Nestled into the verdant hills of Main Ridge amid volcanic soil and with perfect climatic conditions, lies 300 acres of strawberry fields – Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm. First settled by Pietro Gallace, father of current owner, Mick – Pietro planted apples, but soon discovered that the conditions in the area were perfectly suited for strawberries.
Mick and his wife, Anne are still just as passionate about farming strawberries and have moved the farm to a sustainable model, reducing the use of agricultural chemicals and relying on organic mulch to continue improving soil quality. One of the first things Mick instigated when he took over the farm was the Dessert Café, a way to entice visitors and locals to explore the farm and develop a taste for the fresh, unadulterated product. The café is famous for the chocolate fondue with strawberries. Thousands are already gathering every weekend for U-Pick Strawberry Picking, which is already underway at Sunny Ridge – every year from November to April daily from 9am until 4.30pm. Adults are $8 and it includes 500g of strawberries , children up to 12 years are $4, which includes 250g strawberries and children under 3 years are free.
As well as the intensely popular, U-Pick season, strawberries are sold through Coles, Woolworths and Costco Supermarkets. The berries are of the highest quality and are known for being premium Mornington Peninsula produce. This is achieved through best farming practice, which optimises plant health by ensuring field hygiene is at top levels. Sunny Ridge grasses inter-row furrows, which controls weed populations and protects bare soil from erosion and structural damage. Crops are rotated to revive the soil. They also use indigenous Australian species as border plants to create a growing environment more in sync with the local habitat.
The couple’s children remain invested in the business, daughter Nicole runs the packing shed – she spends half her time in Australia and half her time in Belgium where she is married to a Belgium strawberry farmer! Son Matt runs sister company, Rebello Wines. Sunny Ridge has made wines for the last 15-20 years but recently divided the business into separate enterprises. Rebello produce strawberry wines, fruit wines and ‘Cheeky Rascal’ cider using only real fruit. Rebello also produce wines under the ‘Little Birdie’ label. During peak picking periods they have up to 80 staff in the shed, 80 picking and 30 in the shop.
Visit Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm this weekend to pick your own amazing, fresh strawberries. Strawberries are an incredible source of vitamin c, serve them with pancakes and fresh cream, chop and mix with balsamic vinegar and icing sugar, make a compote to serve with French Toast, decorate cakes, make strawberry ice-cream or wash and enjoy them straight out of the punnet.
You can find Sunny Ridge at 244 Shands Road, Main Ridge. Visit the website for more details – sunnyridge.com.au