Many members will easily recall the long, hot summers of harvesting. Most would kick-off in December. The the whole family, plus a few ‘ring-ins’ would spend weeks picking apricots and peaches into buckets, bins or boxes, cart them on the trailer behind the old Massey to the cutting shed; slicing them on to trays, into the Sulphur box, out on to the drying green then into the big sweat boxes and off to market.
In late January, early Feb, the kids would head back to school and the oldies would move on to picking grapes; some for drying, plenty for wine. The daily routine for the growers would include picking a grape trailer full, as early in the day as possible to avoid the baking sun, then dad (most often) would drag the trailer, once again behind the Massey, to the line-up at the winery. Shuffling the trailers forward to the crusher took time so there was opportunity for a smoke, some tyre kicking, plenty of jokes and political problem solving before the journey back to the block. It would be time then to dip the ‘drying’ grapes and spread them on the racks to do just that; dry out before being boxed off to market. Then it was time for a beer and those over 16, with licences, would often head off to the local DI (Drive-in) for the night-time entertainment and a bit of romance! It was a good life. They were modern times!
Since then, technological innovation has accelerated and the Riverland’s growers have pushed all the boundaries. Gadgets were the go! Gadget days around the region attracted some sensational creations that made life on the block easier. Gadgets became machines, machines became ‘automatic’, gadget days became Field Days and the region became the country’s most generous contributor to Research and Development programs. The competition for ideas only became more intense. All the while, off-farm technology was also advancing. Whopping great TV antennas sprang up and in the 60’s the DI’s were challenged. Black and white went to colour in the 70’s and tractors also went to colour, became more powerful and even had weather protection in some cases. The inland regions developed the world’s first automatic grape picker! Perhaps the wildest inventions were all about communications. Telephones have given everyone a computer to carry around to talk on, to check the weather and do business! And that’s all in many living memories.
We are living in the future. Now that our grape and wine industry has restored some of its respectability, the competition for the next innovations and inventions on-farm will be fascinating. One of our key challenges is to win back the confidence of our younger generation to help them realise that life in horticulture in the Riverland is about as good as it gets!