IN the fertile Dumaresq Valley, New South Welshfolk stick to Queensland standard time - as the border is only a stone's throw from the river's edge.
Here, fertigated pumpkins are producing 70 tonnes from the season's first hectare and Stefano and Bianca Zappa are comfortable with the fact that during retirement they aren't farming 60 hectares.
After all, harvest involves only the two of them.
The extended Zappa family have been growing commercial pumpkins for three decades in the Dumaresq Valley, formerly at New Farm where up to seven varieties were sown.
Now on Bianca's brother's farm a little way down river, the couple have slowed down, with just 8ha under their management and Stefano doing the heavy lifting while Bianca wipes the big Sampson fruit as they are placed into large cardboard cartons.
They used to work with the likes of 2011 Royal Show Legend Arthur Johns, long-time chairman of the northern district exhibit court, whose passion was collecting specimens for the annual display.
Mrs Zappa recalls how he cut hay and bundled it by hand.
'We gave him minikens, gold nuggets, sweet dumplings ...' she said, recalling the cucurbit varieties. 'We wrapped them in shredded paper for protection.'- Bianca Zappa talking about Arthur Johns.
"We gave him Miniken, Gold Nugget, Sweet Dumpling along with Jarrahdale, Kent and Butternut," she said.
"We wrapped them in shredded paper for protection."
This year's exhibit, on a soaring stage that wraps around its audience, will reflect the historic theme of 200 years at Sydney Royal and it will not be divided into the traditional five districts but rather be as one, united in the quest to show Australian produce in its best light.
The change in design is just as well, given a deficit of show-quality produce in the southern and central districts where wet and cold weather has had a negative impact.
There are virtually no cereals fit for a judge's eye, while pumpkin plants, their flowers unfertilised, are ploughed back into the soil.
Chairman for the southern district Ken Hewitt said cucurbits were "non-existent" and grain weather-affected
"It's been too cold and too wet," he said.
"The season has been 'too good'. It's actually opposite to what people think but everything's inferior with the cold weather. Grain is our biggest worry. It's in a shambles, but we'll get through it."
At Bega, corn had no cobs and pumpkins were only the size of a football.
"At Griffith, the early veggies are being ploughed back in. Here at Crookwell it's much the same," he said.
"At least it's been good for growing grasses and cattle are thriving."
Chairman of the central district Dianna Muller said floods on the Liverpool Plains had created very different outcomes for grain.
"There's been a lot of cold and wet weather," she said. "And pumpkins are non-existent. It's been so wet."
The central district extends from Macksville to Wee Waa and down the west side of the Hunter Valley to Gosford on the Central Coast.
"We have a lot of diversity in production, from wheat and wool to horticulture," said Mrs Muller from her Walcha home.
"But the points scored at the show are based on the value of the commodity, so grains equal the most points ... and we don't have any (show-worthy) grain."
In her 28 years of involvement this green season is worse than a drought.
"Added to that is the anxiety of COVID - a lot of volunteers are worried about that, or they've already had it and can't afford to take more time off from work," she said.
"This year really is worse than 2019."
In the western district a lack of growing seasons in recent years combined with pandemic uncertainty has left volunteers struggling to source suitable produce.
Even the northern district has felt crop delays due to the cool wet, with pecans in the Dumaresq Valley behind schedule, yet sorghum further west at Yallaroi looks the picture as it finished in near perfect dry conditions.
Fortunately, volunteers with the North Ryde SES unit have offered to lend a hand in creating the exhibit, under the command of Rex Honey, and the offer of good support as a back-up volunteer force has made organisers feel a little more comfortable.
The big mural planned for this year's exhibit will be created by a host of volunteers, including loyal Maureen Barnes of Dungog who has been in the role for half a century.
And to help thank extended families who have donated produce to the show for 100 years or more, there will be an award in their honour, offered at this year's bicentennial Sydney Royal Show.
Sign up here to Good Fruit and Vegetables weekly newsletter for all the latest horticulture news each Thursday...
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.