Red Hill Cherry Farm – Family History
The Holmes family originally came from Sussex England on the ship “William Hammond” in 1859.
They lived in Naracoorte, South Australia for a short period of time where my Great, Great, Grand father worked as a bricklayer. The Family then travelled from South Australia to Red Hill by a horse drawn wagon in the late 1890’s. The Family settled in three valleys at the head of Stoney Creek in Red Hill.
As they cleared the land of gum trees, they milled the logs with saw mills powered by a waterwheel on the creek line in what is now Endeavour Gully. The milled timber was then shipped from Dromana to the growing city of Melbourne.
They planted apple trees and strawberries which were taken to sell at Melbourne Market by horse drawn wagon which took three days there and back. Once they reached St. Kilda on the return trip they slept on the back of the wagon and allowed the horse to make its way home.
In 1900 the rail line was constructed to Bittern near Hastings, this allowed the farmers to deliver fruit to the Melbourne Markets easier. They only needed to take the fruit by horse drawn wagon to Bittern. In 1920 the rail line was extended to Red Hill this allowed the fruit to be shipped by rail direct to Melbourne.
My Father Harold and Mother Betty, with the help of my Grandfather Rob Holmes bought the Prossors Lane farm in 1945. There were some young apples trees already growing on the property. They then prepared more ground and planted 100 cherry trees and more apple trees.
Back in 1969 cherry prices at the Melbourne Market were so low that my Father Harold decided it was not worth picking the crop and left it to fall to the ground. As teenagers Trevor and his sister painted a bright orange sign “Pick Your Own Cherries” and nailed it onto an old rickety ladder and placed it at the bottom of the hill on Nepean Highway. They sold out of cherries over the weekend. Thus began the oldest Pick Your Own Cherry Farm in Victoria.
Trevor went into partnership with his Father in 1971. The apple trees were gradually replaced by cherry trees. We started with 100 cherry trees which included the varieties of Burgstorf, Bedford and Eagle. (See the picture of the old orchard (top of the page). Due to a serious accident to his Father, Trevor and his wife took over the farm management. Together with their daughter Suzanne and son Daryl the farm now has 4500 cherry trees including twenty five varieties.
About Cherries and the Varieties
We select cherry varieties that suit our growing area and that have unique intense flavour. The reason that people want to pick their own cherries is the flavour and freshness of the fruit. We sell our entire crop of cherries from the farm. The varieties we grow today are:- Lewis, Merchant, Vista, Bing, Van, Stella, Lapins, Simone, Sir Don, Williams, Sweet Heart, Sweet Georgia and many others. We also grow Sour Morellos which are a cooking cherry.
Cherries develop 60% of their sweetness and flavour in the last week of ripening, if cherries are picked early to send to Market they tend to lack the full sweet flavour of tree ripened fruit. The flavour is also created by the growing methods used.
The cool Red Hill climate and the rich volcanic soils add to the unique flavour of the cherries. We grow green manure crops between the trees to help sweeten the ground. We also use organic and biodynamic preparations, essences and sustainable agricultural methods only. (We do not use artificial fertilizers.)
Splitting and Cracking of Cherries
Unlike apples and pears cherries only have a short shelf life especially in hot weather. On hot days, chill cherries as soon as possible, we suggest you bring a cold bag and ice bricks to help maintain freshness. They will deteriorate once off the trees. Other things that affect the quality of fruit in the last week, the fruit can be susceptible to too much water/rain causing the tree to absorb the rain causing the inside of the cherry to expand rapidly splitting the outside skin. This gives the moisture somewhere to escape leaving a higher concentrate of sugars.