Family fruit and brewing in Darkes Forest
For three generations, Glenbernie Orchard in the Northern escarpment of the Illawarra has been tended by the hands of the Fahey family. The 25 hectare property, purchased by Edward Fahey at the beginning of The Second World War, has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1939.
“Back in those days, the family lived in a little house with a tin roof and a dirt floor, with chickens and a backyard veggie patch,” explains second generation Jo-Anne Fahey, daughter-in-law to now 83-year-old Edward. “They sold timber for a living and, once they had cleared enough space, started planting fruit trees. In 1952, the first commercial crop of fruit was sold.”
The property has since expanded to over 20,000 fruit trees, growing a wide variety of apples, peaches and nectarines, as well as smaller crops of apricots, plums, blueberries, raspberries and persimmons. Over the years, the family began experimenting with their fruit, and the Orchard shop, The Apple Shack, is now stocked with a range of homemade products.
“You start with an apple, and you transform that into apple juice. From apple juice, you make apple cider, and from apple cider comes apple cider vinegar,” explains Jo-Anne. “As many products as we can think of, we make from our apples.”
Although now the last remaining apple orchard in the Illawarra, Jo-Anne says there’s been a resurgence of farming in recent years, buoyed by increasing community interest in sourcing locally.
“The Illawarra is certainly coming of age in terms of food and produce,” explains Jo-Anne. “In years gone by, we’ve been defined by the coal and mining industry, but that’s starting to change. People have woken up to the fact that we’ve got some of the best local produce around and it’s time we started celebrating that.”