Meet Our Farmers

Brian Harris

Brian grew up on a citrus farm in the Hills District and managed his parent's farm from a young age. His Central Coast story started when he purchased a Mangrove Mountain citrus farm in 1965. Back then, he sold oranges and lemons through an agent and to fresh juice manufacturers in Sydney, Gosford and Parramatta.

Many juicing factories closed after the influx of cheaper concentrate. Consumers also started to favour unblemished fruit at the markets. Brian explained the impact of this on the local Central Coast growers. 'Our local oranges are absolutely delicious but they're not always pretty! Once buyers started favouring appearance over taste, it became more difficult to sell our fruit at the markets.'

Surplus citrus fruit became a problem on the Central Coast and that motivated Eastcoast Juices to set up their own fresh fruit juice manufacturing. 'Their initiative really helped all the local growers,' Brian said. 'To this day, once our fruit is harvested, Eastcoast Juices packs our blemish-free oranges and lemons for the Sydney Markets and squeezes the tasty surplus for fresh juice.'

Brian plays tennis with Frank from Eastcoast and still feels part of the family. 'For 25 years, I've supplied the best oranges and lemons that I could. They are a great family and I'm proud to have contributed to Eastcoast Juices and be a part of their success story.'

Brian helped with a video and photo shoot for Eastcoast. He laughs about his newfound fame. 'I'm always having friends and family telling me they've seen my photo in a supermarket somewhere! I feel quite famous!'


Reg Bennet

Reg Bennett's farm is a story about family and community. His father bought 80 acres of prime Mangrove Mountain land in 1936 to grow oranges and lemons. He cleared 14 acres by hand with a combination of gelignite and hard work. After the war, bulldozers finished the job. Today, Reg and his brother are successful second generation farmers with 40 acres each.

Reg has seen the changing citrus landscape over the years. 'There used to be a few thousand acres of citrus on the Central Coast,' Reg said. 'When concentrate came in from overseas, it put most local farmers out of business. We diversified into summer fruits, passionfruit and tomatoes. Once upon a time, growing passionfruit and tomatoes was like an apprenticeship for farmers; it's where you started out before you made the grade as a citrus grower. We returned to our roots and that kept us going until the demand for fresh juice returned.'

Reg is full of praise for the Lentini boys at Eastcoast Juices. 'We work well together. Unlike most fresh juice manufacturers, the Lentini family are farmers and fruit growers. They understand everything there is to know about citrus, and they also appreciate our challenges. They're fair to the farming community and, in return, we do everything we can to help them supply the best Australian fruit juice.'

With three children, seven grandchildren and 40 acres of precious citrus fruit, Reg doesn't have much time for hobbies, although he enjoys a game of tennis with Frank at Eastcoast Juices. Reg is well known locally on the Central Coast, as evidenced by his Order of Australia award for service to his community, and his invitation to be an Olympic torchbearer in 2000. A true story of family and community!


Rodger Wilson

With 6,000 citrus trees to care for on Wyuna Farm, it's just as well that Rodger Wilson loves the great outdoors. Rodger and his wife Lorraine have farmed here since 1965, and the family history goes back even further.

Lorraine's father Ray Walpole bought 20 acres of Kulnura bush back in 1933. Once the land was cleared, he grew carrots, beans and tomatoes while his newly planted citrus trees were maturing.

Lorraine married Rodger and after a spell in New Zealand, they returned to the family farm to help Ray. That was 1965 and they have never looked back! Today, along with son Greg, they grow oranges for Eastcoast Juices and have four meat chicken sheds.

Rodger is passionate about Eastcoast's juice. 'It's the best fruit juice in Australia,' says Rodger. 'Quite simply, their fresh orange juice tastes like an orange should taste. You can't get better than that. The Central Coast is a fantastic region for growing oranges: 99% of our Valencias are used for fresh juice.'

Rodger's other passions are the Rural Fire Service, Rotary Club and the development of a local Harvest Trail. 'Lorraine is very involved in agri-politics, and we are both members of the Central Coast Plateau Chamber of Commerce. We want to get farmers on board for a structured Harvest Trail with gate sales to the public. Harvest festivals are always popular so a mapped trail would bring more visitors to the Central Coast and boost local farming businesses.'


Ross Hitchcock

Ross Hitchcock's farming story goes back to the 1800s, when his family had farmland, including citrus trees, in the Sydney Hills and Hawkesbury districts. Ross's grandfather moved to Kulnura on the Central Coast and purchased the current farm in 1936. The property had some rich history including an old water-powered sawmill on site.

The farm started out with passionfruit, followed by tomatoes, stonefruits and oranges and lemons. The fresh fruit juice market was in its infancy, so fruit was mainly sold for consumption.

Sustainable farming
Sustainable farming wasn't often discussed back then, but Ross's grandfather had a deep connection with the land. He was way ahead of his time. Winters were traditionally spent relocating soil that had been eroded away by the farming techniques of the time. By setting up erosion sediment traps and removing deep drains, Ross's grandfather prevented much of the erosion.

Ross and his father continued the legacy of sustainable farming and environmental protection. Today, the grassy sediment traps are a wildlife haven. Ross works closely with the University of Western Sydney assisting entomology doctorate students with research into biological insect control.

Taking on the concentrate influx
Ross recalls the competition from overseas fruit juice concentrate. 'There was a market for fresh juice, but it was difficult for farmers to compete with the big juice companies. That's where Eastcoast Juices made a difference. With our citrus growing capacity and their manufacturing and marketing skills, we make a good team.'

Community agitator
Ross describes himself as a 'community agitator', promoting good causes and pursuing major environmental issues through the relevant authorities. He holds an interesting collection of local historical documents and photos, which he has shared with the community. Ross also enjoys repairing his farm equipment in his own machine shop.

I have just had one of your old fashioned lemonade juices. They are so good. I am so impressed, w...

Theresa Rittenhouse
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Address
993 George Downes Dr, Kulnura
NSW 2250, Australia

Phone
4376 3200

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