Down by the river in west Bairnsdale is an unassuming little orchard whose unique apples are putting Picnic Point Farm on Gippsland’s food map.
Picnic Point Farm grows an array of apple varieties, however their pride and joy is their very own Picnic apple variety. With origins to the gala variety, the apple embodies the care and attention they invest in every facet of their farming. Overtime this unique little picnic apple has become a locally cherished icon for its one-of-a-kind taste and texture.
Founded by Reg and Mary Baldwin in 1983, the farm has thrived for decades, with the reins now in the hands of their three eldest children, who continue the family legacy.
John Baldwin said the Mitchell River is where the magic begins. "Water is the lifeblood of our apples, without it, we'd have tiny, dry fruit with no flavour at all,” he said. “It's essential for our yields and marketability."
Beyond their sweet and crunchy apples, they have been working with other growers to create apple juice, freeze-dried apples, sparkling juice, jam, and cider vinegar. Their products are available at local farmers' markets and nearby fruit shops along with their on-farm store that provides a direct-to-consumer experience.
“The shop has been a real success, and we love welcoming locals and folks from further afield to show them first hand our farm to table operation,” said John.
The Mitchel River provides Picnic Point Farm’s water but in the late summer the water becomes too salty to irrigate the apples. To counter this, they use on-farm water storages, including a dam and lagoon system that they fill during winter to ensure year-round water availability and water quality for their beloved apples.
Southern Rural Water recently installed a smart meter on their river pumps, providing them with real-time insights into their water consumption. This, paired with their automated watering control system, enables precise water management, enhancing the well-being of their apple trees and ensuring efficient water use.
“Using less water and getting it where you want it is important,” John said. “We have a lot more control now and can give the trees exactly what they need.
“Southern Rural Water is always easy to deal with and very helpful when we’ve got questions about our licences and usage.
“They get farming and care about our business, which makes it easier for us to do our job well,” he said.