Our history

About Darkes

It all started when Edward Charles Fahey began farming at Darkes Glenbernie Orchard in 1939. Four generations later we are still growing apples and other fruits, selling them from our beloved Appleshack farm shop, but now we also offer farm experiences and make award-winning apple cider and honey mead too. We have become a destination.

1939

The Beginning

First generation farmers, Edward Charles and Ellen Fahey came to Darkes Forest in 1939. They grew chickens, potatoes, a few backyard fruit trees and cut firewood for sale. They made clothes line props from bush trees, known as ‘forkies’, which was a common way to build a clothes line in Australia prior to the invention of the rotary clothes hoist.

Darkes Forest was a tough place to live in those days and hard work was both expected and necessary.

Their son, Edward Martin (Ted), worked to help his dad from an early age in every aspect of the wood business, growing the farm and in selling of produce.  Their daughter, Jocelyn, helped with everything from the vegie patch and chooks to the dairy cow and the family horse. Like her brother, she became a genius at growing things. These skills continue to be passed down the generations today.

Ted and Jocelyn grew up with their parents and grandmother, Maude Kate Martin, all living in the old cottage on the farm. They went through some pretty tough times, eeking out a living from the land but the family and being together was always most important. The cottage is pictured here, with what eventually became an enormous wisteria covering the entire building.

In his late teens, early 20’s, Ted set out to build a new house on the farm for his mum, working by candlelight at night to complete it. It took him 2 years to build as he could only work at night after his daily work activities.

Ted spent a lot of his time tending to the chickens and had to do many hours of dressing the birds for sale as meat. Ted did not enjoy that part of the job and to this day refuses to eat chicken.

The family encouraged the neighbours to farm potatoes and cooperatively sell them. This was a very hard pursuit and began to take a toll on young Ted’s back.  He convinced his parents that they should plant more fruit trees and focus on that as he felt the area suited this. He went on to marry Ruth and she joined him in development of the business and brought the financial savvy that was needed to help grow the enterprise.

Ted and Ruth have three sons who have all worked on the orchard. It is their eldest son, Glenn, who has taken the farm into its next phase of development, assisted by his wife Jo-Anne. They have two children who as 4th generation, will lead the events and product development of the future on the farm.

Ted, now well into his 80’s has set the tone for the hard working ethic we all have here. We aspire to continue to ‘grow something from nothing’. We love to take natural inputs and with care and skill nurture growth and produce food that tastes amazing. We love to educate and share what we know and what we do. We are proud of what we have achieved from several lifetimes and from each season. We get excited by seasonal differences in batches of fruit, cider and honey.

2013

The launch of Darkes Brewing

Casey and Brandon (4th generation and gen ‘y’ ) pushed the older members of our Fahey family in the direction of cider making, confident that our apples would make sensational flavoured cider.

Armed with generations of experience in apple farming our family began a journey to understand what was required to make a cider that locals and visitors alike would enjoy. It was important to our family that we use 100% fresh crushed apple.

The idea of delivering a pure apple cider became a reality when we discovered that the varieties of apple already grown on the farm were perfectly suitable.

Here at the orchard people often tell us that our fresh apples have more flavour than others they can buy in the shops. In fact, many of our customers travel quite long distances to buy direct from us at the farm. We started researching how we could use these same apples to make our own brand of cider in the belief that we could make something that tasted quite special.

The Howler was our first cider. Every apple is selected personally by family members. As farmers it is incredibly important to us that we are involved right throughout the process. We grow the fruit and we see it through to the glass. We unleashed this first cider at a wild weather VIP launch in 2013, where the guests were excited about Howler’s versatility. It’s an all occasion drink, great served on a hot day after work. It’s perfect with pasta or pizza, super with spicy stir fry like Thai chilli basil, and tantalising as a toast at New Years Eve, a 21st or a wedding!… and it’s just like the farms’ guardian canine who features on the label. Just the right amount of sweetness but with a ‘bit of a bite’.

Our next project a year later was to release a non-alcoholic cider.

‘Little Blue’, also made from 100% fresh crushed apple juice was created as a refreshing sparkling giving you the option to have a drink whilst out and not worry about the alcohol – there is none! So it’s great for drivers and anyone else who prefers to drink a zero alcohol drink!

Best served chilled. Can be served over ice with a twist of your favourite garnish fruits! Fresh is best.

Since these early days we have added several other ciders to the range including a dry cider and a perry. There is a methode traditionelle cider aging, still to be released.

