Newrybar Fruit Farm: Citrus

Newrybar Fruit Farm: Citrus

  • Working in an office in the city, we’ve got to admit we had a twinge of jealousy when hearing Nick Hatherly from Newrybar Fruit Farm describe his day-to-day. Working outdoors on his farm with dozens of varieties of fruit and veg crops, dropping off deliveries and getting the odd loaf of sourdough swung his way – it sounds like a pretty cool job, especially with clients such as Splendour in the Grass and The Farm at Byron Bay. We chatted with “ Citrus Nick” as the guys at The Farm call him, about the ins and outs of fruit farming where the country meets the sea.

Tell us about your background in farming.
I grew up on a small farm west of Sydney and we predominately had livestock out there but I got into a bit of horticulture as well. I moved to the city in my thirties and had 10 years where I wasn’t doing any farming. Then I moved to Byron and started Newrybar and then got back into it again. So I’ve been doing it for a fair part of my life, I did agriculture at school, showed cattle and stuff like that.

How did you get back into it after 10 years?
It was easy and it was great. My wife and I just wanted to do the city thing for a while and renovate our house. So we did that and when we started a family we just thought, lets get up to Byron. The coast-country thing really appeals to me. We did look out west initially as my family have property out west, but it was just too far from the beach. We love the water. It’s eight minutes to our favourite beach – it’s unreal. Byron can be pretty hectic at times too so it’s nice to be able to head back to the paddocks.

What do you grow at Newrybar Fruit Farm?
We’ve got predominately citrus – blood orange, navel orange, Valencia orange, limes – they’re my big specialty, lemons, lemonade fruit and then we’ve got tropical fruit like sapote and black sapote, and wampee fruit, which you probably haven’t heard of, avocados, avocado trees, bananas and jackfruit. On top of that we’ve got our veggie garden where we have kale, pumpkin and beans at the moment – we grow whatever’s in season really.

How do you manage so many different crops?
When we bought the place we were after something that was fairly established. We didn’t want a blank canvas to start otherwise we would still be waiting for it to flourish, so we thought, let’s grab something and improve on it. The lady we bought it from had a bit of a green thumb and got right into it so we’ve just continued that. We’re always learning and we’re always asking the other farmers what bugs are coming and how did they counteract that – those kinds of things.

Are you organic?
We farm organically; we only use organic pesticides and fungicides. Nothing harsh goes on the trees or the veggies at all.

Have you found that challenging?
Sometimes it’s challenging because the sprays we use are water-soluble, so if you get a shower of rain while you’re spraying you’ve got to go out and do it again. It can be difficult but in saying that, once you’re used to it it’s fine, no dramas, no dramas at all.

Do you have a favourite time of year?
Summer’s hard and spring’s lovely. Even winter’s not too bad, you get a nice kind of mid-20 degree days then it cools down at nights. The humidity last year was bad, it just seemed to go on and on and on and it can knock you around sweating all day and the sun gets a bit too harsh for certain things to grow.

This year will be a pretty lean year for our citrus. We’ve had fruit drop because it was so dry and we haven’t had good follow-up rain. We got a little bit over Christmas but our average rainfall is right down this year. It’s the driest period we’ve seen in the eight years we’ve been here and the locals tell us it’s the driest it’s been too. Usually up here you get those big afternoon storms to give the ground a good saturating but this year we’re not getting it, not getting it at all.

One thing I dread is buying water, we’ve done it twice since we’ve lived here and I don’t like that. I rather collect it if I can. We’ve got tank water and we’ve got a water license to pump out of the creek though irrigation but the creek’s looking pretty tired too so there’s only so much longer I can take water out of that.

Who do you supply to?
There are three or four big pubs in town and I give lemons and limes to them – Great Northern Hotel, the Railway Hotel and the Bangalow Hotel. I’ve been supplying them with lemons and limes, mostly limes, for quite a number of years.

I supply to Splendour in the Grass, that’s a big one and it’s a fun one – it’s a lot of fruit. We supply over a tonne in limes and then we do lime juice and lemon juice – it’s massive but it’s worth it. Then I’ve got a few cocktail bars in town, convenience stores, and The Farm where I supply the boys at The Bread Social with citrus for their juicing and a bit of other seasonal produce.

Then we’ve got a little roadside stall we operate pretty much every day where we sell whatever’s growing and hope that people pay us.

It has an honesty box and operates on an honesty system, some days it’s not. We get a bit of theft, a few ratbags around at the moment.

What’s the feedback been like from bakers about your product?
The guys from The Bread Social are really the only bakers in town, that’s who I supply to. Feedback is great, you become friends with these people, you end up becoming mates with them and they’re such a great bunch of guys. Without being biased I think they have the best breads and pastries in town.

I’m having a look at what I delivered them the other day, I got some figs to them, a box of zucchini, pears, kale, oranges and a bit of mixed stone fruit, again sometimes it’s lettuce, onions, pumpkin.

Do you have a favourite thing they make with your produce?
That’s a tough one. Sometimes the most simple sourdough loaf is fantastic – sometimes they’ll just chuck me a loaf to take home. They’ll do a focaccia with really thinly sliced potato on it and a bit of rosemary, that’s really good, or their savoury panini with mushroom, goats cheese, eggplant and capsicum – that’s always really good. I don’t think they do anything that’s ordinary – everything is really good.

What’s something people don’t know a lot about your job or appreciate?
How many hours go into it. I suppose because it’s food-based I’d have to say the weather. If the weather’s bad even if I’m outsourcing stuff I’ll have the farmers say ‘all my lettuce got fried so I haven’t got any lettuce’ or ‘its flooded up here I cant get the potatoes out’, so we’re definitely at the mercy of the weather. If it turns it can push prices around too, or if there’s a cyclone or someone gets hit by hail, all of a sudden there’s a shortage in supply. The variability of the weather I suppose is the biggest thing and how that can affect the supply and quality of fruit and veg.

I have customers who have to have avocados all year long so when they’re out of season here in Australia you have New Zealand produce coming in and it’s often not up to scratch with our product, so you just want to drop that whole line. I often say to them, ‘I don’t really like selling you this product’, but they still take it. Gotta have it, gotta have avocado on toast.

Click here to upload your own recipe


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.