have increased, much like many other growers around the country. But they can also see the wood through the trees, with planned canopy management of their older trees expected to result in more efficient harvesting and increased fruit size.

Their hope for the continued development and expansion of the WA export markets, especially into Asia, is also an encouraging sign that the avocado industry in Australia can remain viable and profitable. In terms of employing a seasonal workforce, the Henningheims bring in extra workers to support them with the harvest, typically between September and February each year.

Josh Henningheim around the picking trailer.
Source: Henningheim Farm

In all their time employing additional help on their farms, they’ve got some sound advice that they’ve learned along the way – the biggest of which is communication. They believe that good communication is important in any successful working relationship and that everyone needs to understand each other’s wishes and be prepared to be flexible where possible.

They’ve also learned to treat and respect workers like they would like to be treated themselves. They are all actively involved in hand-picking their fruit alongside the crew and don’t expect them to do anything that they wouldn’t do themselves, which is a really progressive way of managing their workforce.

Eugene and Gail credit Rural Enterprises Australia (REA) who is the local Harvest Trail Service provider in south west WA, with helping them to streamline the process of finding workers quickly.

They have had some fabulous Australian and overseas workers over the last three years, and having REA help shortlist and inform prospective workers of the conditions and expectations has helped ensure workers have turned up, stayed, and worked hard to ensure the ongoing success of the family farm.

Josh Henningheim and Chris, a worker supplied by HTS, around the picking trailer.
Source: Henningheim Farm

If you’re looking for work, or require workers, and are based in south west WA, contact the Rural Enterprises Australia team on 08 6166 9124 or email

If you’re outside south west WA, then give the Harvest Trail Information Service a call on 1800 062 332 and have a chat with us about your needs.