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Henry and Rita Hilton

Henry and Rita Hilton

Snowline Fruits, Stanley, Victoria

Rita and Henry Hilton

Henry and Rita Hilton are one of the few farming couples in the Stanley area that are still positive about the future of apple growing. They run a model farm that has a thriving on farm shop and direct marketing at the farm gate has made the business much more viable.

Henry and Rita have many customers who drive the distance out to Stanley to buy their fruit and learn about how their production system works.

They also deliver their produce of apples, stone fruit, raspberries and chestnuts over a large area within the north-east of Victoria and southern New South Wales. One of their most important markets is the Albury-Wodonga Farmers Market where they can meet and talk with potential and existing customers.

Henry and Rita began Snowline Fruits in Stanley, Victoria in 1980. Originally working for Nightingales Orchards for 25 years, they now have 35 acres of their own growing apples and have more recently diversified into soft fruits.

Henry is originally from Kent in England and worked as a manager for Nightingales for 25 years developing a distinct area of Stanley through planting trees, now known as the 'Toorak end' of Stanley because of it's exotic beauty and autumn colours. They were attracted to this area because of the sweeping and uncluttered views which are a stunning feature of Stanley, particularly from the top of the farm, with views over to Mt Buffalo and beyond.

The main challenges to the business include the weather and the supermarkets. Three years ago their orchard was devastated by a hail storm that left many trees permanently damaged and the year's crop ruined. The supermarkets constantly want produce at cheaper and cheaper prices, which will eventually reduce the farmers margins to impossible levels.

Audio and transcript

Henry Hilton

audio_w15 Listen to Henry's story (MP3 file 934kb)
Duration: 1 minute, 58 seconds

Realistically it's quite an involved story because I was born in England, and did all my schooling and various degrees etc in horticulture there and then I just decided to travel the world and you know, just to sort of get a bit of experience.

And the original idea was to go back home to the family farm in England. But it didn't actually happen. In basic terms I worked my way around for three or four years and got as far as Australia, and didn't go any further I suppose you could say.

And I worked on a number of other jobs, you know, for a period of time. But I guess your roots bring you back to what you've been trained for and what you grew up with, my father being an orchardist etc. So I was pretty keen to get back into it and well I basically ended up in Stanley after having a look at the place.

Snowline fruits actually started... was first registered in 1980, September 1980 and has been going as a small enterprise for a number of years.

We now have 35 acres which encompasses mainly apples, chestnuts, but because of the, perhaps should we say apple market and the prices and the supermarkets etc etc diversification has become a big thing, we're actually now moving into soft fruit and stone fruit and pears. Which is partly connected to the farm shop etc. But I guess that's another separate issue.

I mean the weather and its intricacies are one thing. The second thing would be the challenges in the marketing system. Basically, you know, we've got a considerable problem in this industry or in the horticultural industry in general, in the returns that we're getting for the product that we produce.

It appears that the two big supermarkets want to go cheaper and cheaper all the time and generally it seems to be at the growers expense.

Gallery slideshow

Below you can view a slideshow of the Hilton family and their property.