Meet the grower
Daryl was more familiar with horses than horticulture when he bought his first dried fruit farm in the late 1980s. That’s because he’d spent his early working life on sheep and cattle stations in New South Wales and South Australia.
Not long after Daryl met his wife Cathryn, they purchased their Pomona, NSW dried fruit farm. The 80-year-old vines were earmarked for removal and Daryl initially intended to pull them out and create horse paddocks, but he saw the potential for growing dried fruits and instead set out to transform the property with young vines.
Over the next 13 years Daryl went on to buy another two blocks of land. Times were tough, and in order to make money he lived away from home to cut and sell box strainers and posts, as well as working the farm.
Replanting the old vines with different varieties of grafted vines was the focus for each year – a few acres at a time, as finances allowed for new developments. During 1997 to 2000 they installed a fully pipelined water supply upgrade at Pomona, and in 2004 they invested in a computerised watering system for their entire property. This has halved their water use.
Daryl grows sultanas, gordos, Sunmuscats and Sunglow varieties, concentrating on the best available for rain tolerance and production. In reasonable, good drying conditions all varieties are sundried on the property, mostly on the vine by summer pruning and on racks when necessary. Rack dried fruit is shaken and racked onto black sheets to even the colour and complete the drying process. Production over the last 30 years has certainly varied due to replanting, weather damage and the seasons, however it averages at 2 ½ tonne to the acre.
Daryl is a firm believer that Australian dried fruit is, and always has been, the best in the world. Dried fruit is a sound and versatile product that can be stored and is available in its natural state all year round.