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Fruits of this family’s labour

History

Fruits of this family’s labour

At age 14, Mr McMartin left school to farm sugar cane by hand until mechanical farming began

The time is ripe for strawberry lovers and farmers with thousands of sweet, juicy fruits ready to be harvested.

For Lillian and Graham McMartin, their Bli Bli farm is more than a place of work, but a livelihood they pour passion and love into every day.

“My husband was a baby, about 10 months old, when his parents bought the farm in 1945,” Mrs McMartin says.

“Back then it was a dairy farm, then they moved on to small crops.”

She says at age 14, Mr McMartin left school to farm sugar cane by hand until mechanical farming began. “I then came onto the scene in the late 1960s and we were married in 1970.”

The McMartins continued growing small crops, such as watermelons and beans, before venturing into strawberries.

“We grew them commercially for 32 years but is just became not as viable.

“So, we began growing lychees and custard apples, so we have both summer and winter crops.”

To become more sustainable, the McMartins began using their fruit waste to make products.

“To utilise some of our waste we decided to make jam, then we found we had more fruit left over so we started making ice-cream.

The farm’s ice-cream has become a huge success, winning multiple awards, including at the prestigious Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Mrs McMartin also shares her homemade scones with the public, along with other products at the farm shop.

“I make the scones and you can have Devonshire tea with our jam.”

She says the journey has not always been sweet, as the family has dealt with its fair share of hardships over the years, from unpredictable weather to needle sagas and, of course, coronavirus.

“Farmers are pretty resilient; we take what’s thrown at us and deal with it.

“If something goes wrong, we find other avenues.”

McMartin’s Strawberry Farm plants about 35,000 plants annually, producing 35 tonnes of berries.

“They are beautiful strawberries, there is so many,” Mrs McMartin says.

Visitors can pick their own seven days a week from May to October.

Here is a fun fact: Technically the strawberry is not a berry, but a member of the rose family.

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