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Noel and Bev Fisher Tranquil Hills Orchards. The Story of Precious and Arnold Pigs in love. The History of the farm. The Family Heritage. Granddad’s wish was that the farm would remain in family hands and this tradition continued when my mother and father retired,

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Noel and bev fisher tranquil hills orchards

Noel and Bev FisherTranquil Hills Orchards

The Story of Precious and Arnold

Pigs in love.

The family heritage
The Family Heritage

  • Granddad’s wish was that the farm would remain in family hands and this tradition continued when my

    mother and father retired,

    my husband Noel

    and myself took over the

    reins. We hope to hand

    the orchard down to

    our two sons when we

    are ready to retire.


  • We purchased the family citrus orchard in 2000, with the intention of continuing our plumbing business and maintaining the orchard for 3 years before retiring.

  • The aim was to deal only

    with two large companies

    who would take the fruit.


  • One a jam manufacturer,

    and the other a juice

    manufacturer. The Jam

    manufacturer would

    take all the navel

    oranges in July and

    the Juice

    manufacturer would

    take all the Valencia

    oranges in November.

History continued
History continued

  • The Jam manufacturer was still happy to take the navel oranges, but the juice manufacturer was bought out by a large company and so we were uncertain of our future.


  • We started to

    explore other

    options for fruit

    sales such as

    Trash and



Farmers markets
Farmers Markets

  • Then I heard about the Albury Farmers Market and I approached the coordinator for permission to sell the oranges at Albury, which was granted. The sales at the Albury far outstripped the trash and treasure market in Cobram.

  • Instead of taking a station wagon full of oranges to market it was soon necessary for Noel to become involved and drive a small truck to market. Noel discovered that he really enjoyed the market, socializing with other farmers, sharing information about fertilizers, watering techniques etc.

Farmers markets continued
Farmers Markets continued

We soon realized that selling the public was only one aspect of the farmers market. The networking between stall holders became a

very profitable and enjoyable part of the process. Other stall

holders that were

making jam and relishes

soon started to buy

our fruit.

Farmers markets1
Farmers Markets

  • Also small restaurants and chefs started to approach Tranquil Hills to order oranges for freshly squeezed juice which meant that often 60 kilos of oranges was sold before it even got to market.

  • We grew more exotic \

    fruits such as Limes,

    Buddha’s hands,

    Native citrus varieties

    and Blood Oranges

Value adding
Value Adding

  • While this was great ,

    we discovered that,

    the people really

    making the money

    from the product

    were the value adders.

    So we extended our

    Products to include

    Juice and marmalade.

Value adding continued
Value Adding continued

  • Value adding was not as simple as it seemed.

    Before you can sell a product you need to have a food handlers license which involves going to Tafe to study.

    The council then charges you a fee ranging from $150 to $400 depending on what you manufacture.

    You need to have insurance which can cost up to $600 per year.

Value adding continued1
Value Adding continued

  • Packaging can be expensive and you cannot use secondhand bottles for jam.

    We purchased our bottles in bulk from Melbourne because the freight costs were expensive if you just bought a box where as a pallet was the cheaper option.

    The other alternative was to take a ute down to the city and buy up for the year.

Value adding continued2
Value Adding continued

  • Labeling can be expensive too. There are very strict regulations about the information on a label such as name, address and contact details of the manufacturer .

  • A nutritional panel is required if there is more than one ingredient. I learned how to create my own nutritional panel via a website and printed my own labels.

Value adding continued3
Value Adding continued

  • However if you want to capture the gourmet market you need to have professional looking labels printed.

  • This means you need to design your own or pay a graphic designer to create the right look for you.


  • Our Marmalade got

    a mention in the Age

    Epicure which

    boosted sales.

    This was achieved by

    emailing the food

    journalist and offering

    to send samples.

Farm gate trail
Farm Gate Trail

  • We became part of the

    Sun Country Farm Gate

    Trail which was a group

    of 19 farmers who

    joined forces to put

    together a brochure

    for people who wanted

    to visit a real farm,

    meet the farmer and

    buy produce direct at

    the farm gate.

Farm gate trail1
Farm Gate Trail

  • The Farm Gate Trail has been a huge success with numbers increasing dramatically each year. One thing that happened that was strange was that people where more interested in our pet pig Precious than the orchard.

