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Women in Horticulture Award – Sandra Ceravolo

Industry Best Practice

Awarded to a female industry member who has demonstrated outstanding ability and success in their chosen field, whether it is growing, research and development, farm management, or otherwise.

Women in Horticulture recipient Sandra Ceravolo. Photo: Darren Clements Photography.

Sandra Ceravolo’s decision to travel three hours a day on public transport from Adelaide to Roseworthy College was one of the first indications of her passion for horticulture in her home state. Thirty years later, Sandra is just as passionate for her industry and in particular the new ideas and thinking the next generation is bringing to an industry that has evolved considerably since her early days.

“After the first year I deferred my studies with the goal of saving for a car so I could drive to and from Roseworthy but new doors opened and I found myself studying accountancy, then data programming at night school and then in 1988 Tony and I were married,” says Sandra.

“Tony was already transitioning to dedicated apple and cherry orchards, but we still grew vegetables between the rows of trees to provide income,” recalls Sandra.

Sandra began helping with picking and packing but with a strong work ethic and the enthusiasm to give any task a go her role rapidly evolved.

“Jobs needed to be done so we just got on with it – I never felt being a woman was a factor in how work was allocated,” said Sandra.

As the orchard operations grew during the 1990s so did the business management demands and opportunities.

“We were the first to introduce a Quality Assurance program into our operations and I really enjoyed the challenge and having oversight of the full supply chain,” Sandra said.

Sandra’s official title evolved too and as Operations Manager she has enjoyed a wide brief that oversees integral business operations within the family’s business. It’s a role that also leverages her creative thinking, her enjoyment of working with people across the industry and her ability to make things happen.

When South Australia’s apple crop was hit by hailstorms in 2017, Sandra stepped up to support the local industry to deliver the Hailstorm Heroes campaign.

“The Hailstorm Heroes project created an opportunity for anyone to step up and contribute their skills. For me the urgency and scale provided a great opportunity and I really enjoyed being able to share my skills and experience particularly in procurement, design, promotion and marketing but at the same time I was learning new ideas and ways from others.

“My friends and networks were invaluable and there were many occasions where I found myself saying if I can’t, I know someone who can.”

Reflecting on her award, Sandra’s plans can be described as ‘cc’d on more emails but responsible for fewer’.

“I love what I do, but I am also really enjoying creating space for the next generation – giving them the freedom to try, fail, succeed, learn and improve.

“Finding the right time to share my experience or ask questions to test their ideas is a skill that I am working on but I love the energy and ideas that are emerging from the younger people in our industry.

In addition to Tony and Sandra’s children finding their career paths within the industry, Sandra is expanding her mentoring to include emerging talent within the business and local industry.

“Women don’t step forward often enough and our youth are often hesitant to step forward for fear they don’t know enough.  Our industry needs the energy that comes with new thinking.”

“Every generation takes our industry forward in new directions and that means new career opportunities and the need for new and different skills. Supporting our youth to carve their own path in horticulture is such a rewarding experience.”


Awards of Excellence women in ag

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