THEY may have been clueless about apples - "we had one tree that never bore a single apple" - but being business savvy has made successful orchardists of a suburban couple.
During a break to stretch their legs, Ross and Tara Cheesewright saw the potential of a little fruit barn on the Princes Highway at Bunyip, Victoria.
Nine years on, the couple owns the burgeoning Sherwood Park Orchard and cafe.
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The 18-hectare property had 350 established late-season varieties, including Sundowners, Granny Smiths and Pink Ladies.
The Cheesewrights have since planted 800 more trees, including Jonathon, Galas, Fuji and Snow apples to extend their picking season.
Another 1000 cherry trees will be ready for picking in the next two to three years.
An hour from Melbourne enroute to Gippsland, Sherwood Park Orchard is perfectly positioned for tourism.
"Ninety-nine per cent of our trade is from people passing by," Ms Cheesewright said.
Visitors pay $3 a kilogram or $2.50/kg for more than 10kg to pick their own apples.
While Ms Cheesewright is dedicated to hospitality, Mr Cheesewright is the grower and the learning curve was steep.
"The family who moved out gave us a few tips and said, 'Apple trees are tough and you can't do anything to kill them, so don't stress'," Mr Cheesewright recalled.
Understanding cherry production is the next big challenge for Mr Cheesewright.
"We're learning to prune them for the you-pick scenario," he said.
Also planned are extensions to the shop already crammed with fruit, home-made goodies and local produce.
"It's been a long and tortuous process but council has approved a modified fit-out," Ms Cheesewright said.
"But what I really want is a full commercial kitchen and, long-term, we will go back to council and see if we can get it.
"We want to take the business to the next level."
The pick-your-own season finished recently and will begin again in mid-April 2020 but fresh apples are available from the shop.
- This story first appeared on the Stock & Land.