Pick of the citrus crop

From modest beginnings Harvey Citrus has grown into one of WA’s top producers of high-quality citrus. Orchardist Andrew Pergoliti reveals the secret of its success.

Andrew Pergoliti and his daughter picking oranges

Harvey Citrus farm manager Andrew Pergoliti

Andrew Pergoliti believes hard work and strong family values are the key ingredients to the success of his citrus orchard in Harvey, Western Australia.

“Why do our mandarins, limes and grapefruit taste so good?” he says. “Well, there’s the region’s good loamy soil and excellent irrigation system – all that helps, plus, of course, a secret ingredient that I can’t talk about.”

Although the orchardist is joking, it is possible that this secret ingredient is the enduring influence of Andrew’s parents, Steve and Pina, who launched Harvey Citrus back in the 1980s with just two hectares outside the township of Harvey, 140km south of Perth.

“Dad was one of 13 kids back in Italy,” says Andrew. “He arrived in Western Australia with nothing, but he was a hard worker. One of his early jobs was working on a local citrus farm – and that’s where he learnt all about citrus.”

With no local retail outlet for his oranges, lemons and mandarins Steve drove them all over the south-west dropping into Coles supermarkets on the off-chance a store manage might buy some of his fresh farm produce.

“And they did,” says Andrew. “Then one day he got a call from Coles head office asking him to come in for a meeting because they’d had such good feedback about our fruit. We’ve been selling to Coles ever since – now they take the bulk of our premium fruit.”

In recognition of its commitment to excellence Harvey Citrus was this year awarded a $174,000 Coles Nurture Fund to extend its cool room facility and install solar panels on the packing shed. These improvements should extend fruit production by another three weeks over summer – reducing the volume of citrus shipped into WA from interstate.

“I am very grateful to Coles that we have been considered for this grant and given this opportunity to improve and expand Harvey Citrus,” he says.

Over the past 40 years Harvey Citrus has grown from Steve’s original two-hectare plot to a 70-hectare orchard, complete with energy efficient cool rooms, modern packing lines and the latest management systems. But Andrew says the business is still driven by family.

“I’ve got a brother, two sisters, nieces and nephews, plus two kids of my own, so there are plenty of family events,” he says. “My mum is always calling up to say that she’s cooking spaghetti. Those sorts of things never change.”

Despite the success of Harvey Citrus, Andrew is always looking for ways to improve the orchard – whether that is becoming more water-efficient or looking at new crops.

“Last year we planted 5000 avocado trees,” he says. “It’s good to diversify and try something new. You always want to improve. In this business you never stop learning.”

 

Value the Australian way