Memories of glasshouses

At the moment I’m enjoying the tastes and smells of a great tomato season in Adelaide. I’m thinking about the hard work the Veneto market gardeners undertook in the glasshouses – including dismantling and putting them together again every two or so years before pesticides were used. I’m basing this blog on one I wrote in December 2019 to highlight the importance of glasshouses in the working lives of the market gardeners.

The Veneto market gardener families had glasshouses on their land although it was a form of cultivation that they had not seen used in the Veneto region. They grew tomatoes and beans in the glasshouses at Lockleys. Before chemicals were introduced to manage problems with disease, the market gardeners had to shift the glasshouses every couple of years to ensure the soil was not infected.

Johnny Marchioro explained the dimensions of the glasshouses:

Johnny and Romano Marchioro, Frogmroe Road, c 1945/46. Photo by Lina Marchioro (Rismondo)


Single glasshouses [were] only 15 foot wide and 112 foot long … The middle of the glasshouse would only be about 6 foot 6, the side would be about 4 foot 6 … every two years they used to pull them down … (OH 872/1, 28 July 2008)


Following are some memories of glasshouses of six other people extracted from their interviews for the Veneto market gardeners’ oral history project. The recordings are held in the State Library of South Australia. You can also listen to the interviews on this website on the respective family pages.

Frankie Ballestrin (OH 872/7, 12 December 2008)
We used to change glasshouses at the age of 12, 13 … My cousin and myself, homework … was to drill holes and put up a row of posts each night we come home from school.  Our parents would prepare the rails on the grounds and that was the start of setting up your glasshouse.  And we put the rail in, then they’d have the rail on top of it and then we’d come home and nail the rafters in.  You know, they’d show us what to do, sort of thing.  And then carry on from there.  And then slide up the glass and all the rest.  It wasn’t easy.

Frankie Ballestrin with rotary hoe, c 1950. Photo, courtesy of Ballestrin family.


They were very low in those years … They were only two glass high.  You could barely get in with a tractor ….  Before, we used to dig them by hand. We used to dig them by hand with a fork.



Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato (OH 872/6, 15 July 2010) Assunta speaks about her aunt and uncle and their market garden:

Assunta & Secondo Tonellato, Findon Road, c1949. Photo, courtesy, Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato.

Well tomatoes, they mainly had glasshouses, I think they would have had about twenty-five glasshouses, something like that. They used to grow tomatoes and beans in the glasshouse, and then they’d grow vegetables, we used to grow potatoes, and I don’t remember, maybe cauliflower, some cabbages, I’m not very sure about that, you know, but I know the main crop was the tomatoes and the beans that were grown in the glasshouses, and the potatoes – when the potato season was on they used to plant the potatoes outside – and this was all virtually, mainly it was all along Frogmore Road that they had the glasshouses.


Rossetto family, Lina and Gelindo and three of their children, Aldo, Romeo and Lena. Adelaide c 1937. Photo, courtesy, Lena Moscheni nee Rossetto.

Lena Moscheni nee Rossetto (OH 872/32, 28 August 2014) Lena speaks about her father, Gelindo Rossetto:

Growing tomatoes was his thing. [He had] glasshouses, and I remember he had a horse called Beauty, it was a race horse. He had like a sledge, a real big one, and when he’d go into the glasshouses and put the tomatoes in the boxes then put them on this sledge, me and Aldo used to sit on them and the horse would drag us along. I remember that.



Diana Panazzolo nee Santin  (OH 872/27, 13 September 2013)
And in the shed, in the big shed, all one side of the shed was where they’d grade the tomatoes. And so, the men would get the buckets and pour them, pour the bucket on this shelf which would sort of roll down, it was on this slant, and you’d have your half box here, another half box, another half box, you know all your little ones would go here, all your medium would go here, all the big ones would go somewhere else, and then the greener ones would go somewhere else.  And that’s how they used to grade the tomatoes all by hand.

Romildo Santin, Diana’s father. Valetta Road, c late 1940s. Photo, courtesy, Christine Rebellato nee Mattiazzo.

Dino Piovesan (OH 872/17, 23 September 2011)

Piovesan brothers – Nillo, Bruno, Dino. Adelaide, c 1945-46. Photo, courtesy, Piovesan family.

