Beenak Farm at Hoddles Creek began in 2002 when Ian Cuming took over a more conventional property and organically nurtured kiwifruit vines planted by previous owners. Now, fourteen years on, the annual harvest is up to seventeen tonnes and Ian has well established sales outlets.
Biodynamically grown fruit and vegetables are in high demand in farmers’ markets. The Beenak kiwifruit are no exception.
Kiwifruit, or Chinese gooseberry, is the edible berry of a woody vine. The fruit has a fibrous, dull greenish-brown skin and bright green or golden flesh with rows of tiny, black, edible seeds. To eat, the fruit has a soft texture and a sweet, unique flavour.
The name ‘kiwifruit’ was reportedly coined when the fruit were exported from New Zealand to the United States around 1966. However, historically, the kiwifruit is native to China. Cultivation spread from China in the early 20th century to New Zealand, where the first commercial plantings occurred. It is now a commercial crop in several countries, not just Australia but also United States, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, Greece and France.
Kiwifruit are both delicious and nutritious, being a rich source of vitamins C, K and E, as well as providing dietary fibre.
The variety Ian grows at Beenak is Heywood, the most common type. With the farm being adjacent to a forest, this sort of ecosystem seems to benefit the vines. In addition, the biodynamic farming practices mean that fertilizers and chemical sprays are not used. Organic matter via mulched prunings is added to the soil. Bee hives are brought in just before Christmas each year. Pollination of the flowers is essential as the plants are not self-pollinated, with the vines being either male or female. Adequate watering is essential, thus a key cost input is the irrigation required.
Harvesting typically is in autumn, with all fruit picked in the one pass by employed pickers. Grading of the fruit is undertaken before packing for either wholesale or for weekend farmers markets.
The Women on Farms members who enjoyed hearing of the kiwifruit enterprise appreciated the enthusiasm and knowledge which Ian has invested in this successful Yarra Valley property.