Every time we want to or or we have to tell all the neighbours
have to go back to the beginning, to where Adelaide’s market gardens first came from.
Italy, 1954: 13-year-old Maria Mercorella ( now Belperio) and her family are preparing to leave home. They’ve sold their 20 sheep, four cows, two goats, two donkeys, their pig and their paddock of wheat. The farm house they’ll keep for a while, because they don’t know if the air in Australia will kill the children. But despite their apprehension at journeying to an unknown land, they’re glad to be leaving. Because, if all goes well, Adelaide’s fruitful soil and plentiful water will provide the Mercorellas with a unique opportunity: for the first time ever, Maria’s family will be able to cultivate more food than they need to eat. For the first time ever, they will be able to turn a profit.
Arriving in Australia, Maria’s father rents a 10-acre property in the eastern suburbs. Maria works hard on her parents’ farm, and boxes onions for a neighbour, earning $3.50 a day. She marries, and purchases a five-acre plot of land in Paradise for $30,000 with her husband Pat Belperio. They work hard: from 5am till dark every day, they till the land, growing parsnips, carrots, potatoes and herbs.
Today, Maria and her husband are in their 70s. Their farm, the only market garden remaining in the area, is overshadowed by a giant “for sale” sign. Several years ago, the family began subdividing the plot and building homes for a retirement village. If they manage to sell all of the 15 homes planned for the site (the family is hoping to fetch $400,000 for each home), there will be nothing left but a small piece of land for Maria to potter around on in her old age. She wants to keep this, because she knows she won’t be able to tolerate being surrounded by dense housing. She’s sad to see the demise of her garden, a lifetime labour of love, but is philosophical about the change.