Back in those days the tomatoes would get diseases, okay, and then there was no chemicals to rid the soil of diseases like we have nowadays – you get chemical fumigants and so on that you can rid the diseases in the soil. So therefore, when they were there for a year or two, and the soil became so disease-ridden that you wouldn’t get a viable crop out of them, they had to be shifted. So, they would just be shifted post, pane of glass by pane of glass, and it had to be done in the hottest months of the year, after the last crops were out, in January and February. Again, I can remember as kids we dearly would have loved to go to the beach, but sometimes there just had to be glasshouses that had to be shifted. The glasses were that hot, you’d pick up two or three glasses at a time and you would almost drop them because they would be sitting in the sun, and really so hot that they were hard to handle.

Anna Santin nee Mattiazzo (OH 872/24, 17 April 2013)

Vito and Anna Santin nee Mattiazzo, Frogmore Road, c 1960s. Photo courtesy Anna Santin.


The crops used to finish around about December. January, February … you had to take down all the glasses and put them in boxes so they could shift the posts in a different part, and the men used to, the men used to be inside with us women on the outside pushing the glasses up. Oh, it was very, very hot … you’d burn your hands just about, and it had to be done until after, a few years afterwards, they used to inject the dirt in the glasshouses so they didn’t have to be shifted anymore.



Madeleine Regan
15 January 2022

New Year and tomatoes

Happy New Year to you! I hope that you will enjoy good health, new opportunities and endeavours – and the support and companionship of family and friends in 2023.

At this time of year in Adelaide we are usually picking tomatoes in our back garden but because we had a long period of cool weather in October and November, some  vegetables are not ready. We’re waiting for those first juicy tomatoes that we’ll eat with fragrant basil. Our tomatoes will probably be ready in mid-January. Not long to wait now!

I’ve been thinking of the group of Veneto market gardeners who established their gardens in what they called the Lockleys area during the 1930s. They arrived between 1926 and 1928 and within a few years they were able to lease land within about two kilometres of each other. The families were able to buy their market garden after the war. Most of them grew tomatoes and beans in glasshouses. Some grew celery and other ‘outside’ vegetables. I reflect on the working lives of the market gardeners at this time of year …

Map of western suburbs of Adelaide c 1930s. Market garden area highlighted in red. Map, used with permission from the City of Charles Sturt.

In this blog you can read very brief details of the men who were the first to migrate and a little about their families. You can view a series of photos of the various first generation of the market gardeners. Thank you to all the family members who have given permission to use their photos over the years.

Ballestrin families

Ballestrin truck, loaded to take tomatoes to Melbourne in a train strike. c 1950s. Clipping, courtesy Frankie Ballestrin.

Three Ballestrin men who arrived in 1927 were brothers, Antonio and Isidoro, and their cousin, Giuseppe who was only 17 years old. Within a few years, other Ballestrin relatives arrived  including another brother of Antonio and Isidoro, Narciso and their mother and youngest sister. The Ballestrin families first worked at Virginia and took up their various market gardens in the Flinders Park area in the early 1940s.

Berno brothers

Pietro & Alberto Berno, Valetta Road, mid-1960s. Photo from ‘La Fiamma.’

The first Berno brother to arrive in Adelaide was Fedele who migrated in 1926 and returned to Riese Pio X after several years. Alberto came in 1926 and Pietro arrived with cousin, Gino, in 1927.  Albino, another brother, arrived later in 1938. Albert and Pietro with their wives, Elvira and Antonietta, worked about 40 glasshouses on Valetta Road before they moved back to Riese Pio X with their families in 1969.

Marchioro – Francesco and Margherita

Francesco and Margherita Marchioro with their first two daughters, Mary and Lina, Adelaide 1927. Connie was born later.

Francesco arrived with his wife, Margherita and daughter, Mary in 1926. They had come from Malo in the Province of Vicenza and were the only married couple in the Veneto market gardener community for the first three or so years. They worked a market garden on Frogmore Road and in 1the early 1940s moved to the other side of the River Torrens at Lockleys where they grew tomatoes in glasshouses. Margherita worked the market gardens with assistance from her eldest daughters when her husband died in 1945.


Marchioro, Vittorio
Vittorio was sponsored by his brother, Francesco, and he arrived in Adelaide in 1927. He worked initially with his sister-in-law, Margherita on Frogmore Road and then by himself.

