The Pandolfo family
As children we would play in the fields while our parents picked oranges and over 50 years later we still have a great family-run business
– Jeanette Pandolfo
In 1954 Mario Pandolfo was a young Italian looking for a different lifestyle which he found in Australia. Along with his wife Elsa, he established Mario’s Packhouse in Griffith, New South Wales and set about growing and packing their own fruit in a small shed on the farm. Along the way their business expanded as well as their family with four children – Robert, Jeanette, Gary and Julie.
“I can remember as a child sitting under a truck, which we had turned into our playhouse, while our parents picked fruit. As we got older we helped out with the pre-pack bags which we had to individually hand fill with counted pieces of fruit. Today the machine does everything showing just how much the times have changed,” says Jeanette.
In 1982 Mario passed away but his legacy lives on with his children and grandchildren continuing on with the business. Both Robert and Gary are hands-on managers who get involved in all aspects of the produce while their sister, Jeanette, manages the employees and administration. Even Elsa, the matriarch of the family, keeps watch over the operations and pops in regularly during the season.
Over the years their own children have also spent time during their school holidays in the shed, on the packing lines or out on the farms – continuing the legacy set out by their grandfather and parents but bringing their own set of skills to the business.
“Our children have all gone their own way and are involved in different industries such as IT and engineering, but those skills have come in very handy when we need specialist help,” notes Gary.
Over the years the brothers have spent time in American and Australian citrus operations researching best practice and innovative ideas which they have brought back to the farm and implemented to help streamline and improve processes.
The business has continued to evolve and they now have a grower base of around 45-50 local growers who they buy from alongside their own five farms. With a strong focus on food safety and delivering consistent quality products, each season is a challenge they relish.
“The biggest challenge is the actual fruit itself as everyone’s vision of an orange can be different; from big or small, smooth or rough skinned. Every season can also be different so you have to market something that continually changes. The ability to export has opened new doors around the world and finding the right market for our fruit is a key component in getting it right,” explains Robert.