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Meet Nicole Giblett, a steadfast force behind the agricultural legacy at Newton Orchards, nestled in the picturesque heart of Manjimup. In collaboration with her brother Michael and father Harvey, Nicole has devoted her life to nurturing and expanding this cherished family-led orchard.

Person sitting on bin of Bravo apples
Nicole Giblett of Newton Orchards_Photograph by Jackon Flindell

Nicole's journey with Newton Orchards commenced during her early years as soon as she was tall enough to stand on a crate and reach the apple boxes. After completing tertiary studies in English and later horticulture, Nicole explored diverse professional roles, including journalism, editing, and hospitality. Yet, her heart perpetually gravitated towards the family orchard. Sixteen years ago, she returned to her roots in Manjimup, assuming a multifaceted role at Newton Orchards that spans administration, marketing, and providing labour support.

The rich farming history of the Giblett family unfolds with tales of her grandfather, George Newton, and his brother Harold. These intrepid young immigrants left their family behind to embark on a journey to South West Western Australia as 10-pound Poms, eventually acquiring the Graphite Road home farm in 1929. The story encapsulates the resilience and tenacity required for success in the region, embodying the spirit of hard work and dedication.

Newton Orchards, with several locations around Manjimup, has undergone a remarkable evolution. Pioneering early cool storage trials in the 1950s and contributing to the commercial adoption and export success of Pink Lady apples, the orchard has been at the forefront of innovation. Today, Nicole and Michael lead the operation in conjunction with their executive team, fostering a collaborative atmosphere among their dedicated staff, extending from the orchard to the packhouse.

“My brother and our exec team are awesome innovators. Over the past five years we’ve thrown just about every dart at every board to try and reduce costs, reduce waste, and improve returns and quality across the business, from orchard to packhouse to marketing to value-add to labour to admin,” commented Nicole.

In a bid to reduce their waste fruit, Newton Orchards have explored value added product lines, launching brands, On the Shoulders of Giants ciders and spirits and Cloudy South juices. “They haven’t paid dividends in the end, but I’m still glad we gave it a really really good crack, no stone left unturned by the team,” said Nicole.

Spanning approximately 150 hectares of apples, 35 hectares of avocados, and 5 hectares of cherries, Newton Orchards remains a significant contributor to the region's agricultural landscape. In the past, they have also grown gold kiwifruit, pears, apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines and further back, tobacco, veggies, cattle. Which goes to show just how diverse and ever changing the produce landscape of the Southern Forests is.

Cherries hold a special place in Nicole's heart, offering a delightful balance of less work and high demand, albeit they’re heavily affected by unpredictable challenges of weather. Despite the complexities, she revels in the simplicity and joy they bring to consumers. Newton Orchards have been successful recipients of a recent grant associated with the State Government's Native Forest Transition Plan, to produce new cherry varieties and increase production volume to meet domestic and international demand. Watch this space as our local cherry industry grows.

Nicole's dedication to growing produce extends beyond the surface – she emphasises brand integrity, focusing on taste, crunch, food safety and health. “Also, very importantly because so many pairs of hands are involved in growing fruit - ethical production and being a family-friendly, flexible place to come to work.  The passionate people behind the brand are absolutely key – from the pruners, packers, payroll, forkies, food safety, truckies, ticketers right through to the managers, marketers and so on,” comments Nicole.

Nicole's commitment to ethical production extends to her active involvement with industry entities like Fruit West Co-Operative, where she worked on the early commercialisation of the Bravo apple and also helping to establish the Southern Forests Food Council in its formative years. She emphasises the importance of engaging consumers and advocating for embedding agricultural education in school curriculum to deepen understanding of local food production. “The best engagement work we ever do is taking school groups on tours through the packhouse and farm; they are SO into the ugly food/waste concepts, what real local food is actually worth vs processed crap, and what goes on behind the scenes of the supermarket shelves,” comments Nicole.

The Genuinely Southern Forests brand, now celebrating a decade, stands as a testament to the region's diverse and high-quality produce, and Nic is proud of Newton Orchards’ long association with the brand.

On behalf of the team, Nicole was awarded APAL’s Marketer of the year in 2022, which she labels as credit to the hard work and dedication of all at Newton Orchards past and present. In 2019 Harvey also won the Lifetime Achievement award. “My dad is an incredibly unique human whose work life has been driven by his altruistic love of his hometown, love of growing healthy food and growing it well,” said Nicole.

In addition to encouraging you to add apple to nearly everything you eat, Nicole wants you to #choosethebruise and #chooseugly, and then simply slice off the dodgy bit. She also recommends you always store apples in the fridge to keep them crunchy. If you must have a couple in the fruit bowl then make sure your bananas and pears are elsewhere, as they release ethylene which makes apples go floury more quickly.

As an integral part of a family deeply rooted in agriculture, Nicole Giblett embodies the spirit of dedication, innovation, and passion that defines Newton Orchards. Here's to the enduring success of this cherished orchard and the people behind it, cultivating a legacy that reaches far beyond the rows of apple trees.

Photos sourced from SJP Dooley, The Times Weekly, Manjimup Bridgetown Times, APAL, The West Australian, with photos captured by Craig Kinder Food Photography for Southern Forests Food Council.


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