Johnny and Vittorio Marchioro in one of the glasshouses at Bolivar, early 1970s.

Vittorio and his wife Angelina and children, Johnny and Romano, moved to White Avenue, Lockleys on the other side of the River Torrens in about 1949. Johnny became a market gardener and worked with his wife, Eleonora, for more than 40 years at Bolivar.

Angelo Piovesan

Rosalia and Angelo Piovesan with their sons and members of the Tonellato family, Frogmore Road, c1938.

Angelo Piovesan travelled on the same ship as Secondo Tonellato and Giovanni Santin in August 1927. Angelo worked land on Frogmore Road and also had shares in a mica mine in the Northern Territory where he worked with other Veneto men for some years.

When Angelo died suddenly in 1949 aged 43 years, his sons, Nillo, Dino and Bruno, worked in the market garden with their mother, Rosalia, and their uncle Attilio.

Guido & Brunone Rebuli, Adelaide c 1946.


Brunone Rebuli from Bigolino arrived in 1927 in the company of three Rossetto brothers-in-law. After working on Kangaroo Island working for a farmer, he established a market garden on Frogmore Road near one of the bridges on the River Torrens. His wife Giovanna nee Rossetto and three young children, Dorina, Albino and Elvio arrived in 1931 and Guido was born in 1938. Brunone died in 1947 and older sons, Albino and Elvio, worked the garden for some years.


Giovanni Recchi, Findon Road, 1966.


Giovanni Recchi had arrived in 1927 from the Marche region of Italy and with his wife, Antonia who came from the Campania region. In 1946 with their eight-year-old twins, Aida and Mel, they moved to Flinders Park in 1946 where they had about nine acres. They were neighbours to, and became close friends with the Veneto market gardener families in the area. The Recchi family grew tomatoes in six glasshouses and also cultivated celery and potatoes.



Rossetto family
In 1927 three Rossetto brothers – Gelindo, Adeodato and Angelo and their brother-in-law, Brunone Rebuli, – arrived in Adelaide sponsored by their brother Domenico who had migrated the previous year.

Gelindo, Lina and Romeo Rossetto, Lockleys, c 1931.

Later, four other siblings migrated leaving just one in Bigolino with their ageing parents. Giovanna, the eldest daughter, was married to Brunone Rebuli. Gelindo had land on the southern side of the River Torrens and he also had shares in a mica mine in the Northern Territory. The other brothers had employment in different fields. Gelindo’s wife, Lina, joined him in 1930 and they first lived in a tent on the market garden.

Giovanni Santin was the eldest of the Veneto men who arrived in 1927. He was 41 years old and had already spent about ten years as a miner in Canada.

Costantina and Giovanni Santin, Valetta Road, mid 1940s.

He brought his wife Costantina and his children Luigi, Vito, Romildo and Virginia to Adelaide in 1937. In the early 1940s they leased land on Valetta Road from the Berno brothers before buying the family market garden on Frogmore Road. Their sons worked in partnership with their wives, Rosina nee Tonellato, Anna and Clara on Frogmore Road and moved to land at Bolivar. Vito’s son, Dean and Romildo’s son, Alan also worked with their parents for some time.

Tonellato family c 1947. Back: Lui, Orlando, Rosina, Lino, Albert. Front: Secondo, Assunta, Elisabetta

Secondo Tonellato came from Caselle di Altivole, the same village as Giovanni Santin. It was eight years before Secondo’s wife Elisabetta and their five children, Lui, Rosina, Alberto, Lino and Orlando arrived and the family lived on the market gardens in a train carriage. Assunta joined the family in 1937 after her mother died. The Tonellato family was one of the largest market Veneto gardener families and as the sons came of age, they acquired land and glasshouses and the two youngest worked with their father for some years on Frogmore Road.

Noemi, Renato & Eugenio Zalunardo, Malia Bernardi, Grange Road, c1964

Eugenio Zalunardo had also arrived in 1927 and by the late 1930s he had leased land abutting the Tonellato market garden and was growing tomatoes and beans in glasshouses and some outside vegetables. He married Luigia Ballestrin in 1943. Their daughter Noemi worked in the garden full-time with her father when she left school and after her mother died in 1965. Renato also assisted with the market garden as he grew up.


Silvano (Gerry) Zampin, Findon, late 1970s.

