For years, the core business of Glenbernie Orchard at Darkes Forest was producing table fruit to sell to major supermarkets.
- Illawarra orchard plants 800 new cider trees as part of a major expansion for producing the alcoholic drink
- The varieties of apple will allow the farm to produce more complex cider than that made with table apples
- Consistent rain in 2020 means it is expected to be a strong growing season on the farm
And while market pressures meant they turned to producing cider from their apples to increase income, the experiment has become a major part of the business.
“We’ve just planted about 800 trees of different types of cider varieties from England and France, and we’re really excited because we just got them in the ground before it rained,” orchard owner Joanne Fahey said.
“This crop will be an opportunity to make single-variety, interesting ciders, but before then we’ll be blending them with our current table varieties.
She said the new planting represented a major diversification for the business and showed the importance of farms adapting to provide a variety of products or experiences.
“In time, cider will be very much central to what we’re doing,” she said.
“We’re looking at being able to ferment on site and do some small-batch ciders that are in a champagne style or ageing some cider in oak.
“It gives us a chance to educate people coming in and give them a different experience where you can learn about the growing of the fruit, through to processing it and enjoy the fruits of the labour with food.”
Good rain sets farm up for summer
While 2020 has been a globally challenging year with COVID-19, there is a major silver lining for agriculture — rain.
Following devastating drought and bushfires, this year has brought consistent rain that filled dams on Ms Fahey’s property and nourished her trees.
“The bush around us is a lot more happy, and from within the farm, the soil profile is full of water, so going into summer that’s a great thing,” she said.
She said the rain had given them time to prepare for when it was dry again.
For her family, that meant perfecting an automated watering system that allowed them to control watering across the farm remotely from an office.
In the short term, however, it will be a strong start for her new cider apple trees.
“With baby trees, it’s settled them into the ground really nicely; it was the day before it started raining that we got the last one planted.”
Expansion to help promote drink’s potential
Ms Fahey believes cider can be consumed in the same way people drink wine.
While many commercial ciders are produced as sweet alcoholic drinks, Ms Fahey said complexities in the apple juice lent themselves to being matched with a variety of foods.
“We can make ciders that pair with different types of foods, so we can think of one that might be a strong-flavoured cider that stands up to being eaten with blue cheese or something drier and has a grippiness to it.
“Others could pair with oysters or pasta, and if we think of cider like wine, we can think how we can pair it with food, so it’s really exciting.”