AFTER some cold and very wet months, the Cornish family are praying for sunny skies to help finish off their Christmas cherry varieties.
Simon and Susan Cornish, with Simon’s brother Craig, grow 17 varieties of cherries in their 25,000-tree orchard for their Kenton Valley Cherry business near Gumeracha.
They have grown cherries there since 1993, after diversifying from a non-lucrative potato business.
This season they expect to pick about 300 tonnes, which Simon says is a high production year, but it has not been a good year because of weather damage.
They started picking on November 15 and expect to finish mid-January.
But they need more warm weather to ripen up their Christmas cherries.
“We do not want to see any more rain or hail, because it has already been so cold and wet,” Simon said.
Simon estimates they lost about 40 per cent of their early varieties to splitting from rain and hail in late November.
They are fortunate to be able to sell their better seconds through their on-site cafe, while the rest are fed to cattle on-farm.
“The cafe is our main retail outlet for our seconds as they don’t travel well,” Susan said.
“We get nothing but positive feedback through the shop, which is a stark contrast to dealing with the market.
“Customers take a personal interest in what we do. They come in and sympathise with us when we have a hail event, which is lovely.
“They’re more interested in what varieties the cherries are, how they’re grown, than whether they’re perfect looking.”
Their first-rate cherries are sold to supermarkets and markets nationally.
Simon says the market is still relatively strong, but expected prices to drop off as the Christmas glut began.
To try and offset some of the price drop, Simon says they look to overseas markets, such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Canada, to find some value.
Simon says they grow 17 varieties of cherries to ensure a continuation of the crop throughout the season.
“We like to have at least two varieties on the go at any one time, so there’s always a backup,” Simon said.
“Traditional variety Stella is one of the best we grow. It is a good cropper with good size and is ripe just before Christmas.”
Second-rate fruit given second chance
THE Cornish family have been selling cherries at their Kenton Valley property for 12 years, starting out with a few shed sales to today running a full-time cafe, which can seat up to 55 people for morning and afternoon tea.
The cafe enables them to sell their second-rate cherries either fresh or in packaged products. They get up to five buses of visitors a week.
“We sell about 10 per cent of our cherries through the cafe,” Simon Cornish said.
Susan Cornish makes cherry jam, paste, topping, chutney and preserved cherries to sell in the shop, while they also sell homemade cherry pies and crumbles, cherry almond cake, muffins, slice, scones, choc cherry brownies and cherry icecream.
“I also make other fruit jams, marmalades and pastes, depending on what local fruits are available,” she said.