Fruit straight from the source

Laura Little discovers a growing number of farms giving people an opportunity to select their own fruit straight off the vine.

FRUIT picking has traditionally been viewed as a job for backpackers who were more than happy to spend long days working in the hot sun while they made their way around Australia. But in recent years something has changed. Families eager to cut costs and spend time in the fresh air are flocking to pick-your-own farms around Melbourne to select their fruit at the source.

These farms, such as Bacchus Marsh’s Naturipe Fruits provide an opportunity to buy the freshest produce possible at prices lower than the supermarkets. Naturipe Fruits owner, David Durham says fruit picking has become more popular as visitors to his farm share their experiences with family and friends.

‘‘Every year it gets busier. Families seem to enjoy the fresh air and picking the fruit themselves. They like knowing that it’s fresh.

‘‘Most of our visitors are tourists from the western suburbs on day trips to the area. Though, we do have a lot of repeat visitors who live in the town.’’

Melton’s Naomi Matthews and her sons, Dillon, 7, and Riley, 5, are visiting Durham’s farm for the first time. The boys relish the chance to explore the rows of strawberry plants just inside the farm’s entrance in search of the juiciest and fattest strawberries possible. Matthews says the boys love eating fresh fruit and enjoy being able to pick it themselves. The family grows vegetables at home and raise chickens.

‘‘We are really into growing our own food,’’ Matthews says. ‘‘We drive past the farm all the time and I thought that fruit picking would be a good thing to do.’’

She says a big part of the visit to the farm is explaining to her sons how strawberries grow and how to judge if they are ready to be picked.

‘‘The boys love being able to take [the strawberries] straight from the plant and seeing how the fruit grows. And, we know the fruit we pick here is fresh.’’

Durham opened the farm about 12 years ago with the aim of providing people somewhere to pick their own fruit.

‘‘We thought it would be a good way for us to get help picking our fruit,’’ he says. ‘‘Maintaining the farm is a lot of work and picking is a big expense for us. If people pick a little of the fruit it helps us in a big way.’’

The farm, on The Avenue of Honour, grows strawberries, cherries, peaches, apples and nectarines. The picking season begins in October and finishes in April. Durham says the cherry and strawberry crops are among the most popular each year. Cherries can be picked in November and December, while strawberries are ready from October to April, keeping Durham and his staff busy throughout summer. Peaches and nectarines are only available in December and January, while apples aren’t ripe until February through to April.

Durham says this summer has been good for the farm, with warm weather encouraging the fruit to grow. There has also been very little rain and hail this year, which in previous years has damaged crops and reduced the yield.

At Woodend Berry Farm, the phone has been ringing all summer with people hoping to pick their own berries. But a poor yield this year has forced manager David Mulholland to sell the blueberries ready picked.

‘‘A lot of owners don’t like people picking their own fruit because they knock the trees over, but people love doing it,’’ says Mulholland. ‘‘We let them in here because it is easy to repair the damage. Unfortunately this year we haven’t been able to let people pick their own blueberries. It hasn’t been a good season for us. Hopefully next year will be a better year.’’

The farm’s 1000 trees usually produce three tonnes of blueberries a year – this year they have only produced a third of that. The farm has been operating as a pick-your-own farm for about 20 years, opening its gates to the public in January and February each year.

‘‘We get people coming from Sydney and a lot of repeat visitors,’’ Mulholland says. ‘‘A lot of people say the fact that we are an organic farm plays a big part in their decision to come back.’’

Like Durham, Mulholland has noticed an increase in people looking to pick their own fruit. He believes the country air plays a big part in people’s desire to pick blueberries, while others relish the chance to ensure they are buying fresh, organic produce. 

‘‘People love coming out here and picking the fruit. They enjoy just wandering around the gardens.’’

But, it’s not only large-scale fruit farms that have got people interested in picking their own fruit. Wyndham Vale-based Shoestring Gardening reports an increase in people asking for advice on growing fruit trees at home. 

‘‘It’s an urban revolution for growing your own food. People want to grow food they know is fresh and they can trust. They want to know it is full of nutrients,’’ says co-ordinator Karen Bembridge. 

‘‘We receive a lot of requests for workshops and can’t keep up with the demand.’’

Bembridge says many people don’t realise they can grow fruit in their garden even if they don’t have lots of land. 

She says kitchen gardens and community gardens also encourage people to grow and pick their own fruit.


• For more information about pick-your-own farms in Moorabool, visit

• The Shoestring Gardening website has news and hints about creating backyard food gardens. Visit