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TAS Country : January 10th 2013
10 Friday, Janu Farm Feature Hillwood Berry Farm SUCCESS: Hillwood Berry Farm's Stacy File, along and her husband Simon, have embraced agri-tourism and are now reaping the rewards having expanded and diversified their business. Picking perfect business . . . having two young children I w food was coming from and that it chemicals...' land THIS Karolin MacGregor PLAYING to their strengths has definitely paid off for the owners of Hillwood Berry Farm. When Stacy and Simon File were looking for a business that would make use of their individual skills, the once popular berry business proved just the ticket. Since taking over the business in 2010, the couple has made some major improvements. One of their first projects was building a new on- site cafe to ensure visitors could enjoy their visit to the farm, no matter what the season. ''My husband went to uni in Launceston and we just fell in love with this area,'' Mrs File said. ''We were always looking for something that combined both our interests. ''Traditional farming is often harder to make a living out of and agri-tourism is an area that's really growing. It has allowed me to use my marketing background and Simon has been able to focus on all the other aspects, which is the growing and production side.'' Mrs File said while the farm had been a well- known attraction when it was run by the original owners, it had needed quite a lot of work when they took it over. ''It was fairly run down when we bought it, but we could see the potential there,'' she said. ''The original owners did a fantastic job of running it and they were quite innovative, but there has been a lot of work involved in getting it back up to a level we are happy with.'' Now in their third berry season, Mrs File said there were now beginning to see that hard work pay off. Berry production across the small farm has increased significantly this season. A lot of that was due to improvements in soil health and looking closely at things like fertigation to ensure the plants were getting all the nutrients they need. The couple has also undertaken a major re- planting program across the farm and are trialling a number of different varieties. They now grow a range of strawberries, loganberries, red currants, black currants and raspberries. Mrs File said they also planned to add blueberries to their range in the next few years. With a revamped visitor area and cafe, people have also started flocking back to the farm. Mid-December to mid-January was their busiest time but throughout the year the farm attarcts about 90,000 visitors. With almost all of the fruit harvested on a pick- your-own basis, Mrs File said the idea was to provide visitors with a unique experience. ''We've found that people come here and if you don't have any pre-picked fruit they're OK with that, but if they've bought the kids out here and they can't pick their own, they get really disappointed,'' she said. ''And that's part of the education process. This is a farm, it's not a factory, and the weather and things like that does have an impact on the amount of fruit that's available. With two young children themselves, Mrs File said they were very aware of making the farm a family-friendly experience. ''It's all about the kids here and we've tried to make sure there's plenty of things to keep them entertained so the parents can relax and have a good time as well.'' Managing the berries to cater for pick-your-own harvesting does present challenges. ''Simon does a really good job in making sure that the berries are getting everything they need so they're really pumping out the fruit. ''We've also experimented with different varieties to try to extend the season a bit more so the fruit comes on earlier and lasts longer at the end of the season. In the cafe, the Files serve a number of berry related dishes. They also sell a variety of value- added products including fruit liqueurs, wine and honey. ''We are lucky that any fruit which does get over ripe, we can still pick it and it can be used to make something, so there's very little wastage,'' she said. Strawberries are the most popular berry at the farm, closely followed by raspberries. Mrs File said they also tried to encourage visitors to try other fruits they may not have
January 3rd 2013
January 17th 2013