The team at Bellevue Orchard at Officer has looked back at its long history as they celebrate 70 years of growing apples and 25 years of juicing. The team had a special celebration on Friday 24 November to honor their 70th anniversary.
Rob and Joe Russo are co-owners and brothers; originally bought by their father and his brothers in 1953, the brothers bought the orchard from their dad in 1976. Chief executive and Rob’s son Nick Russo said with the two brothers in their mid-20s, buying the orchard was a big job.
“It was an incredible undertaking,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of energy on the orchard.”
Rob said working on the orchard in the early days was hard work: “It was a big decision. The hours would be long and the hours would be trying. You have to do what you have to do.”
After a couple of decades of hard work, the team had expanded their operations, but in 1998 their lives were changed forever. A hailstorm tore through their crop, leaving them with tons of unusable produce. Although Rob and Joe were close to calling it quits, they acquired a second-hand press and started making apple juice from the damaged fruit. This meant that the Summer Snow brand was born and continues to live on to this day.
Now a fourth-generation business, the Bellevue team has also continued to bring its family back into the fold, with Joe’s daughters Bernadette and Liz being key parts of the team from early on and Joe’s grandchildren now also on the team.