Cherries are here! Christmas is coming

A family-owned orchard in South Australia is using the latest growing techniques to produce plump and juicy cherries, perfect for every Christmas table.

Cherry farmer standing in an orchard holding a tray of cherries

Third-generation orchardist Tony Ceravolo, of Ceravolo Orchards.

When the Ceravolo family of South Australia takes on a new challenge, they always aim for quality and sustainability.

Their approach to cherry production was exactly the same.

Thanks to the installation of a retractable roof over the family’s cherry fields on the Fleurieu Peninsula, Ceravolo Orchards is able to produce high-quality fruit, regardless of the weather.

Managing Director Tony Ceravolo says that the new roof has transformed the way they grow cherries – allowing the company to produce fruit at times of peak demand, such as Christmas.

“It’s such a good system,” he says. “This is the future for cherries. With this new roofing system you can actually time your crop – allowing us to harvest earlier or later.”

The most obvious advantage of having a retractable roof is being able to avoid adverse weather events, such as heavy rain, that can destroy a crop before it is ready for harvesting.

Tony says that the roof means that the cherries are protected from heavy downpours, but exposed to natural sunlight when conditions are ideal and the roof can be retracted.

“Cherries are a big thing for us,” he says. “We grow around 45 varieties. I’ve been growing cherries with my dad for 40 years.”

Tony, a third-generation orchardist based in the Adelaide Hills – now Managing Director of Ceravolo Orchards and Ashton Valley Fresh - says that cherries also figure prominently on the Ceravolo table at Christmas, and are especially popular with the grandchildren.

“Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without cherries on the table,” he says. “There’s always a big bowl on our table.”

The Ceravolo business dates from the 1950s when the family purchased a small property and planted potatoes, onions, cauliflowers, cabbages and apples, later expanding into cherries and nectarines. They have been supplying Coles for 60 years.

Today, Ceravolo Orchards has seven orchards in the Adelaide Hills plus 60 hectares on the Fleurieu Peninsula, and grows 10 varieties of apples, four varieties of pears, nectarines, strawberries and 30 types of cherries.

“I never like to sit still,” says Tony.

Despite being one of the longest established growers in the Hills, Ceravolo Orchards has always embraced new technology and was one of the first growers in South Australia to introduce “fruit probes” to monitor the growth of each piece of fruit.

Other innovations include a compact defect sorter in the packing shed and the use of wrist scanners by the packers which help track each box of fruit as it moves in the shed.

Rather than throw away blemished or undersize fruit, the family built its own juicing plant and now sells a wide range of fresh juices and sparkling drinks under the Ashton Valley label.

“We mainly grow apples, pears, cherries and strawberries,” he says. “Whatever is not good enough for the market is turned into juice, so we are value-adding to the business.”

Cherries are available in Coles supermarkets nationally.

Find out more about Coles fresh fruit and vegetables. 

Want to make the most of cherries? Try these 3 delicious desserts'