Farming in the pristine Huon Valley has its perks but hard work and innovation have been the secret to success for Willie Smith’s Apple Shed.
The two ends of Australia, Cape York and southern Tasmania, are the friendliest places on earth, declares Andrew Smith, a fourth-generation apple farmer from Willie Smith’s orchard and cider distillery in the Huon Valley, 25 minutes south-west of Hobart. The cool-climate orchard, founded in 1888 by Willie and his son, Ron, and now run by Ian and his son, Andrew, has seen the rise, fall and recovery of the Tassie apple industry.
This is a place of “slow-growing fruit, packed full of flavour,” says Andrew. And up to 100,000 visitors each year are drawn to their rustic Apple Shed museum to sample creations from Willie Smith’s cellar door, distillery, restaurant and café.
Image credit, above and top: Chris Crerar.
Tours offer a taste of the past, plus apple pie best washed down with Willie Smith favourites: French-style farmhouse cider or barrel-aged Charles Oates brandy, known as pommeau.
Harvest time is a family affair. Each March, they pick 3.5 million kilograms of gala, fuji and pink lady varieties with 80 helping hands. “I’ve been given a great gift,” says Andrew. “But inheriting land can be a double-edged sword.” In the late 1970s, Andrew’s father saw the overnight collapse of Australia’s once booming export market to Britain.
“There have been challenges. But we’ve diversified. In 1998, we went organic and everyone said, ‘He’s gone, that’s a death roll.’ But we have to be niche because it’s expensive to produce at the bottom of Tasmania.”
Today, Willie Smith’s is the largest organic apple producer in Australia and supplies to Woolworths’ certified organic Macro line. “It’s all about provenance. The thing we’ve got that the big boys haven’t? We’ve got the truth.”
Their top small business tips
Rethink your waste: Since investing heavily in crafting cider, which is juiced, fermented and bottled on farm, Willie Smith’s has turned 15 per cent of previously wasted fruit into profit.
Share your story: Telling your story is so important, says Andrew. “When you come and visit us, not only can you try our products, you can also see exactly where it came from and who it was made by.”