Silvano Zampin arrived in Adelaide in January 1928 – 95 years ago. He had been sponsored by his brother, Peter who died in a car accident in Adelaide in 1930. Silvano married an Irish Australian woman,  Amelia Shaw, and they had nine children. Silvano and Amelia worked a market garden on the south side of the River Torrens for some years before they bought their own property at Findon. After the war, Silvano sponsored his bother, Nico and his wife, Delia who had a market garden close to other Veneto families for some  ears before they returned to Riese Pio X.


You can read more detailed biographies of the first generation of the Veneto market gardener families on their individual pages on the website. You can also listen to interviews, read transcripts and view other family photos. When you eat your next fresh tomato, you might think of the Veneto market gardeners!


Madeleine Regan
1 January 2023

Christmas traditions and the end of the year

Christmas traditions

In Italy the nativity crib is called a presepe.  It is a three-dimensional scene of the stable with figurines that include Mary, Joseph, shepherds, people from everyday life and the three wise men. The size of the nativity scene can vary and may include buildings and features that display an entire village and rural landscape.

The presepi are usually displayed in Italian homes and churches from 8th December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, to 6th January, the feast of the Epiphany. Presepi are also displayed in piazzas, shops and other public areas. The figures can vary in scale from miniature to life size and in many families, preparations for the presepe begin a long time before it is displayed. In some villages, the local council holds competitions for the best presentation of a presepe.

Presepe created by Irene Zampin, Caselle di Altivole, December 2022. Photo by Irene Zampin.

Irene Zampin who lives in Caselle di Altivole creates her own presepe each year and spends a lot of time planning and organising the scene for the nativity story. She sent photos to show this year’s model which she began working on in October/November. It is made of pieces of cardboard cut from boxes. The bushes and palm trees are made of felt and she bought the figures.  Irene cut the polystyrene balls in half and sprayed them with gold paint. It took Irene about a week to put the presepe together. She says: “I enjoy doing these things and they give me lots of satisfaction.”


You can watch the short video below (about 1.5 minutes) made by Irene that shows the presepe she created this year. You will be able to appreciate the intricate details of the scenes that she has designed for the presepe which is in her house.

Christmas tree made by volunteers in the municipality of Altivole. Photo by Irene Zampin.



Irene has also been involved with a volunteer group in her local area who made Christmas trees from crocheted squares. The group of women was organised by the Mayor of the Altivole municipality who is a woman.  The group made three trees – one each for the villages of Caselle, Altivole and San Vito in the municipality.  The Christmas trees are 280 cm high and each one has around 300 crocheted squares.  They have been placed near the churches.





Vivian Miotto has also sent photos of presepi near where she lives at San Pietro di Feletto in the province of Treviso about 60 kilometres north of Venice.

Presepe at Segusino. Photo by Vivian Miotto.
Presepe at Cison di Valmarino. Photo by Vivian Miotto.

Looking back on 2022
In this the final blog for 2022, it’s an opportunity to look back on the year …

I’d like to acknowledge two people who were interviewed for the Veneto market gardeners’ oral history project and who died during this year:

  • Lina Rismondo nee Marchioro died on 15th January 2022, aged 94 years
  • Lino Tonellato who died on 4 September aged 95 years.

The website
I’d like to thank Michael Campbell and for all the work he undertakes in his role as administrator of the website which involves daily security checks. Michael has designed the website and he maintains it to ensure that it continues to be accessible and available to a wide group of subscribers.

Thank you to the following people who wrote blogs for the website this year:

  • Irene Zampin, 3 and 17 April
  • Rosa Parletta nee Balestrin, 8 May
  • Aida Innocente, 22 May
  • Raoul Pietrobon, 25 September
  • Remo Berno, 9 October
  • Anna Mechis nee Rebellato, 23 October
  • Anna Baronian nee Carniello, 20 November.

I am also grateful to Amanda Rossetto and Raoul Pietrobon who contributed to the Veneto market gardener families and friends gathering on 22 October. Their presentations provided those of us who were there with new insights into Veneto families and their experience of migration to Adelaide in the 1920s and the generations who followed them.

Finally, I wish you all a happy festive season and I hope you enjoy Christmas and New Year celebrations with family and friends. With all good wishes for 2023.

Madeleine Regan
18 December 2022


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