Nick Markovski is a third-generation orchardist and together with his wife Karen and two sons, Liam and Tom, the family grow lemons, apples, pomegranates, and quinces.
Their orchard, Apple Tech, lies on the outskirts of Manjimup on the road to Deanmill, home of a historic timber mill and local Macedonian club. Nick is a proud member of the local community and strongly believes the Southern Forests is one of the best places to not only grow produce but raise a family too.
Nick’s family hail from Macedonia, and it was his grandfather (or Dedo in Macedonian) Vick, who came out to Australia in 1936. Vick started off labouring in the Bridgetown area with his plan to only stay for four to five years, make some money and return home to his wife and 3-year-old son, Tom (Nick’s father). Unfortunately, World War Two broke out and Vick lost contact with his family for 11 years. With his belief that Australia was the land of freedom and better working living conditions, in 1948 his wife and son joined him in Australia.
Similarly, to many other Macedonians in the region, the Markovski family moved to Manjimup and started growing tobacco. In 1950 the family purchased their own 15-hectare property on Ipsen Street, clearing the land for further tobacco production between 1950 – 1962. At the time there were about 2,500 Macedonians living in Manjimup and of those 90 families were involved in tobacco farming. It was one of the primary industries for the region.
In 1962 the tobacco industry collapsed overnight following the Government’s decision to ban local tobacco production, favouring cheaper overseas imports. Over 100 growers in Manjimup were out of work overnight. Most left for Perth or moved to the Eastern states. Those who remained were forced to diversify. And diversify is what the Markovski’s did.
The farm became an apple orchard from 1963 with a focus on a few key varieties including, Granny Smith, Ordinary Delicious, Yates and Golden Delicious. All was well until about 2005 when the industry started taking a downturn and the family was forced to pivot yet again. In 2007 they slowly started to remove sections of the apple orchard, opting to plant new produce lines such as lemons and passionfruit.
Nowadays the orchard’s only apple variety to remain in production is the Granny Smith apple – which is just the most vibrant green colour, with the perfect mix of tart and sweetness. Adding to the diversity of the orchard, the family now also grow pomegranates and quince.
All this diversifying hasn’t been without its challenges though. Nick says it’s been a massive learning curve through trial and error. What might work for growers in the Perth hill doesn’t necessarily mean it will work here. “The Southern Forests is a unique region in climate and soil type, differing to other regions”, Nick commented.
Growing lemons has proved to be less intensive compared to the pruning and thinning required with apples. And with multiple crops a year the family can spread out risk of turbulent pricing that can come with selling to wholesale markets.
At any one time a lemon tree can have up to all five life cycles present on the tree. From ripe lemons, through to golf ball size, pea size and then blossom. Once the lemons are ready for harvest, the family with pick every seven weeks, for five times, yielding approximately 450 bins for the season.
The family have also dabbled in value adding their quinces to make a traditional family recipe quince paste. It’s the opposite of fast food. It takes twelve hours from start to finish and the secret is patience. It cannot be produced in bulk as the recipe is too technical and very hands on.
Ever since leaving school, at 17 years old, Nick has worked on the family farm and now his two sons are following in his footsteps. Both Tom and Liam are taking extended gap years and dipping their toes in the family business. As the fourth generation to join the farming venture, they have fresh and innovative ideas to bring to the table. One of those being a new brand for their weekend farmers market stalls, Mr Pashy by Apple Tech (named by Nick’s late niece).
You can find the young men at the Manning, Stirling and Claremont Farmers Markets most weekends selling their Genuinely Southern Forests grown fresh produce. The family love the markets as it provides them with the perfect opportunity to chat one on one with customers, establish relationships and build a loyal following. Their repeat customers are coming back time and time again because of the exceptional quality of their produce.
On occasions the Mr Pashy by Apple Tech van will also pop up at the Margaret River Farmers Market, Busselton Rotary Markets, Boyanup Farmers Markets, and at Easter time the Denmark Arts Market. Safe to say they have the Perth metro and Southwest markets covered! If you see them, be sure to drop by and say hello to the young brothers taking the reins.
At the end of the day, Nick Markovski, is a proud producer and an even prouder father, who is fond of working alongside his sons and family. Nick’s father Tom who is turning 90 in May, still overlooks the day-to-day happenings on the farm and takes a keen interest in the business. If you ever pop by their Ipsen street packing shed, he is always about for a friendly chat.
You can follow the Markovksi family on Facebook to stay up to date with their produce harvest and market days.
Photography by Craig Kinder Photography for Genuinely Southern Forests.