Biodynamic Duo - Adrian and Valda Martin

By Michael Harden
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Fresh and ripe biodynamic fruit from Mill Spring Farm, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria

Fresh and ripe biodynamic fruit from Mill Spring Farm, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria [©Mill Spring Farm]

Adrian Martin reckons that his orchard sits on “the best bit of land in Ruffy”. That may well be but even the most untrained and citified eye can see that this bio-dynamic orchard on McLeans Lane is certainly one of the prettiest and well kept farms you could ever hope to see.

Adrian and his wife Valda grew flowers for the commercial market in Melbourne for many years but had always grown a small number of peaches and, with orchardists on both sides of their family, an orchard was something that Adrian had always had in the back of his mind. The Strathbogie Ranges property they bought was a sheep and oats farm initially but when that business “fell over”, Adrian decided to take a gamble and grow fruit in a place where there were virtually no other orchards.

Having become increasingly concerned over the use of agricultural chemicals while they were growing flowers, Adrian and Valda decided to move in the opposite direction from conventional commercial practices and farm by biodynamic principles. They began planting the orchard on the sunny north-facing slope in 1992 and gained biodynamic certification in 1996.

There are 25 acres of fruit trees on the Martin’s orchard with cherries, peaches, plums and apples the main crops. Adrian planned the orchard so that he and Valda can handle most of the picking and packing work themselves. The orchard contains several varieties of peaches that ripen from late December until March but the trees have been planted so that only one variety of peach ripens per week and so the picking remains manageable for two people. The only time Adrian and Valda need to hire workers is during the shorter and more intense cherry season.

Adrian is very proud of the response he gets to the beauty and flavour of his fruit and is a true believer when it comes to the biodynamic principles under which his farm operates but there is nothing of the zealot about him. Instead he talks modestly about picking the fruit “as ripe as we can” and then sorting and packing it with minimal handling before Adrian puts it on the ute and drives it to the market in Melbourne.

During the season you can drive through the stone gates at the entrance to the orchard, make your way up the olive lined driveway (the Martin’s are planning to make olive oil) to the packing shed and buy just picked fruit. Be warned though: the way these cherries taste, you may finish them before you reach the gate. If you spot any jars of cherries or plums in syrup or bottles of cherry juice (a sideline to use up any excess or slightly damaged fruit) snap them up. That way, long after the fresh fruit is a distant, sweet memory you’ll have something to keep you going until the cherries ripen again.

Michael Harden 2006

First printed in Food and Wine Lovers’ Guide to Melbourne and Surrounds (2006)

 

For directions to the Bio Dynamic Orchard at Mill Spring Farm pick up a map from the Ruffy Produce Store, 26 Nolans Road, Ruffy, Victoria (03) 5790 4387

Regions

  • Nagambie Lakes (VIC)

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