Precious and arnold pigs in love
Precious and Arnold Pigs in Love

  • We taught Precious to sit because she was such a messy and enthusiastic eater that we needed to control her for our own survival. However she was very lonely so we looked around for a boy friend for her.

Arnold the pig
Arnold the Pig

  • Consequently we invited

    a famous pig to come

    and live on our property.

    Arnold was being evicted

    from his home in Melbourne

    because of complaints from a neighbor and the

    shire council had threatened to have him

    de sexed which could have proved fatal at his

    age of 5 years old.

Precious and arnold pigs in love1
Precious and Arnold Pigs in Love

  • Arnold’s plight was

    broadcast on a

    Current Affair and

    we contactedArnold’s

    family and invited him

    to come and live with

    our female pig Precious. Arnold came to stay

    with us for 3 weeks while his family battled the

    courts and won. 

The pig lovers pignic
The Pig Lovers Pignic

  • We held a Pig Lovers Pignic to celebrate the engagement of Precious and Arnold, with a pink heart shaped cake. The cake decorator could not believe that we were having a cake made for the pigs. We had a pig circus by the name of the Wonder Pigs there to entertain the 600 people who

    attended on the day.

Arnold and precious pigs in love
Arnold and Precious Pigs in love

  • Win TV filmed the event and the Age sent a photographer and Journalist which resulted in a page 3 story. Which claimed that Arnold could be Mooted, Looted, Rooted and Neutered all in the space of a few months.

The story of precious and arnold pigs in love
The Story of Precious and Arnold Pigs in Love.

  • All the publicity of the piggy saga resulted in interest from several TV networks. So we had a visit from John Wood from Wine Me Dine Me,

Media exposure
Media Exposure

  • Paul Cronin from Discover Down Under filmed an episode at Tranquil Hills.

Media exposure1
Media Exposure

Geoff Cox judged our first Marmalade competition as part of an episode of Coxy’s Big Break.

Media exposure2
Media Exposure

  • The second marmalade competition was judged by Charles Wooley, I rang up one day on air and suggested a marmalade making competition and he agreed to

    judge the finalists live on air

    on his national radio program.

Media exposure3
Media Exposure

  • Recently Harry (Precious’s new toy boy) and Precious were featured on Talk to the Animals and Harry starred in Travel Oz on ABC TV.

Media exposure4
Media Exposure

  • Our last TV show to visit was Paul Mecurio’s Menu. Paul came to film oranges being picked to cook a pork and orange dish.

Media exposure5
Media Exposure

  • The Sun Country

    Farm Gate Trail


    attended the SBS

    Food Journey

    Festival in


Going online
Going online

  • In this modern world you need to be on line to be effective at marketing.

  • We set up a website with interactive on line sales to sell our products direct to the public.Contact Ballarat local business UBC Web Design


  • Other effective marketing tools are twitter and face book.

  • Consider your farm to be your product and sell it direct to the public.

Buses and group v isits
Buses and Group Visits

  • The increased media exposure put us on the radar for bus companies and groups wanting to visit us. We had car clubs, caravan clubs, probus groups and bird watching groups visiting regularly.

Where we are now
Where we are now

  • Last year we both took

    jobs off farm and

    decided to stop the

    seven day a week

    constant activity

    that had become

    our lives and revert

    to bulk sales of

    our fruit.

Citrus production
Citrus Production

  • Citrus production does

    not require the use

    of strong chemicals.

    We use copper and

    white oil sprays and

    a small amount of

    round up on the young

    trees to help them

    survive but as soon

    as they start producing

    fruit we stop using round up.

Citrus production1
Citrus Production

  • We have been systematically replanting the orchard and he spent some time and figured out some new strategies for planting fruit trees and setting up watering systems to help them to survive the first year of production.

Biological control of pests
Biological Control of Pests

  • One of the methods that we use to control insects is biological control. We purchase tiny predatory wasps to kill the scale on our fruit. The wasps are yellow and about the size of a

    pin head.

Biological control of pests1
Biological Control of Pests

  • We buy them from scientists in South Australia who have them freighted to us in eskie’s with ice packs to keep them cool. Thousands of wasps are in the pack. The wasps are packaged in paper coffee cups with shredded paper inside

Biological control of pests2
Biological Control of Pests

  • We are warned of the arrival of the package and always go into the post office early because many times the postal workers have stacked the box of wasps up against a window in direct sunlight and the poor little things were half dead when we got them.

Biological control of pests3
Biological Control of Pests

One day a postal worker announced to the packed post office crowd that my “live orgasms” had arrived.

