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Zest for tourism!

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Golden Grove Orchard, the historic citrus producer nestled in the Chittering Valley, is poised to become a major player in the WA tourism market. Long-time owners Connie and Rocco Zampogna have sold the orchard to Adam Saunders, Managing Director of Explore Tours Perth, who has exciting plans for the future.

With the ink still drying on the ownership documents – Adam officially took over in February this year – renewed curiosity and interest in the venue from locals and tourists alike has been welcome.

As an accountant Adam’s journey to farm owner has been far from traditional. He moved to Australia from the UK in 2013 and was working for the RAC as financial controller of the travel and tourism assets division of the company. The role afforded him the opportunity to visit the most picturesque parts of the state, and he was instrumental in acquiring and developing the RAC holiday parks, including the one at Cervantes.

This immersion in the tourism sector gave Adam foresight into the future of the industry.

“I just had this gut feeling that with WA’s amazing natural assets coupled with all the infrastructure the government was putting in at the time — the new hotels — WA was going to take off from a tourism point of view. I thought I will kick myself in ten years if I don’t have some sort of involvement in this.”

In 2015, with the support of his wife Caroline, Adam bought a bus, started providing wine tours through the Swan Valley and Explore Tours Perth was born.

“I’ve always wanted to run my own company,” he said. “My dad was a builder back in the UK, ran his own company and he was a big role model and inspiration.”

“Every accountant dreams of being a tour guide,” he laughs.

Now with first-hand experience as a tour operator, Adam saw strong demand for places to conduct fruit picking tours, both from locals and the growing South-East Asian tourism market. He started bringing private tours to Golden Grove in 2016 to explore the approximately 120 acres of rolling hills and 10,000 citrus trees.

After attempts to develop a regular fruit picking and tour program at another venue came to a disappointing end, Adam was on a trip with a private group at Golden Grove in August 2019 and literally received a sign not to give up!

“I pulled up and noticed a massive for sale sign. It got my brain ticking over. I was chatting to the ladies on the tour on the way back and they joked, ‘Oh, you should buy that!’”

“The more I thought about it, the more I realised the synergies between Explore Tours Perth and Golden Grove, just from a tourism point of view – well, there were loads. It really worked.”

While fruit picking is an enjoyable past time for many, most fruits are only available seasonally and the landscapes aren’t exactly what you would describe as picturesque. Yet digging through flat fields of dirt under the hot sun to unearth fresh produce does not deter from its popularity! At Golden Grove you can enjoy the paddock-to-plate experience of picking your own citrus with the added benefit of being able to do it all year round, in a beautiful location. “With its lovely loamy soil and green hills, Chittering is stunning,” says Adam.

Adam has been hands-on around the orchard since commencing the buying process, working closely with Rocco to ensure a smooth handover. Freely admitting his inexperience in farming, his enthusiasm to learn have earnt him the respect of the staff — Liz, Lisa, Ken, Jarrad and Rose — who are happy to share their more than 80 years of collective experience with their new boss.

“One of the biggest drawcards for me was the team of employees that were already here,” said Adam. “I’ve been clear that I’m bringing the tourism element. I’m relying on you for the farming!’”

Adam’s vision for the future of Golden Grove is impressive. Aside from growing the fruit picking tour side of the business he is looking to include a lawned seating area under the shade of olive and mulberry trees, where families can enjoy the views of the orchard and the Brockman River which runs through the property. A naturescape playground and farm animal petting area are also in development.

Golden Grove currently produces a range of juices — orange, lemon squash, lemon lime and bitters, grapefruit and pure lemon — available for sale directly from them, and served at a few select cafes around Perth.

The flavour of the orange juice is dynamic, dependant on what orange variety is in abundance. With Valencia oranges currently in season, the juice is refreshing with a strong, sweet flavour that belies the no added sugar label. The orange juice is also available at Bullsbrook IGA.

Adam is keen to see locals visit Golden Grove – either pop in for a Yahava coffee and have a chat or jump on board for a tour of the orchard, picking some fruit and visiting the packaging shed. Each tour includes 2 kilograms of fruit per person and they run four times a day, seven days a week.

Adam says, “I want people to come in so I can talk to them, engage and catch up with what’s going on in the community.”