Darkes Glenbernie Orchard has been recognised by its peers as one of the best in the nation.
The Darkes Forest family business won the inaugural Agri-Tourism Award at the Apple and Pear Australia (APAL) Awards for Excellence during a function in Melbourne on Thursday, 1 June.
Darkes Glenbernie Orchard is a sixth-generation family farm, which grows apples and other fruit and also makes cider under the Darkes brand.
Orchard owner Jo-Anne Fahey said the award was a tremendous thrill, reflecting the importance of agri-tourism.
“I have also just come back from our National Australian Cider Conference held in WA, where I visited many horticultural agri-tourism businesses as an opportunity to understand what others are doing in this space,” Ms Fahey said.
“There’s some awesome work being demonstrated over there and I have returned with a sense of renewed inspiration.”
“Creating connections and understanding in the community about growing food and the value-adding chain is integral to our story, sharing knowledge for us is as important as sharing our world award-winning ciders,” Ms Fahey added.
“I am pretty proud of our bonafide approach to farm educational experiences here at Glenbernie, and to have industry peers recognise our high-quality work in this space is quite special.”
Ms Fahey told Region Illawarra in April that the orchard’s roots went back to 1939, when it began with the aim of keeping the Fahey family safe during the onset of war.
“I think the fact that we are still here is a major achievement, and the fact that on top of that, we’ve actually continued to grow the business. I’m quite proud of the fact that we’ve been able to create new brands,” she said.
The orchard produces the acclaimed Darkes Cider, which has picked up several awards over the years for both its apple and Perry (pear) cider.
Looking ahead, the Fahey family has plans for a cidery, cafe and a larger retail area.
The APAL Awards for Excellence recognise the outstanding contributions of those who’ve helped to shape and influence the apple and pear industry across all areas, from researching and growing through to marketing and exporting.
The Agri-Tourism Award is open to individuals, teams or businesses who demonstrate excellence in the promotion of apples and pears through programs and initiatives that shine a positive light on the industry.
Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh congratulated the farm and the family on the award.
“What a terrific result and what a wonderful story the Darkes Glenberinie Orchard is for our region,” Mr Sleigh said.
“Congratulations go to Jo and all of the team. The orchard is a product of their labour and love and it should fill us all with a sense of pride that we have one of the nation’s best orchards right here in Wollongong.”