ESSENTIAL: Daniel, Toni and son Sean Nicoletti at the family Orchard at Pozieres.
ESSENTIAL: Daniel, Toni and son Sean Nicoletti at the family Orchard at Pozieres.

Heroes of the pandemic: Harvest season ‘worst ever’

SOME people are still required to go to work during this national shutdown.

We’re speaking with essential workers to hear how their jobs have changed and how they’re keeping things turning on the Granite Belt.

We want to bring you their stories.

THE prolonged effects of drought already saw Nicoletti Orchards down 50 per cent of their usual yield, with the coronavirus pandemic adding to that hardship.

Owner and operator Daniel Nicoletti said timing didn’t work in their favour either, with the pandemic coinciding with the busiest time of their harvest season.

The stress of the drought was already taking a toll on Mr Nicoletti, seeing this year’s harvest season as the “worst ever”.

“We spend a lot of money to grow our crop and it is hard to see it falling apart right in front of our eyes,” Mr Nicoletti said.

“I can’t remember a worst season than this one.”

He said while the virus outbreak was alarming, being considered an essential worker meant the days continued as close to normality as they could.

“I think the district as a whole picked 50 per cent less apples this season because of the drought,” Mr Nicoletti said.

“That means 50 per cent less workers on our farm. In our case our local workers continued, and we let go of the backpackers that we didn’t need.

“That made us feel a little bit more reassured as we could rely on our regular workers to social distance and isolate reducing our risk and exposure.”

He said in an industry that is constantly handling ready to eat food, hygiene is never an issue.

“We always have sanitiser on hand around the orchard.

“This just made us even more conscious than what we already were.

“We were all keeping our distance which wasn’t that hard to do because we were down 50 per cent of our workers anyway. It was fairly easy to spread ourselves out around the orchard.”

While yield was drastically lower and the effects of both the virus and drought continued, Mr Nicoletti said there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

“We enjoy what we do so it’s difficult when Mother Nature is constantly working against us.

“The motivation is just to keep going knowing we will have better years ahead of us.

“Our apples are still good to eat, sweet and crunchy – that’s the main thing.”

Do you know someone who has become a frontline essential worker? Let us know by emailing editor@borderpost.com.au

Stanthorpe Border Post

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