The Family Business
Moonlight Orchard is a Rizzato family business established in 1954. Their Moonlight Orchard business is apples – Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji, Kanzi, Rockit, Kalei and other varieties. Dino Rizzato is at the helm, alongside his wife Nella, who manages the packing shed. Sons Daniel (31) and Rodney (29) and daughter Olivia (30) play important roles in their successful family operation. Olivia, the office manager, looks after business and marketing. Rodney is the post-harvest manager and is also responsible for the machinery and maintenance. Daniel is the field manager, supervising and organising the day-to-day operations throughout the year.
Dino’s parents, Italian immigrants with limited farming experience, started the farm back in 1954. Dino’s father arrived in 1949, and his mother in 1951, both looking for a better life after the war. They then worked for 2 ½years to pay off their fare for the voyage. They met, married and settled in Pozieres, the local district north of Stanthorpe and had three sons. Pozieres is now home to the fourth generation of the Rizzato family after the birth of Olivia’s daughter, Quinn, to husband Nick.
In 1954, the original 50-acre farm had 10 acres cleared. After planting apple trees, they grew vegetables to supplement their income until the apples bore fruit. The hub of the current farm, including the packing shed and home, is on the original farm. Dino’s parents built the original shed by hand. They hand-pressed the cement blocks and dried them over the winter. That shed, with its hand-made decorative blocks, still stands at the entrance to the modernpacking shed. Dino and his brothers worked in the business until 2004 when Dino and his family took over.
The Region and the Project
Dino said that the original growers had it tough. “The people who got this district going had started with nothing. They did everything the hard way,” he said. “They needed water, land and machinery – all used the most efficient way, but the hardest way. As their business grew, so did the town. This region has developed a lot of good businesses in the same way. “We don’t have access to water like the big towns and their businesses. We need water to sustain the businesses we have now. We need to keep them alive. And for that we need to know there’s water in the dry time. “Here on the Granite Belt, we have a unique microclimate, the only area in Queensland growing apples and most of the summer vegetables. The established growers and the innovative young growers in this area adapting new commodities need certainty with water,” Dino said.
Importance of Water
Like many growers, the Rizzato family have struggled in the dry times. In 1991, they went as far as Innisfail to pick up a truck and water tanker to cart water from properties that were several kilometres away. They last used the tanker in 2002, but since then, they’ve bought multiple parcels of land just to get access to water. That’s why Dino is looking forward to the Granite Belt Irrigation Project. “We need the security. Not just for our Rizzato family business, but for all the irrigators and businesses in the region. “We all want to see the town and district survive and prosper. The town, community and irrigators deserve to have this water security,” Dino said.