EACH summer, the team at Thornbrook Orchard, Nashdale, near Orange, welcomes hundreds of visitors to their orchard for cherry picking.
Thornbrook Orchard is a family affair, run by Paula Charnock, her brother-in-law Paul Eccleston, and her parents Arthur and Janet Treweek.
The orchard was established by Paula’s grandparents Joseph and Patricia Treweek in the 1950s, and now includes cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, table grapes, figs, apples and pears.
Paula grew up in the orchard and returned to the family business last year.
A big part of the business now is the pick your own experience, and cherries are the most popular fruit to pick.
Visitors can pick their own cherries for $6 a kilogram, and this year’s picking season began in mid November.
“Mum and dad have been doing that now for about 15 years,” Paula said.
“We get a lot of people come out to us from Sydney for cherries.
“Many of them are international visitors so they're often here for a 10-day tour, and coming to Orange that's their outback experience.
“There are several orchards around Orange that do pick your own and so it’s great for tourism in the area.”
For many people, picking fresh cherries is a must-do summer experience.
“People love picking fruit because they want the fresh produce and they want to see where it comes from,” Paula said.
“We've had people get there and the cherries have been really nice, so they’ll call their friends, and they come.
“We get lots of families and extended families, particularly people from middle eastern countries.
“They’ll bring a massive spread of food and have picnic under the trees, then take home heaps of cherries for their families as gifts.”
Part of the work now involves teaching visitors how to pick cherries, which is crucial for the longevity of the orchard.
“We actually take them down the paddock and teach them how to pick, because if you knock off the budwood you affect next year's cherries and if you knock off too much the cherries won't grow again,” Paula said.
“That’s all part of the experience and what makes the day so good. It’s not just the interaction with nature, trees and food but the whole process, which is what people say they really love.”
It’s a big change from a few decades ago, when the fruit was predominantly sent to Flemington Markets in Sydney.
“Mum and dad got sick of doing all the work for no return, but once a few farmers markets got going we started that, then they opened up the orchard for picking.”
The produce is sold at Dubbo, Orange, Bathurst and Blayney markets.
“We’re at a market every Saturday, which gets the produce out there,” Paula said.
It’s all hands on deck, with Arthur and Janet still involved every day.
Arthur is certainly a big asset to the pick your own business.
“Our visitors just like dad. He’s always got his normal work clothes on and an old tattered hat and they love it. He can't retire – he has to be there to say hello.”
There’s plenty of history in the orchard, with the family still harvesting with the original vines of black muscat grapes.
“We’ve still got nan’s grape block, we’ve just repegged them,” Paula said.
“With the trees you have to turn them over every 15 or 20 years, and they have a lot of sentimental value to my mum and dad.
“Every tree in the orchard has a memory for dad – it's not just a business for him and they’re not just trees. He’s still here every day and loves watching the trees and fruit grow.”
The orchard is now open every day, except for Christmas Day.
“Boxing Day is actually our biggest day because we have a lot of people from different cultures who don't celebrate Christmas, but they're on holidays from work,” Paula said.
“Our visitors would come on Christmas Day if we let them.”