Meet … the orchard keepers

The Orchard Keepers: Ingrid Phyland, Alex Kelly, Yoann Le Guen and Terry Eyssens alongside flowering plum trees at Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op.

A poet, an engineer, a nutritionist and a filmmaker walk into an orchard…

The result is The Orchard Keepers – the newest kids on the block at Harcourt’s Organic Farming Co-Operative.

Over the past few weeks The Orchard Keepers – aka Terry Eyssens, Yoann Le Guen, Ingrid Hyland and Alex Kelly – have taken over from Tellurian Fruit Gardens who managed the local orchard for the past three years.

They’ve wasted no time in getting some exciting new plans up and growing and have just launched 80 shares to their Community Supported Agriculture program. This invites Castlemaine and Harcourt residents to buy shares in the 22-week season ahead, providing the farmers with a degree of security and all those who have snapped up a share with the guarantee of a weekly box of fresh local fruit.

“We launched our CSA program for our Castlemaine and Harcourt hub last Friday and we’ve almost sold out,” Alex Kelly says.

“We really want our local CSA members to have a relationship with us and with the farm.

“It’s also a way of building a really resilient food system.”

While the CSA program is already a proven winner in the local area and beyond, the Orchard Keepers now plan to introduce more orchard- oriented public training and events on site.

“We’re going to be doing more training and events here, and in October we’re planning to do one about Queensland Fruit Fly management,” Alex says.

“And we’re also going to start offering Sunday morning pick-your-own fruit up until Christmas.

“We plan to start that as soon as the cherries are ready in November.”

The orchard is home to more than 5000 trees and 100 varieties of organic stone and pome fruit including cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples and pears.

The Orchard Keepers are the second business to lease the orchard, taking over from Tellurian Fruit Gardens who managed the orchard for the past three years.Before that it was known as Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens and run by Harcourt’s Katie and Hugh Finlay.

The Orchard Keepers are members of the Harcourt Organic Farming Cooperative, a collaboration of diverse organic farmers who lease land on a single farm in Harcourt – with Katie and Hugh remaining on site to continue sharing their expertise while also running Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery.