We’ve been meaning to find somewhere to go and pick fruit for ages now. My little family is pretty keen on fruit and I’m keen on farms, so it seemed to be the perfect day out. And as a bonus, all that walking around in the fresh air and sunshine would hopefully be tiring work, especially for the toddler.
I did a bit of Googling and found a great website that lists all the farms around Sydney that open to the public. It’s called Hawkesbury Harvest and they also have an app for your phone. There are other websites around for other regions. Just google ‘pick your own’ or ‘harvest trail’ plus the name of your region.
In the Sydney area, the Hawkesbury seems to have the best concentration of farms that are open to the public. It’s a bit over an hour north west of the city, roughly speaking. A bit further along in the foothills of the Blue Mountains is Bilpin. Yes, that Bilpin where all the apples come from. I had no idea that Bilpin was so close to Sydney. I also had no idea that apple season started in late January. I guess all that supermarket advertising for ‘new season apples’ has just washed over me for the past 30-odd years.
We found one farm that was having its open day to mark the start of the season on the Australia Day weekend. It was pretty easy to find, right behind the local school just off the main road.
We entered through the shed and grabbed a bucket to fill. A few varieties of plums were still on the trees, along with gala apples, a few nashis and a couple of varieties of pears. The owners set out a very helpful display of all that was good to pick to help visitors identify what they were picking.
The farm we visited was a little bit hilly, as many farms are. A helpful hint: try to wait until you get to the far end of the farm before you start picking. Otherwise you will be carrying a heavy bucket twice as far as you need to. Also, plan on having to carry little ones. They might love running about at first but the novelty seems to wear off after a short while.
And be clever about the order that you pick your fruit, or at least how you use your buckets. Don’t pick the soft fruits first and put them at the bottom of the bucket before topping it off with heavier, harder fruits. That’s just silly. You might like to take a couple of extra buckets to keep the fruit separate, and then tip the soft fruit on top of the harder stuff when you’re done picking.
All the fruit was weighed in the shed and everything was the same price per kilo. We brought along a few green shopping bags to bring home the fruit, which was a good idea. We also grabbed a jar of local honey and there were a few more things for sale. I just wish we had picked twice the amount of apples – they were so fresh and delicious, and were gone within a week. Partly because the little one was asking for three every day.
It was so nice to spend decent time outdoors. I wasn’t sure if the little one would have fun, but she loved reaching up to pick fruit. Everything was an ‘apple!’. For a two-year-old, she had some pretty decent strength in her hands and managed to grab fruit fairly easily. Even a few ripe ones.
We saw a few other families there, plus a few young couples and a tour group. They were arriving as we left. We had started right on opening time which meant that we were done before the heat set in but we missed the BBQ and other activities. When you’re travelling with a two-year-old, you have to know your limits. Ours was around an hour of farm time.
There were quite a few farms offering meals or produce, and we foolishly drove past thinking we could get something to eat in Kurrajong. We ended up getting great burgers at a place just before the bridge into Richmond, but couldn’t help thinking we had missed out on a fun lunch.
We’re looking forward to picking mandarines in August, also in the Hawkesbury. And then before Christmas we’ll probably head south to one of the berry farms to pick strawberries.
Have you been fruit picking? Do you have a favourite farm?