How did you get started?
My first memories are helping Dad check the irrigation on the farms. Getting my boots stuck in the mud and walking home barefoot happened more than once! I grew up watching my father trying new things like drip irrigation and exporting, and was proud to see his hard work succeed.
Were you always going to be a farmer?
I went to university to study information technology, building skills to fall back on if farming proved dif cult to sustain, down the
road in Wagga Wagga – I’m not much of a city bloke.
Why blood oranges?
As a boy, I was always fond of my grandfather Guiseppe’s backyard. Seeing what vegetables he planted and what fruits were in season always excited me. What amazed me was a grafted tree grown in the chicken pen, growing three different citrus varieties: a lemon, navel orange and a mysterious red- eshed orange I’d never seen before, in our orchards or in the shops.
Nonno (grandfather) told me distinctly that this fruit was the fruit of Sicily, and they are
the best oranges that can be grown, for taste and for health.
So how’s your blood-orange business?
The variety loves this region, with our frosty winter mornings and sunny winter days – almost identical to the Sicilian climate. To date, we [Vito and cousins Leonard and Anthony Mancini] have had so many comments about the closeness we’ve reached to the real Italian blood orange, packed with avour. We’ve become proud of our achievements – but never complacent.
Oranges are a commodity these days, a price-based purchase. The export markets [Asia and the USA] are increasingly turning to Australia for the sweetness in our oranges, and our blood oranges are strong. This year has been challenging, with the July and September rainfall records – but that’s farming for you. The Australian citrus industry is traditionally slow to adapt, with eight years from planting to harvesting from an orange tree, but they recently brought out ve new Italian varieties. We’ve planted Tarocco oranges, which are blood oranges but larger, sweeter and easier to peel. They suit the Asian palate for sweet and aromatic fruits.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Having family there to help make decisions in the business, no matter how difficult it can be sometimes. I also like participating in an industry that’s struggled at times, and contributing to creating opportunities for the future.
I particularly liked seeing one of our Chinese buyers put up a massive poster in a prominent area in his city. I was like a poster boy for blood oranges!
What do you love most about your hometown, Griffith?
I love being ve minutes from everywhere, and having the ability to see friends and family as quickly as a phone call.
Any tips for visitors?
Check out our eateries: I think we have some of the best food around the Riverina.
Take a trip to our local visitors’ centre to learn about how our city started – it’s come a long way in 100 years.