Both over 70 years old, orchardists John and Eve Morrissey offer a reminder of the joys and health benefits offered by a life lived on the land.
Last year they generously donated trays of their peaches for the Gingin School charity auction. Luckily for me, what was intended as a worthy donation by NVNews resulted in quite a discovery.
Their orchard is located on the far west of the Northern Valleys in a subdivision known as ‘The Range’. The drive along Cowalla Road presents typical white sandy banksia country. Then, surprisingly, the topography completely changes. Perched on hills looking east across the Gingin plains lies a richly fertile landscape dotted with giant Tuart trees. This unique location has attracted an especially close-knit horticultural community comprised of small holdings and people who share the love of farming and life of the land.
After spending 40 years as a rangeland management officer for the Department of Agriculture in Carnarvon and Kununurra, John was looking for a special place when he decided to retire. He had discovered Mangoes could be a financially rewarding crop, and his research lead him to the benefits of this particular area for horticulture purposes; access to good water, highly fertile ground and the elevation which offers a frost free location – not to mention a refreshing sea breeze.
16 years later the orchard he and Eve planted has matured and includes 2500 mango trees, 600 mandarins and 400 peach trees. They sell their fruit at Canning Vale markets and also enjoy a fond relationship with the Palmyra school farmers’ market. For the last 8 years the markets have offered more than just a place to sell their fruit. John shares, “We have been going there for years and we are now part of the family and school community and enjoy the interaction.”
Still competently managing the physically demanding work of picking peaches and mangoes aged 76 and 71 respectively, they could easily pass for a couple in their sixties – and their energy is inspiring. Eve confesses it is not quite what they had initially expected. “We didn’t imagine we would work as hard as we do – I imagined work in the morning and a book in the afternoon”.