Craig Woods started his raspberry farm with an old strain used by his grandfather.

Everything from the emus to the snakes have a purpose on this raspberry farm, which is continuing a family legacy. RICK BAYNE has the story.
Portland Raspberries grows and sells raspberries – obviously – but there’s a lot more happening on the property.
The six-hectare farm at Gorae has six beef cows, four emus, a pig, a dozen chooks, guinea pigs, five beehives and a wide variety of fruit trees and vegetable patches.
That’s not to mention the friendly dog and the pythons, although they remain inside.
Craig Woods and his wife Melissa thrive on biodiversity and Portland Raspberries has plenty of that.
Over summer, they often play host to city kids visiting for farm tours. Apart from leaving with a few punnets of raspberries, they can cuddle up to Einstein the emu for a selfie, use a soft rake to give Boaris the pig a belly rub and learn the difference between beef and dairy cows.
There are two large patches of raspberries, along with silvan berries, boysenberries, blackcurrants, red currants, mandarins, oranges, lemons, mulberries, pears, figs, apples, grapes, native grasses and a vegie patch.
“It’s God’s country down here when it comes to growing. The biodiversity is incredible,” Craig said.
The raspberries aren’t enough to make a full-time living, but putting together a few different things works out fine. They also have a Trust for Nature property at Donald with trees and native grasses growing for seed.
Craig grew up in Melbourne but his grandparents had a farm that inspired his raspberries.
“The main raspberry variety came from my grandfather who farmed near Warburton,” he said.
“I grew up in west Melbourne and as a kid my grandmother would make raspberry jam … I was spoilt like that.”
A former fitter and turner, Craig and Melissa, who was born in Portland, moved to the region nearly 20 years ago. He initially continued in his profession but an accident meant he needed a new vocation and farming had always been on the agenda.
“We rented this land, which was previously part of a dairy and potato farm, for eight years and then bought it,” he said.
“I had always wanted to do farming.”
After the accident, Craig needed a new vocation.
“I was sitting at home thinking ‘what am I going to do?’ and I thought nobody farms raspberries here. My mother and sister had kept my grandfather’s old raspberry canes and when they are dormant, you can transplant them very easily.
“I set up two old bath tubs here and multiplied the canes.”
Melissa wasn’t convinced he could do it and didn’t want to throw a heap of money at it.
“I did the first 10 rows by hand, just using a single-sided pick, the same as my grandfather would have done,” Craig said.
He later bought a second-hand tractor with a rotary hoe and completed the rest of the rows in a day.
All the weeding is done by hand and they don’t use any sprays to make sure everything is natural.
Melissa wanted a pet pig and the Berkshire pig now helps with composting.
“We hand-weed the raspberries and throw all the weeds to the pig and he composts them and we put the manure on the compost heap,” Craig said.
“I rotate the two compost heaps and once that is compacted down, I use it on the raspberries. That’s my fertiliser, all the old-fashioned way.”
They have also used pea-straw mulch, but that led to heaps of peas and a fungal disease. They had more success with woodchips.
Guinea pigs in cages are moved to different spots on the grass around the raspberries to mow and fertilise it.
The emus also have a role to play, apart from posing for photos.
“We haven’t lost a chicken to a fox since adding the emus,” Craig said.
“This has been our driest summer since we’ve been here, but we didn’t have many crickets in paddocks because of the emus and we had grass all through summer.”
It’s all about balance.
“We get a lot of snakes here so we had the snake catcher in eight or nine times, but we got rid of too many snakes and then we had an influx of rats and mice.”
Snakes well and truly returned this year and Craig is happy about that, even though he has endured a few bites, not to mention multiple stings from the beehives.
“Everything has its purpose. Biodiversity is an amazing thing,” he said.
Raspberries usually start to flower in September. The fruit shows up in November and usually continues until January.
“It’s a very short season,” Craig said.
“We get as much as we can off those plants and sell them from the farmgate and through a fruit shop in Portland.
“They don’t like the sun. It depends on the season how long they will grow. They’re a European plant and they just stop on a hot day.”
Melissa also puts them into bags of 250g, 500g and 1kg and freezes them.
“Frozen berries are amazing, especially on a hot day,” Craig adds, although a freezer malfunction meant this year’s frozen crop was ruined.
The loss wasn’t the end of the world.
“It’s just a hobby,” Craig said.
“You don’t make big money out of raspberries. As soon as we go into harvest, the ones in the supermarket drop down two or three dollars.”
“I love eating raspberries but I wouldn’t buy them from the supermarket. They taste like s***.”
The main crop is the heritage variety stemming from Craig’s grandfather, but the farm also has a local variety, a wild raspberry brought in from Byron Bay and a crossed variety bred by a local horticulturalist.
“It depends on the season which one grows the most,” Craig said.
“That’s why we have a variety. I always say don’t put all your eggs in one basket – it comes back to biodiversity.”
Part of the raspberry patch is covered to protect the berries from bigger birds, although smaller birds get in and help with bug control.
They host farm tours for kids during raspberry season.
“The city kids love it,” Craig said.
“They get to hold the guinea pigs, pat the emu and the parents put their kids next to the apple tree for a photo because they’ve never seen apples actually growing on trees.
“It’s all about harmony. If you get the harmony back, there’s less work to do. You have to use nature to your advantage – don’t work against it, learn to work with it.”