Robyn Clubb in her Orchard, Wisbeys, at Araluen where she is preparing to open a cafe. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Like the soft pink peach blossoms aflutter in Araluen valley, Robyn Clubb’s reasons for diversifying her orchard business are numerous.
A new cafe and car park have been added to the packing shed of the valley’s best known orchard, Wisbey’s, whose fresh peaches have drawn people for generations from Canberra and the South Coast.
Mrs Clubb was among them in the 1980s, travelling regularly from Cooma to Sydney where she worked in funds management, and stopping at Wisbey’s in summer to buy peaches.
Eight years ago she bought the orchard, which has more than 19,000 peach and nectarine trees.
Now she hopes to build Wisbey’s brand, generate income outside the volatile stone fruit sector, network with the district’s other food producers and first rate chefs and shore up sales of fruit outside the cut-throat supermarkets sector.
Peach blossoms emerge as early as July. Snow king white peaches and honey blaze nectarines are now in blossom. Early picking begins in November.
Over summer backpackers from Estonia, Italy and Sweden and coach loads of tourists keep Wisbey’s buzzing.
But the valley’s tourist potential is largely untapped.
Only a trickle of visitors see the blossoms. Noise in early spring comes from a steady hum of a tractor mowing under the trees, and bees pollinating flowers.
Inland NSW Tourism wants to double its $2.6 billion industry by 2020 and chief executive Graham Perry believes collaboration in the regions can help drive that growth.
‘‘Groups such as Poachers Way around the Canberra area are actively marketing food and wine experiences and events that encourage visitors to stay longer and visit more of the region,’’ Mr Perry said.
Poachers Way winds through Bowning, Yass, Murrumbateman, Gundaroo, Hall, Lake George, Bungendore and Canberra.
Mrs Clubb plans to emulate Poachers template at Araluen, linking with Reidsdale’s Old Cheese Factory and regular farmers markets at Braidwood’s National Theatre.
‘‘People are coming in any case to see the blossoms. The Japanese would love the cherry blossom and the Chinese would love the peach blossom,’’ Mrs Clubb said.
‘‘We grow the products here. We have everything here already.
‘‘I have had so many people approach me, saying ‘Can I work in the cafe’.’’
Mrs Clubb said supermarkets imported stone fruit over winter could leave consumers with an inferior taste to the fresh local produce on offer over summer. This was another good reason to reinforce the goodness of fresh, locally-produced peaches.
Mr Perry said relaxation and unwinding were key motivators of domestic travel. Nature, food and history experiences were also strong drivers for tourism.
Consumers visiting farms and off the beaten track villages were looking for hands-on activities like picking their own fruit and buying direct to support home grown projects.
‘‘The southern inland region provides such activities and experience close to Canberra, including cherry picking in Young, berry picking, cellar door visits throughout the Hilltops and Murrumbateman area, and other farm, food and wine experiences.’’