There is more to the New South Wales Riverina District than great food and wine – try historic airshows, art galleries and a ghost house for starters.

Story By Freda Nicholls

The mighty Murrumbidgee River starts in the Snowy Mountains and flows through the Riverina district providing life-giving water, in what some claim to be the most productive agricultural land in Australia. The Riverina spreads from the south-west slopes of the mountains to the seemingly endless Hay plains, and with recent droughts taking a heavy toll on the area, some locals have found financial and social benefits in opening their farms and businesses to visitors.
Descendants of Italian migrants who flocked to the Griffith region in the 1950s and ’60s, Joe and Sharon Maugeri started running farm tours on their 20-hectare irrigation block 14 years ago. They showcase the amazing array of fruit and nuts grown on their ‘fruit-salad’ farm, a term used to describe a farm that grows multiple products. “That’s what the Italian farmers were like, they put everything in,” Sharon says with a grin.
Joe and Sharon grow rockmelons, walnuts, prickly pear, pecans, mulberries, olives, chestnuts, macadamias, cherries, pistachio nuts, almonds, pine nuts, blood oranges, prunes and black figs, offering visitors a taste of everything all year round.
Sharon takes great pride in educating visitors on the viability and water conservation of their farm. “Murrumbidgee means never fail, and with the rich clay soils here, the water doesn’t seep away,” Sharon says. She gives tours around the property in her old mini bus before heading back to the mud-brick homestead for samples of Joe’s Sicilian-inspired preservative-free wine.
Great lush rows of orchards, vines and crops fill the farms in Griffith. With the temperate climate so similar to parts of Italy, Italian migrants flocked to the budding township and their influence can be seen not only in products grown, but the restaurants and businesses flourishing in the area.

This story excerpt is from Issue #55

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2007