The Sweeter Side of Farming
On the banks of the Tamar river, 30kms inland and 25kms north of Launceston, lies the horticultural haven of Hillwood, a small collection of properties, with a population of less than 400, that enjoy the idyllic surrounds and views across the water. The area is also home to small farms, growing apples, grapes for winemaking and more, all supported by an ideal micro climate that lends itself to horticulture. It is here that the Dornauf family farming story continues.
The Dornauf Family
The Dornauf family has farmed in Meander Valley for three generations. Robin grew up on his father’s dairy farm. Ian started his farm in 1964 and to this day, still produces quality milk for Tassie consumers.
Robin, his wife Karen, and their two sons, Simon and Marcus, were brought up in the same farming traditions that Robin knew. Working together, they followed Ian in producing high quality dairy products. Robin spent 10 years developing his own dairy farms before seizing an opportunity to create a dairy manufacturing business in value added, high quality dairy products and it was there that Meander Valley Dairy was established in 2003. This drew on all the experience that multi-generational farming provides. Meander Valley Dairy quickly become known for high quality production, including producing one of only two cultured butters in Australia, a brand that has been sought after by top chefs from around Australia.
The Dornauf family have had a long history with berries, dating back to 1985 when Robin planted the first raspberry canes at the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm. After establishing the Raspberry farm, Robin left the berry industry to concentrate on his dairy businesses. An opportunity for Robin to move his dairy business to an existing dairy factory in Hillwood in 2010 resulted in an unplanned opening for Robin, and now his son Simon, to rekindle their passion for berries. Robin and Simon developed the surrounding 40 hectares that came with the dairy factory into a new modern berry farm. A few years later Robin’s second son, Marcus, returned from his studies in the USA to join the family venture and help further grow the business to its current 37 hectare size.
In 2010 the first strawberry plants were planted, with only 100,000 plants in 2 hectares of growing area. Now there is 17 hectares of tabletop grown strawberries (which equates to a little over 1,300,000 plants) as well as 12 hectares of raspberries, 5 hectares of blackberries and 2.5 hectares of blueberries, Hillwood Berries has an ever expanding area of berries. All of these berries are grown under protected cropping structures called polytunnels and almost all are grown using hydroponic growing principles. This allows us to grow the highest quality berry whilst also minimising the percentage of waste fruit to well below 10%. You could expect to find Hillwood’s berries on supermarket and deli shelves around the country between the months of November through to the end of May. Hillwood Berries are fortunate to grow berry genetics bred by Driscolls, one of the worlds largest berry companies. So when you purchase a delightful punnet of Driscoll Berries from your local supermarket, the chances are they are Hillwood Berries.
PYO and Farmgate Cafe
When you come and visit Hillwood, make an effort to visit our Pick-Your-Own Patch and Farmgate Café. Here you can pick as many delicious berries as you like, or collect some farm fresh produce, or see the working farm in full flight. The Farmgate shop has all of our jams, sauces and wines produced from our own berries. It also stocks locally produced goods created within our local region. If you have a bit more time on your hands, why not sit back in our café and relax with a coffee, try one of our desserts starring our berries, view families having fun picking fresh berries or watch our working farm in action and appreciate how your beautiful fresh berries are produced. It is a testament to the tenacity of this hard-working Tasmanian farming family.
In 2015, the Dornaufs bought Stonesthrow café/restaurant in Norwood, Launceston. The Dornaufs commitment to high quality food has been embraced by the chefs who prepare the delicious meals. Local ingredients, sourced from the farm, free-range meats and eggs, and dishes prepared in-house are all key factors in making Stonesthrow a success.