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Get set, mango!

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Ashley and Marilyn Don take Bindoon Primary School students for a tour of Yaldon Orchard.

The signs of mango madness are starting to appear in the town of Bindoon as the Bindoon Primary School community gets set for the annual School Fete and Mango Festival on Saturday 14 March, where masses of locally- grown mangoes will fuel the fun of the fair. Mangoes will be picked, packed, chopped and pureed in preparation for the day, which features a delicious mango menu of mango smoothies, mango fruit ice pops, mango pork sliders, mango desserts and more!

“It is the fourth year that the Bindoon Primary School P&C has timed the biggest fundraiser of the school year with the local mango season – and the focus is on good family fun mixed with a celebration of regional produce,” said Bindoon Primary School P&C president, Lenni Duffield.

This year, Chittering orchard Yaldon Orchard have stepped up to provide the bulk of the mangoes as many other producers in the region have unfortunately copped a bad season – believed to be the result of too many hot days after fruit set. Yaldon Orchard’s owner Ashley Don, whose grandson started at Bindoon Primary School this year, says each orchard experiences unique conditions.

“Information is different from one farm to the next,” he explained. “The advantage for us of being further inland is that flowering naturally occurs a bit later.” Unlike several other local growers, Ashley is expecting an abundant crop from his mango trees – which actually only make up a fraction of his 40-acre orchard.

Established in 1966, Yaldon is a family farm first cleared by Ashley’s father for the production of lucerne hay. Later the farm also became well known as an Arabian horse stud – under the eye of Ashley’s mother, a serious horse breeder. Tucked away on a pretty, elevated part of Chittering, most people wouldn’t know Yaldon existed, yet the property is a prolific hive of horticulture, sending up to 36 tonne of avocados per week to Coles and Woolworths during peak production.

Ashley started experimenting with ‘exotic’ fruits 38 years ago, after more than a decade of growing lucerne. “I realised it would be more profitable to feed people, not horses!” he said. His wife Marilyn reveals Ashley used to walk around Coles checking out the fruit with the highest prices. “Then he’d ring the Ag. Department and ask about the growing requirements,” she said.

His foresight paid off, and after trialling all sorts of fruit trees, including lychee, feijoa, custard apples and pecans, he settled on avocados and mangoes as the fruit that not only best suited his property, but also demanded good prices in the market.

“It was a big risk, because people weren’t buying avocados back then!” says Marilyn, who married into the family business soon after Ashley’s change in direction, and helped plant many of the trees before their two children, Alisha and Tristan were born.

Now the couple are literally enjoying the fruits of their labour, with avocados in high demand – taking over from bananas as the most eaten fruit in Australia! The business has expanded to include contract workers, an on-site packing and production facility and also a role for their grown daughter Alisha, who takes care of quality assurances and the many audits and testing required to sell into the big supermarkets.

Growing mangoes pairs well with avocados, with the picking season falling conveniently at the opposite time of the year. The growing conditions for both are similar, and fortunately for the Bindoon Primary School Fete and Mango festival, the 2.5 acres of huge mango trees at Yaldon are laden with fruit tipped to ripen just in time for the festival. This also gives locals a unique opportunity to sample Yaldon mangoes without having to head to a supermarket, as they are a purely commercial enterprise with no farm gate sales.

“For a while there, we thought we might not have a festival at all,” said Amy McAuliffe, Bindoon Primary School P&C Vice President. “We are extremely grateful to the Don Family, and very glad they have a good crop this season!” she said.

P&C President Lennie Duffield invites families from all over the region to come and enjoy the day, which will have plenty of fun for everyone (not just mango-lovers)– including bouncy castles, a farmers market, face painting and even cow poo lotto!

“This fundraiser enables us to support great programs such as subsidising end of school swimming as well as purchasing essential items for our school. This event brings our community together — and by joining together, we can better support our kids, our school, and strengthen our community,” she said.

The Bindoon Primary School Fete and Mango Festival is on 14 March 2020. Follow them on Facebook @bpsmangofest to find out more!