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AU: Stone fruit crop numbers down but quality high at Rayner's Orchard

A Victorian producer says wet weather has meant production of his stone fruit crops is down on last year.

Rayner's Orchards in the Yarra Valley grows around 450 varieties of fruit, but while the quality was up, the numbers were down.

"It was a poor crop as it rained for two weeks during flowering," Owner Len Rayner said. "Though, this has ensured good sized fruit, volumes are well below last year’s crop."

Photo Source: Rayner's Orchard Facebook page

The company does not supply the major markets, and customers can only buy its fruit direct from the farm, which Mr Rayner says is one of the things that sets it apart in terms of quality.

"In spite of supermarket trends the public like fruit that is sweet and juicy, the constant comment is where can we buy fruit that is like this. The sad answer is you can’t the only way to have consistently good fruit is to tree ripen it and pick and eat it off the tree," he said.

This year, Mr Rayner says peaches have been one of the standout varieties, and a favourite with the customers, especially over the warmer months.

"Peaches have been particularly good size and flavour - our visitors like fruit that is sweet and has juice running down their chins when eating," he said.

The farm is also set up as a tourist destination, aiming to showcase Australia’s quality produce, with most of the visitors from Asia. In addition to the traditional varieties of stone fruit, Rayner's Orchard also grows interspecific varieties such as Apriums, Plumcots, Pluots, Peachcots, Clingstone peaches and Necta plums.

"The interspecific varieties are grown for flavour and to make the visit more interesting," Mr Rayner said. "A lot of the varieties we grow are not considered to be pretty enough for the supermarkets we grow fruit for flavour rather than looks. So these varieties make the farm tours a lot more interesting. We don’t grow big volumes of any variety so interspecific varieties are not a large proportion of our crop tho this will change as we replace varieties."

Photo: one of the farm's newest followers.

In addition to the on-farm shop, the company also has a cafe which sells a big range of fruit products all grown and produced on the farm. Mr Rayner says it is the policy to use nothing artificial at any point.

"The best part of our farm experience is our fruit tasting adventures," he said. "Visitors are given a personal guided tour around the farm sampling fruit as they go. We have at least eight varieties of fruit every day of the year. We also run fruit preserving workshops where visitors can learn how to preserve fruit by traditional methods."

For more information:
Len Rayner
Rayner's Orchard
Phone: +61 3 5964 7654

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