244 Shands Rd, Main Ridge VIC 3928
Contact: +61 3 5989 4500
In 1964 my parents Pietro and Rosa Gallace, my three siblings Ralph, John, Catherine and I moved to the Mornington Peninsula from Melbourne, and developed a cherry and apple orchard at Main Ridge. It was my father’s dream to own a farm.
But - apple and cherry orchards took 5-7 years
to bear fruit. What were we to do in the meantime to survive?
Strawberries! Strawberries planted in May bore fruit in November. How good was that! What was even better, we knew how to pick them, as we had completed our harvest training at Nick Tedesco’s strawberry farm, right across the road.
The family had no knowledge of growing strawberries, but we took up the challenge in earnest. We had a draught horse named Dobbin, inherited from the previous owner of the property, but no tractor or implements and 30 acres of land to care for! What we had as a family was enthusiasm – my father made sure of that! Planting, fertilising, applying straw around the plants and harvesting – it was a family business. At this time there were 10,000 plants at Sunny Ridge, and they were grown between the rows of apples and cherries. No land was wasted. Every year, the number of plants increased. A tractor and a crop sprayer were purchased. Friends and relatives were invited to assist in harvesting. When all these contacts were exhausted, local helpers were recruited to help us pick the berries.
Within 10 years we are growing approximately 10 acres and 200,000 plants whilst also looking after my father’s beloved apple and cherry orchard. We were growing so fast that we were running out of land for strawberry production. According to family legend, whilst my father was out of the country visiting relatives I quickly turned our only free land – a plot we leased from the Catholic Church for cattle grazing – into strawberry fields. Despite my father’s initial despair, our family would never look back and I am proud to say that the Sunny Ridge tourism facility now stands on this site.
In no time berries were being picked, packed and shipped to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and on odd occasions to Singapore and Hong Kong. By the early 1980s a painful decision was made: the apple orchard would have to go! We needed the land to expand the berry business.
Today, Sunny Ridge grows berries – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries - at our farms on the Mornington Peninsula and Queensland, and our consumers enjoy the highest quality strawberries all year round.