Generations of quality

Ninety years of farming…and counting

Our Australian fresh produce growing tradition began in the Granite Belt region in the 1930s. Founding father Battista Baronio left his hometown of Brescia in northern Italy’s Great Lakes region in 1927 and, like many Italians of the era, cut sugar cane at Innisfail, Far North Queensland.

After contracting dengue fever, he moved to the dry climate of the Granite Belt to recover. He met and married Vincenza, whose own family emigrated from Calabria, southern Italy in the 1930s when Vincenza was a small girl.

Together Battista and Vincenza raised their family including son and current owner Antonio Giovanni “John” who remembers a childhood spent tending to the vineyard, growing tomatoes and apples.

The Baronios were among many Italian migrants who settled in the Stanthorpe district and whose efforts contributed to Stanthorpe’s proud Italian heritage today.

In the 1970s, John pruned trees around the district and started his own small tomato and apple farm. During this time, he met Louisa Savio, the daughter of Italian immigrants from Bassano del Grappa, north-east Italy. After they married, they moved to the farm where they are today.

Eastern Colour was established in 1975, with John creating the name to represent both our location on the eastern side of Applethorpe and the bright, fresh colours of the produce we grow.

There have been many challenges in our family’s farming history yet these events have inspired us to innovate, diversify and change direction.

Many years ago and two days before we began what would have been a magnificent apple harvest, a massive hail storm wiped out the entire crop. As a result, we ventured into broccoli. Ever the innovator, John was at one point, trialling eight different plantings for eight different harvest times to spread the risk and safeguard the family income. Thanks to his hard work, we became one of the top five broccoli producers in Australia in the 1980s.

In the 1990s, we diversified into multiple lines – again to manage risk. Because water supply is so critical in our low rainfall area, we started farming in other regions including northern New South Wales where water was more plentiful. At this time, we were the largest producer of summer capsicums on the Eastern Seaboard.

By 2010, the apple arm of the family business was established and John looked into also producing summer–autumn strawberries. We planted 200,000 strawberry plants for the first harvest in 2014-2015. Today, we grow about two million plants a season and our farm is the biggest strawberry producer in the region!

John and Louisa’s sons Stephen and Nathan’s childhoods revolved growing up on the farm, working beside their parents and picking (and eating) as many apples and stone fruit as they liked! While they both moved away to study and work, the lure of the family farm brought them home in 2014. Today, they are hands-on managers, who happily roll up their sleeves and work beside a team of committed and passionate people and suppliers – all considered part of our Eastern Colour family.