2014 marks the International Year of the Farming Family.
Each day we have contact with a farmer, though we may not realise it.
Through the milk we enjoy on our breakfast, the meat we have for dinner, to the clothes we wear, a farmer has had something to do with our daily lives.
This year we honour our farming families across the Central West and Western NSW, bringing you their stories in the paper and online each week.
SET among the eastern ranges of Towac Valley with a breathtaking view of Orange city, it’s easy to see why William West chose Balmoral to set up his family’s new life in 1885.
It’s also pretty easy to see why the next generations of Wests never left.
Mick West, now 46, has been operating Balmoral for over a decade, and is the fourth generation of West to run the orchard.
“It was an incredible lifestyle, until you became part of the labour force,” Mr West laughed.
“Growing up on the orchard was great, it was a very laid back upbringing. As you got older you learned to appreciate having the land.”
Purchased over a century ago as an 11-acre, empty block, William West transformed the land into a viable fruit-growing enterprise.
In a time when Orange had hundreds of successful orchards, thanks to the winter chill and fertile volcanic soil, securing blocks of land was not easy and it took some time for the orchard to grow substantially.
“It’s certainly been added to in the time since we’ve been there,” Mr West said.
“At one stage we owned and leased about 350 acres of land. But Balmoral Enterprises also owns orchard land at Nashdale, and of course there was Caernarvon. It’s all about trying to produce from different areas.”
Several years after William purchased Balmoral, he invested in a second property - Caernarvon. William handed the business on to his sons, Mick’s grandfather Harold John Arthur (Jack) West, and Bill West who divided after some time together, with Jack taking over Balmoral, and Bill securing Caenarvon - now run by second generation orchardists, the Hill family.
Mick’s father Ted, and his brother John inherited Balmoral, before handing it on, when it was divided between both mens’ sons - Mick, and cousins Tim and Peter West - and now primarily produces apples and cherries.
“Actually, Ted and John never retired,” Mr West reminisced.
“They both worked here right up until they passed away. Tim and Pete now operate here and Nashdale, in a separate enterprise called Westcastle Partnership.”
Mick’s commitment and love of the land is still burning brightly, and he continues to search for ways to improve Balmoral.
“You see the work that’s put into the land to turn it, and it becomes somewhat of a passion for you,” Mr West said.
“Unfortunately we have faced, and always will face plenty of challenges along the way. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all part and parcel of the business.
“The drought of ‘82 was devastating. I remember looking down rows and not seeing a blade of grass - we were producing apples the size of golf balls. Hail, fruit bats and everything else. I don’t think it’s getting any worse though.
“I always had plans to take over I guess, and I hope my sons will eventually too.”
* BATHURST: Dan and Steve Owens
* DUBBO: Cherie and Matthew Coddington
* DUNEDOO: The Armstrong Family
* COWRA: Charlie and Christine Galea
Do you know a farming family who would like to be featured in our series email their details to firstname.lastname@example.org.