Pictured: Mark and Ian Smith (Pic. From R & R Smith Website – unattributed)
09.11.1941 – 18.10.2023
Ian Smith, legend of the Tasmanian fruit industry, avid sailor, and classic car racer, passed away on 18 October, aged 82. A farewell service was held at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmanian on Friday 27 October.
Ian was a third generation apple orchardist who not only survived but thrived in a difficult industry whose high-water mark had passed many years ago. When he joined his father in the business, they changed it to an intensive orchard, increasing from 800 trees a hectare to 2800.
The fact that Ian’s father died when he was just 21 meant he assumed huge responsibilities early.
In 1967 bushfires went through the Huon Valley and burnt down their packing shed. Ian learned to weld and rebuilt the shed himself. This was the start of a can-do attitude and life approach to doing everything himself. The apple industry changed with England joining the EEC and like many, Ian started building his own coolstores for fruit. He became somewhat an expert on refrigeration and storage. He created change, forged forward in a declining industry with a fearless approach. It made him into a strong and stoic business man which at times made for challenging relationships. Not letting empathy or emotion stop him from arguing a matter of principle. Ian was officially recognised in everything he ever did - he became a legend of the fruit industry.
Ian had an outstanding sailing career. He represented Australia in the World One Ton Cup in America and did 20 Sydney to Hobarts, most as skipper of his own boats.
He also became heavily involved in car racing - he brought a Mini Cooper S into Australia which was ahead of its time, and held a lap record at Baskerville for many years.
Ian Smith is survived by wife Carolyn, Andrew and Ellie, Vanessa, Claudette, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
As a 20-year-old, Ian’s son Andrew (SVC 1980-86) made a deal with his dad – he would work in the orchard for six months if he could 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. It was a bold move, transforming the orchard to organic, and involved a lot of new techniques and training to achieve. With a new focus on organic farming and the use of the apples in our cider, was to bring back the glory of the ‘Apple Isle’ days once more.