Anthony Wallis & his wife Jennifer with Anthony’s brother Jeromy have been supplying Lettuce with both Navel and Valencia Oranges each season as well as Emperor Mandarins since 1999. Just 50km from Lettuce headquarters in Homebush, the 20 hectare farm lies at the junction of the Colo and Hawkesbury Rivers in Lower Portland. Each week during the season the fruit is delivered by a member of the family directly to our warehouse.
Certified organic (BFA/ACO) in 1992 the property has most likely been a focal point for food growing for nearly 200 years. The date of the first land grant is 1803. In those days access would have been entirely via the rivers – even up until the late ‘50’s citrus went to market via river boats specially designed to pick up from the river banks and makeshift wharves.
The majority of the Navel and Mandarin plantings date from the mid-fifties, when the farm was changed over from conventional vegetable farming on the river flats, to citrus. Anthony’s aunt Dorothy and her husband Capt Lindsay ( Tim) Gellatly were responsible for all the improvements at that time. They laid out the whole place with overhead sprinklers. This low-tech system is still in use today to irrigate the orchard when necessary. Water is drawn from the river, or a dam or a bore. With the effects of climate change it is sometimes not possible to use the river and the alternatives methods must be used in dry periods.
One beneficial effect of climate change is that the Navel crop is now ripening on the lowlands a week earlier than any of us can remember. Everything is just that little bit advanced but it means that the end of the season comes earlier also. Citrus ripens in winter of course, Navels are available to us from mid-May each year until around mid-October, when the Valencia’s start and continue until around mid-November. Anthony and Jeromy also supply us Mandarins every couple of years. The mandarins are an old fashioned variety, Emperor. This variety was largely bulldozed from conventional farms years ago, as they are not the prettiest of the mandarin family. They only crop well every 2nd or 3rd year and there is a lot of competition from the white Cockatoos who are experts on their ripeness....so we don’t always see them in the boxes. They ripen in July.
Farming interventions are minimal; hand-weeding is the only burden and the fact that oranges do not pick themselves ! Even now, there is no mechanical means of harvesting citrus. The packing shed is on the property and Jeromy is in charge of this as he built the grader himself. The whole operation is a hands-on affair which, with some luck, may be passed to the next generation of Wallises, Kris & Job.
I'm sure you will all agree that the quality for the Citrus we offer you each year is exceptional. Sweet, juicy and locally grown.