A history of Willie Smith's
The Smith family know orchards like they know their apples. Through the thick and thin of the industry and a crisis or two, they have stood firm in the face of adversity. It’s a story of determination and of spirit, and most of all; family.
1970 – present day
A 20-year-old Andrew Smith made a deal with his dad – I’ll work in the orchard for six months if I can go travelling for the rest of the year.
It wasn’t a typical Aussie backpacking trip. As well as meeting apple growers in Holland, Belgium, Germany and England, Andrew followed his passion for offshore sailing, crewing on a yacht in the Fastnet Race. After returning to Tasmania he travelled to the USA, visiting and talking to orchardists in Wenatchee and Orondo in Washington State.
He returned full of ideas for intensive planting and organic growing.
1941 – present day
Ian Smith, Andrew’s dad, took over the farm aged 21. In the decade that followed, he had to rebuild twice.
The 1967 bushfires burnt the packing shed to the ground. Worse still, in 1973, Britain joined the European Common Market. Tasmania’s apple export industry, which had already been in decline for several years, collapsed overnight. This time, it wasn’t just a shed – Ian and his wife Dianne, who had a lifelong influence on the property, had to work together to create a whole new approach to the apple business. The old ways of ‘pick, pack and deliver’ were gone – trucks no longer lined up at wharves to load apple ships.
Ian was one of the innovators of the new ways – through the 1980s he built controlled-atmosphere cool stores, installed a modern apple grader, started packing his fruit in cardboard cartons and explored new markets in Asia.
1907 – 1964
Ron Smith, Andrew’s grandfather, went to war and came back after having seen the world. He put some structure around the business and began shipping apples all around the globe. These were the boom years of the Apple Isle’s export industry. Ron founded and helped build the RSL in Huonville to bring the community together, and Andrew still enjoys a drink there from time to time.
He saw the great soil, the bountiful supply of fresh water and the clean air that the Huon Valley offered.
1907 – 1964
William and Elsie Smith
Willie came to the Huon Valley, Tasmania, in the 1800s and planted the first tree for the orchard that we pick from today, in 1888. Descended from convicts (both his parents arrived in Australia free of charge), he was passionate about farming. He saw the great soil, the bountiful supply of fresh water and the clean air that the Huon Valley offered and he knew this was the place for him.
Willie’s wife, Elsie, also inspired the direction of William Smith & Son’s. She was the daughter of Charles Oates, the man who drove a new way of life in the Huon Valley in 1844.
Drawing inspiration from Charles Oates’, we are on a journey to create uniquely Tasmanian spirits with our apples. In so doing, we celebrate a man and his family who have done so much for the valley over the last couple of hundred years.