Cherry grow­ers hop­ing for bumper har­vest

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - FRONT PAGE -

sea­son.

“Our kids have all loved this life­style, and we want to share a por­tion of that ex­pe­ri­ence with oth­ers.”

Cher­ry­hill Or­chards be­gan in 1940, when Ge­orge trees in the Yarra Val­ley.

To­day, the or­chard is run by Ge­orge’s grand­sons, Glenn and Stephen - who have ex­panded to seven sites, strate­gi­cally po­si­tion­ing their farms to pro­long pick­ing.

Like Koala Cher­ries, Cher­ry­hill start their sea­son at Co which, at 900 me­tres above sea level, ex­tends the sea­son to mid-Fe­bru­ary.

“For ev­ery 100 me­tres you go up, you gain a few days ex­tra,” Stephen Rise­bor­ough ex­plained.

“The va­ri­eties are dif­fer­ent, but the taste is al­most the same.”

time Cher­ry­hill’s Strath­bo­gie farm – pur­chased in 2014 – will be com­mer­cially picked; adding to what they hope will be a busy year.

“We hope it will be mega,” Stephen said.

“The bud­ding was re­ally strong on the trees - then at blos­som time it was a per­fect sea­son – prob­a­bly the best I’ve seen.”

Last year was not a good one for Tolmie, with New Year rain split­ting a large por­tion of the fruit – but proved to the Rise­bor­ough fam­ily that se­cond-life for spoiled prod­uct was a ne­ces­sity.

“Some of the pieces you see on the tree are per­fectly good are re­ally tight,” Stephen said.

“Last year, the qual­ity was nice but the rain made for a lot of wastage.

“Ev­ery­one puts their heart and soul into grow­ing the cher­ries – they have been wa­tered, fer­tilised, tended and cared for – so no one wants to see the prod­uct go to waste.”

Three years ago, Cher­ry­hill Or­chards cre­ated a bev­eridge line, and now sell spritzer, juice and cider.

They also open their farm for the an­nual Blos­som Fes­ti­val, at­tract­ing 10,000 vis­i­tors in seven days; all keen to cap­ture im­ages of cherry trees in bloom.

“Dif­fer­ent sales chan­nels come,” Rachel Cald­well, mar­ket­ing man­ager for Cher­ry­hill Or­chards, said.

“Tourism is re­ally big in the Yarra Val­ley – we open on-farm for u-pick, and have over 40,000 vis­i­tors in 10 weeks.

“Agri-tourism is also a de­vel­op­ing mar­ket.”

Com­pared to the big play­ers like Koala and Cher­ry­hill, Bren­dan Thomp­son is a small-time op­er­a­tor.

With four hectares un­der pro­duc­tion, cher­ries are a se­cond in­come stream.

With around 17 hectares of ch­est­nut trees his pri­mary crop, Bren­dan took over the cherry busi­ness from his fa­ther.

“Hav­ing two crops that pick at dif­fer­ent times of the cial risk,” Bren­dan said.

year we lost $15-20,000 when the fruit split with heavy rain – but this year it’s look­ing re­ally good.

“We have a nice crop on the trees; not too heavy and not too light – it should be a good sea­son.”

Ac­cord­ing to Cherry Grow­ers Aus­tralia, $164 mil­lion was spent on cher­ries in 2016, across 485 or­chards na­tion­ally.

With the 2018/2019 sea­son cur­rently un­der way, North East pro­duc­ers are hop­ing to have the best year yet.

BUMPER SEA­SON EX­PECTED: The Rise­bor­ough fam­ily have been in the cherry busi­ness for more than 70 years, when Ge­orge Rise­bor­ough planted the first Cher­ry­hill Or­chard seedling. Now, the fam­ily farm across seven prop­er­ties, and are hop­ing 2018/2019 will be one of the best on record. Pic­tured (from left) are broth­ers Glenn and Stephen Rise­bor­ough with dad Cliff.

IN THE CHERRY BUSI­NESS: Cousins Michael (left) and Si­mon Rouget own and op­er­ate Koala Cher­ries, a third gen­er­a­tion cherry grow­ing, pack­ing and mar­ket­ing busi­ness in Yarck. PHOTO: Michelle Beatty CROPS LOOK­ING GOOD: The weather dur­ing cherry bloom was mostly dry and warm, pro­vid­ing ideal grow­ing con­di­tions for fruit set.

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