In 2016 we released our first apple cider vinegar. Our vinegar is increasing in popularity due to the perceived health benefits . We are planning further growth of our apple cider vinegar in future. It has been well received by chefs and is popular with locals. It has won some major awards Nationally.

We have planted cider specific varieties of apple trees from England and France to ensure the family can continue the journey of making interesting ciders into the future and grow with the market.

As cider making is all about fermentation of a fresh product, we have made the leap into fermenting honey to make award winning delicious meads. We have made several still and sparkling honey meads.  Our customers are always looking forward to the next chapter in our journey and we welcome everyone to come along and become part of the story!

2015

Experiences on the farm

Due to an overwhelming demand by visitors to see the farm first hand our experience tours were created. Tours are possible throughout the year seeing different stages of growth in the trees across the season. Experienced staff show what is happening and answer questions.

On an experience tour, when fruit is available, visitors have an opportunity to pick from the tree. Tours can be tailored to meet the needs of the group. Tours give an opportunity for ‘insight into what we do and why we do it’. Tours are always pre-booked. They are a fun way for children to find out where food comes from and encourage healthy lifestyle choices.

We are still evolving and looking for new ways to meet community expectations for creative activities on the farm.

The farm is also a great place to ‘chill’ and has a great feel for photography, events and weddings.

2017

National and International Awards

Just four years after producing our first cider, we won our first gold medal at the World Cider Awards in London in 2017 and then backed it up with a second gold award in 2018, both for ‘Howler’ in the Medium sparkling category.

The award caps a strong period for our four-generation, family-run orchard. We also scored highly at the Royal Hobart Fine Food Awards with our apple cider vinegar.

The Darkes Brewing Apple Cider Vinegar won gold in the savoury preserves section for dressings and vinegars before taking out the title of Champion for the savoury preserves category, beating 95 other gold medal contenders in 2017. In 2018 it has won gold again  and this also sits next to a gold at the 2018 Australian Fine Food Awards, Melbourne.

The accolades were wonderful and give credit to the younger family members for convincing the family to branch into the cider business.

We have a determination to use 100 percent freshly crushed apples to deliver robust quality products.

Most recently our honey meads (dessert wines) and sparkling meads have been gaining attention. We have won silver awards most recently for our meads and are thrilled by the early successes.

There’s a good reason four generations of the family have been involved in this orchard. We love what we do and we want to share our success with the world. Our gold medals at the World Cider

Awards are just the beginning.

WORK WITH US

Casual Jobs

So you think you have what it takes to be part of our team?

We have casual and seasonal work available during the year. Please contact us by email for more information and with your resume and dates of availability.

Please note:

We cannot sign off on Working Holiday Visa 2nd year extensions, as we are not in an eligible regional area. To work with Darkes Cider and the AppleShack you must be 18yrs old and hold a current NSW RSA qualification.

We support and sponsor The Blue Datto Foundation

The Blue Datto Foundation is a NSW based registered charity that aims to protect the lives of young Australians through innovative road safety education. Blue Datto’s mission is to change the culture of young drivers by altering attitudes and behaviours.

Blue Datto was established by the Vassallo family following the death of 17-year-old Philip Vassallo in a crash in which both drivers were red ‘P’ platers. Phil, ‘the kid in the Blue Datto’, was a much-loved teenager who brought happiness to everyone who knew him.

Blue Datto established its flagship education program, ‘Keeping Safe™’ in 2014.  Keeping Safe’s point of difference is it is delivered by undergraduate university students, trained by Blue Datto in facilitation to become peer mentors.

The peer mentors are close in age to the school students so create an open and honest dialogue with the school students about what is happening, thereby positively influencing the attitudes of the students, and giving them practical measures to change their behaviours to help students keep themselves and their friends safe.

Blue Datto aims to make Keeping Safe available to every school in NSW. Blue Datto is fortunate to have the support of the NSW Police and NSW Fire and Rescue, and many other community organisations and businesses.

If you are a teacher, student, parent or community member interested in providing Keeping Safe in your school, please contact Blue Datto today.

COME VISIT US

Pure Farm Experience

In the area there are other things to do and combine with a visit to our farm shop.

The Darkes Forest Riding Ranch is a few kms down the road for horse riding, and the Dharrawal National Park has many bush walks including the Maddens Falls walk directly across from our orchard main gate. Symbio Wildlife Park is also only 5 mins drive. The Glasshouse B&B is just down the rd, suitable for couples.

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