Orchardist proud of family's achievements

Rebecca TurnerCountryman
Fourth-generation Pickering Brook grower Michael Fernie.
Camera IconFourth-generation Pickering Brook grower Michael Fernie. Credit: Countryman

Fourth-generation grower Michael Fernie's orchard in Pickering Brook is one of the last in WA still owned and operated by the descendants of those who purchased and cleared land under the Soldier Settlement Scheme after World War I.

With a long history in fruit growing, Mr Fernie is a proud and dedicated orchardist, committed to the future success of the industry in WA.

He said the future looked bright, after a recent visit to the United States to witness first-hand the innovative ideas being explored around new varieties.

"Some of the new crossbreeds that are coming through are exciting for the industry," he said.

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"An example of crossbreeding would be using cherries and plumbs to offer consumers the eating experience of a cherry but in the size of a plumb. The science behind creating these new varieties is about developing new eating experiences using the best qualities of each commodity."

Mr Fernie said he was always trying hard to improve the fruit his family produced on their orchard. "We try to deliver a good product that tastes good and is of a consistent line," he said.

The Fernie operation mainly focuses on stone fruit, including peaches, nectarines and plumbs, although apples are still included in the mix.

With the change over to a more stone fruit-based operation, Mr Fernie has also witnessed a change in practice in a bid to increase the density of trees on the property.

"We are moving into using trellises, which allows us to grow more trees in the area while also being more labour friendly," he said.

Mr Fernie said changing key structures had also helped the orchard to be more cost effective, assisting in profitability.

There have been many changes throughout the property's long history. Settling the land in 1922, Mr Fernie's great-grandfather, Alex Fernie, took more than two years to clear the land.

In those early days, the Fernie family grew vegetables and citrus, later introducing other produce such as poultry and flowers under the management of Mr Fernie's grandfather Allen and father Bevan.

Most of the family's produce is now sold directly through the Canning Vale markets, with some being exported.

"We plan to continue introducing new varieties to keep ahead of market trends, while providing a good product," he said.

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