Biological control of pests4
Biological Control of Pests

  • To release the bugs we walk into the orchard one row from the track and open the lid of the coffee cup. Then we walk down the rows of trees and every 5th tree we stop and pull out a piece of paper

    with the bugs on it

    and place it in the

    branches of the tree.

Biological control of pests5
Biological Control of Pests

  • As we are walking along the bugs fly out. We don’t put the bugs in every tree in the block because we want them to spread out and multiply. So we skip a few rows and continue placing the bugs in every fifth tree.

Biological control of pests6
Biological Control of Pests

  • It is not unusual to have the little critters on your tee shirt and in your hair.

  • I always wear sunglasses to keep them out of my eyes. They are so tiny you can hardly see them and they do not bite

    but after walking over

    80 acres with yellow

    bugs all over you it is

    nice to have a

    long hot shower.

Biological control of pests7
Biological Control of Pests

  • We have noticed a significant decline in scale on our fruit since we started using the bugs. It costs

    about $500 per batch

    and we do four batches

    per year. However our

    use of white oil has

    decreased dramatically

    which saves us money

    in the long run.

Biological control of pests8
Biological Control of Pests

  • Scientists are now working on a predatory wasp that kills fruit fly. For some time now the DPI have been releasing sterile fruit flies to reduce the amount of flies that breed and produce larvae. However this wasp attacks the larvae so it should be an exciting development.

Biological control of pests9
Biological Control of Pests

  • Recently we trialed some fruit fly baits with insecticide added which can be used in conjunction to an organic bait spray.

Biological control of weeds
Biological Control of Weeds

  • We have worked with other scientists with insects for the control of bridle creeper. Which is a vicious weed that strangles the trees. It used to be known as Tahitian Bridal veil and was sold as a pot plant. Now it is out of control and because it has a bulb and berries it is hard to eliminate.

  • Noel says if you could smoke it there

    would be no problem getting rid of it.

Biological control of weeds1
Biological Control of Weeds

  • It can be sprayed with a combination of Round up and other potent chemicals but this can damage the tree. We cut it out by hand in the early days but it has become too wide spread to deal with now.

  • The CSIRO have developed a rust and an insect to help to control it. The rust only works if you do not spray with copper.

Biological control of weeds2
Biological Control of Weeds

  • The bridle creeper hopper seems to have some potential to eliminate the weed so long as no harsh chemicals are used.

  • I remember one day we were with a study group passing around a container of bridle creeper hoppers when one of the men squashed a hopper with his thumb.

  • The lady scientist came over and said. “Oh not Harold! He was my favorite.” Theman looked so guilty she had to admit she was just joking as she breeds millions of them at a time.

Natural fertilization
Natural Fertilization

  • Due to the high cost of fertilizer we have been using composted Cow Manure for the last few years and has found a major improvement in the trees, leaf growth, fruit size and yield have improved.

Setting up your own orchard
Setting up your own orchard

  • Factors to consider

    when setting up your

    own orchard are:

  • Soil Type – depending on the fruit that you intend to grow, you will need suitable soil.

  • Climate – Some fruit trees are intolerant to frost especially when young.

Setting up your own orchard1
Setting up your own orchard

  • Water – Make sure you have an adequate water right or can purchase permanent water.

  • Suitable irrigation system is essential as rainfall alone will not be sufficient and the crop must be watered at specific times in the growth of the fruit.

Setting up your own orchard2
Setting up your own orchard

  • Purchasing good quality fruit trees is important. We prefer to by bare rooted trees grafted to tri stock but that can vary depending on your soil type.

  • Regenerating an old orchard can be hard also because you will loose production for up to 5 years depending on what varieties you plant.

Setting up your own orchard3
Setting up your own orchard

  • Planting what will sell – Do your research about what sells in the market. Don’t be too quick to go for expensive varieties such as limes because the prices are always down when there is abundance of fruit and limes have to be sold

    within 1 month because

    once the color has changed

    from green to yellow

    they are worthless.

Setting up your own orchard4
Setting up your own orchard

  • Stick to varieties that you know will sell. The middle of the road fruit varieties such as Valencia’s and Navel oranges will always have a market.

  • More exotic fruits have limited markets.

Setting up your own orchard5
Setting up your own orchard

  • Be proactive with your marketing. Sell it before your grow it not the other way round otherwise your find you are a price taker not a price maker.

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