The rain stayed away which meant Paula and I were lucky enough to walk around the pick-your-own section of Hillside Harvest Orchard. We spent the afternoon talking about Paula’s family’s orchard history, the recent purchase of Hillside Harvest and how the weather is affecting this season’s crops.
Straight up, I would describe Paula as being an extremely talented multi-tasker. She’s a wife, a mother of two young children, part-owner of a small business – Thornbrook Orchard, Hillside Harvest Shop and Hillside Harvest Orchard – and she’s also secretary of Orange F.O.O.D Week Committee.
Paula highlighted it’s possible to do a variety of jobs. However she did explain it’s important to give yourself time to learn new skills and implement systems to help with workflow in the long run.
Good things take time and hard work pays off – plant the seed first and then let it grow.
I hope you enjoy this interview with Paula.
Can you tell us about Thornbrook and Hillside Harvest and how it all began?
The journey began years and years ago at Thornbrook Orchard. Thornbrook is a third generation family run orchard which has been growing fruit in rich soils of Mount Canobolas since the orchard was established by Paula’s pop, Joseph Treweek, in 1947.
Prior to buying Thornbrook, Paula’s pop spent a few seasons riding his bike out from Sydney all the way to Orange. He then met Paula’s grandmother, Pat – her father was an orchardist. Pat and Joseph married and then bought Thornbrook.
Paula’s father, Arthur, took over from his father and then Paula and her brother-in-law Paul took over from their father.
Paula had been working for the Department of Primary Industries for 20 years and then one day her dad called her up to ask whether or not he should plant some more orchard trees. If neither Paula nor her siblings were interested in orcharding, he wouldn’t bother planting but if they were interested, he would plant more trees.
Fast forward and Paula and her family now run two orchards – Hillside Harvest Orchard and of course, Thornbrook.
Due to its location and set-up, Hillside Harvest is now the hub of the business. This is where the majority of pick-your-own fruit takes place – keep an eye out for the cherry season pick-you-own starting up in early December.
What do you grow at Thornbrook and Hillside Harvest Orchards?
- Black Muscat Grapes
What does an average day of cherry harvest look like for Paula?
Busy! For Paula an average day is based around managing all the various employees. This is where her multitasker hat shines bright!
Some days Paula will be managing pickers and picking up cherries that the pickers have picked.
Other days will be spent in the shed grading cherries to then box up and get them ready to send to the Epic Farmers Markets in Canberra.
On days when pick-your-own is running at Hillside Harvest, Paula walks around in the cooler hours of the summer mornings, sticking flag posts into the ground to highlight where customers can find the ripest produce for that particular day.
Do you have a favourite fruit recipe?
Paula admitted she doesn’t have much time left at the end of the day to get into the kitchen so fresh fruit is where it’s at.
Nothing beats fresh apricots straight off the tree – Paula gives herself a belly ache every year – how could she possibly resist putting the juicy little fellas straight into her mouth?!
Top tip: Apparently, the best Granny Smith you’ll ever have is the one that’s been left on the tree which someone’s forgotten to pick during picking season. These apples become obvious when you walk through the orchard in late June/July when the leaves have fallen. By this stage, the forgotten apples have had a few frosts and they turn yellow – the flavour of them is sweet and absolutely delicious.
What can be found at Hillside Harvest shop
Paula and the team have curated a fabulous shop at Hillside Harvest.
They stock a wide variety of products including, fresh fruit from the orchards and locally grown vegetables, the daily newspaper, magazines, home-made cakes, barista made coffee, chutneys, jams and local honey.
At the moment Peabody is doing a pop up in one half of the shop. All the products at Peabody have been selected by owner, Shelly. Shelly’s small business celebrates the variety of locally made products which are available in our area.
How are the orchards coping with the current weather conditions?
It’s proving difficult – this damp, cooler weather is making it really hard to keep diseases out.
After a walk around the orchard over the weekend, Paula also discovered the cherry trees are starting to shed the green fruit from the trees. This is due to lack of sunlight – grey days cause trees to shed fruit.
The fruit started to develop on the cherry trees but it’s now starting to drop off the tree. The trees can only support so much fruit and it knows how much fruit it can grow to successfully produce.
When the cherries start to turn red and ripen, rain becomes a major problem as this causes the cherries to split. In the past, helicopters have been used to blow the water off the cherries – it might sound ridiculous but Paula explains this is extremely cost effective and successful.
What’s on the horizon for Thornbrook and Hillside Harvest?
As we move into summer and then autumn, there’s lots of movement at the orchard but first we start with cherry season!
If you’re looking for a weekend activity, head out for a morning of pick-your-own cherries and keep an eye out for freshly baked cherry pies.
Words: Helen Johnson – Digital Content Developer