All hands to the paddles at Canoelands Orchard

Much more than just your everyday orchard

Smart Farmer News
FAMILY AFFAIR: The Christie family, including Jaime, Mitchel, Byran, Nathan, Kirra, Trish and John, have been growing produce at Canoelands Orchard for nearly 100 years. Nectarines and blueberries are just some of the fruit they grow.

FAMILY AFFAIR: The Christie family, including Jaime, Mitchel, Byran, Nathan, Kirra, Trish and John, have been growing produce at Canoelands Orchard for nearly 100 years. Nectarines and blueberries are just some of the fruit they grow.

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When Cecil Christie left the Shetland Islands and migrated to Canoelands, approximately 60 kilometres north-west of Sydney, he would have been pleased to know his legacy would be still going strong 98 years later.

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When Cecil Christie left the Shetland Islands and migrated to Canoelands, approximately 60 kilometres north-west of Sydney, he would have been pleased to know his legacy would be still going strong 98 years later.

In that time, the operation has evolved from just an orchard to the tourist attraction it is today.

Cecil established Canoelands Orchard in 1923, growing citrus before his son John took over the reins in 1970.

The Christie's moved away from citrus, focusing on stonefruits to meet the demands of the consumer.

John's son Nathan and his family took over in 2012, and have transformed the operation from a market orchard to the family-friendly, pick-your-own fruit experience it is today.

Nathan's wife Jaime said they needed to change the business model to remain profitable.

"When we opened pick-your-own, we started planting new crops to encourage business throughout more of the year and provide for customers requests," she said.

"Moving from a standard production site to a public attraction and tourism style business was a massive change.

"Sending fruit to market was no longer profitable for us and in some cases was costing us money.

"We needed to keep our business afloat and therefore needed to deversify.

"We planted all the new plantings to cater to this new side of the business.

"On our 40 hectares we have 15000 fruit trees and 4000 berry bushes.

"We now produce peaches, nectarines, plums, apples, citrus, persimmon, pomegranite, tomatoes, eggplant, tamarillo, figs, strawberries and blueberries."

In the attempt to generate year-round business, Canoelands Orchard now have a fruit in season at most times.

"Peaches, nectarines and plums are in season from late October to January," Jaime said.

"In February, Apples come into season and run through to May while blueberries (October to February), and figs are also ready.

"Tomatoes and eggplant are ready to be harvested from March to July, while persimmon and tamarillo are ready in April.

"This season is our first for pomegranate and feijos and they should be ready ion April as well.

"Our citrus is ready in May and goes through to July while the best time for strawberries is from September to December."

The diversification of the orchard does not come without challenges as while the fruit trees generally need similar care, the berries require different treatment.

Stonefruit requires pruning during winter when dorment, flower thinning during spring, fruit thinning then daily harvesting.

There are also different pests and diseases to look out for.

"In stonefruit, we have flying foxes and birds that do a lot of damage," Jaime said.

"We have fruit fly and beetles to watch for and contend with brown rot in the later varieties, especially if there has been rain and heat.

"The weather and the amount of bush blossom play a massive roll in pests and disease issues."

Diversifying their income stream meant more than just a wider range of produce for Canoelands Orchard.

"We have added activities and tours," Jaime said.

"We now do school excursions, functions, parties and also host weddings.

"There is a kiosk on site, barista coffee and a real-fruit ice cream van.

"We have a range of animals to feed while you visit including horses, pigs, cows, goats, sheep and alpacas.

"We also offer bee tours for children and adults to learn about bees and honey in an onsite classroom.

"For junior schools and vacation care we offer a package that includes picking when available, a bee talk, a tractor ride, animal feeding and games.

"Seniors and probus groups love the adult version of the bee talk also.

"At first it was to see if we could establish an income all year round and because we could not survive on the income offered via sending fruit to market.

"It has now become a passion and we love sharing our beautiful part of the world with our customers."

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