Victorian Cherry Trail now open
Victorian cherries are ripe for the picking! With cherry season now upon us, fruit fans can enjoy sweet, juicy cherries while supporting Victorian growers this summer. The orchards on the Victorian Cherry Trail are also now open, so cherry lovers can visit gorgeous orchards, buy farm-fresh cherries and even pick their own fruit.
The Victorian cherry season runs from early November until mid-January, with the peak season in December. Across these months, there are a variety of different cherries to enjoy, so a cherry eaten at the start of the season will be different to one eaten at the end.
There are more than 80 cherry varieties, but the predominant varieties grown in Victoria are Merchant, Bing, Regina, Lapin, Sweet Georgia, Sweetheart and Van. These are all medium to large fruits, with a dark ruby-red skin and a sweet, rich taste.
The season begins in Sunraysia/north-west Victoria and northern regions and follows through to central Victoria and Melbourne surrounds. The Victorian Cherry Trail includes a tour of eight cherry orchards across four regions in the state – Upper Goulburn Valley, Yarra Valley, Macedon Ranges and the Mornington Peninsula. Some of the farms on the trail offer pick your own (PYO), or visitors can purchase farm-fresh cherries to take home with them. It’s a great day out and a fantastic way to support our legendary farmers.
Orchards on the Victorian Cherry Trail
Big Fella Cherries, Coldstream (PYO and buy farm fresh)
Blue Hills Berries & Cherries, Silvan (PYO and buy farm fresh)
Cherryhill Orchards, Coldstream (PYO and buy farm fresh)
Wandin Valley Farms, Wandin North (buy farm fresh)
Yarra Valley Cherries, Seville (buy farm fresh)
Koala Cherries, Yarck (buy farm fresh)
Red Hill Cherry Farm, Red Hill (PYO and buy farm fresh)
Naturipe Fruits, Bacchus Marsh (PYO and buy farm fresh)
It’s the little things that matter
“Cherry farmers are looking forward to sharing the incredible cherries we’re expecting this season,” says Alison Jones, President of the Victorian Cherry Association. “The last couple of years have been challenging, but now we can enjoy some quality time with friends and family. We encourage people to visit the Victorian Cherry Trail and our beautiful orchards.
“I think the challenges we have faced have made us all appreciate the smaller things in life. And sharing great seasonal produce with loved ones is one of those things. Cherries remind us that summer is on its way and that the festive season is near.”
Keen to find out more? The full Victorian Cherry Trail brochure is available for download at the Victorian Cherry Association website.
Hit the Harvest Trail
The Victorian Harvest Trail kicks off with cherries in November and December. This is followed by other stone fruit from December to March. Pears kick in next, from late January to March, while apples are harvested from February to May.
Victorian growers are worried that it will be even harder this year to find workers, as this season there are no working holiday visa job seekers available to pick and pack. But they’re hoping that locals will be inspired to try something new and take up the positions.
“Many of our usual harvest workers are those on working holiday visas,” says Michael Crisera, Growers Services Manager at Fruit Growers Victoria. “Last year was tough, as so many returned home when COVID hit. But there were at least some who stayed on.”
Those workers have now fulfilled their visas, and with no one other than Australian citizens and residents entering the country due to border closures, growers have to rely on locals to get the fruit off the trees and packed, ready for distribution.
No experience is needed to work on the Harvest Trail. There are different jobs across the season, including picking, packing, thinning and pruning. It’s an opportunity to experience regional Victoria, work outdoors, earn some cash, learn new skills and meet new people.
Season at risk
“The last 20 months have been tough on everyone, and the Victorian fruit industry knows it’s not over yet, with the whole season at risk,” Crisera says. “The repercussions of not having enough workers will not only impact the farmers themselves. The consequences will also include significant food waste and rising prices for consumers.
“We know that many people have lost their job during the pandemic. Our fruit growers have plenty of positions available. While the work is not for everyone, we’ve found that those who enjoy the outdoors love it. Fruit harvesting is also great for school-leavers, grey nomads and those looking for extra work throughout the summer months.”
Most Victorian fruit harvesting work is in the Shepparton and Goulburn Valley areas. Those who relocate to take up agricultural positions (a minimum four weeks) can apply for the federal government assistance package AgMove. This provides up to $6000 to Australian job seekers and up to $2000 for international job seekers. It’s available until the end of 2021.
To search for jobs on the Harvest Trail, head to jobsearch.gov.au