The Orchard Yeppoon owner Bernadette Melrose on the famous swing. It is a popular location for professional photographs.
The Orchard Yeppoon owner Bernadette Melrose on the famous swing. It is a popular location for professional photographs. Allan Reinikka ROK100719aorchard

The ultimate dream: Raising your children on an orchard farm

FROM jackfruit to rheedia madruno trees, starfruits and chocolate pudding fruit, The Orchard Yeppoon is filled with unique and exotic fruits.

Bernadette Melrose and Mark Thomas are the new proud owners of Bel Monte Boutique Orchard, which they have renamed to The Orchard Yeppoon.

The couple have five young children between them and had been looking for a rural place for a long time to raise them.

Mark grew up on a rural property in North Queensland while Bernadette is from Rockhampton.

"I had always liked horses and we lived out of town rurally for a bit as Dad was a policeman,” Bernadette said.

The Orchard Yeppoon owner Bernadette Melrose.
The Orchard Yeppoon owner Bernadette Melrose with her new ponies and pet dogs. Allan Reinikka ROK100719aorchard

"We looked at quite a few properties over the years and never found the right place for the right money.”

They have been living in Yeppoon for the past seven years and earlier this year, they came across the Bondoola orchard.

"We came and looked at it and fell in love and things just worked out,” Bernadette said.

The farm is 16 hectares, filled with an established tropical fruit orchard predominately lychees, macadamias, mangoes and starfruit with carambola, jackfruit and lots of various unique types.

Bernadette trained as a physio, so being a grower/farmer is completely out of her depth.

She said she normally kills house plants so she is learning a lot about managing a fruit orchard.

The Orchard Yeppoon.
The ponies are new to the farm and were previously show animals. Allan Reinikka ROK100719aorchard

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"I don't know anything about trees and fruit... it's really interesting, I love learning new things,” she said.

She noted the help she has received from many local growers and neighbours and the Capricorn Edible Plants Group.

"I still know nothing compared to all these people to have been doing it for 40, 50, 60 years,” Bernadette said.

While they don't plan on becoming certified, they do plan maintaining chemical free and organic standards.

The Orchard Yeppoon.
The property, formerly Bel Monte Boutique Orchard dates back to the late 1800s. Allan Reinikka ROK100719aorchard

"We we will definitely try to be as organic as we can be, spray free, look at the permaculture side of things as much as we can,” Bernadette said.

They will be putting in a vegetable garden in the near future soon as well.

"There's only so much fruit the kids can eat so we need to grow some other stuff,” Bernadette said.

The property was an old gold mining lease that was split up in to four house blocks in the late 1800s.

It was also a operational dairy farm around 1850.

The Orchard Yeppoon. Carambola or star fruit.
Starfruit in season at the Bondoola property. Allan Reinikka ROK100719aorchard

Bernadette hasn't been able to find out if gold was mined on the property however it is similar country to Mount Chalmers so it could be possible.

The family has also inherited wedding bookings from the previous owner who hosted events on the flat land near the orchard.

"At the moment we are happy with doing half a dozen weddings a year,” Bernadette said.

"That's been a real unexpected joy... we have had one couple go on to have a baby... you meet people you normally wouldn't meet.”

Looking at expanding this down the track, the couple are also looking into building some facilities like a camp kitchen and amenities so they could open up to farm stays.

"We could look at anniversary packages or we'd like to have the option for people to stay after their wedding... fruit pickers, backpackers can stay,” Bernadette said.

With scenic views of Mount Archer and Mount Baga and more, Bernadette would like to share her little pocket of paradise with the public.

The Orchard Yeppoon. Jackfruit.
A jackfruit coming into fruition. Allan Reinikka ROK100719aorchard

She is keen to get involved in monthly 'taster weekends' where people can come try the produce and relax.

"Families can go somewhere that is kid friendly, kids can run around, play with the animals, parents can have a drink and chat and just enjoy being out in the bush,” she said.

Watching her children and some friends run around during the school holidays only solidifies Bernadette's love for the farm.

"They are outdoors all the time... .it's worth its weight in gold,” she said.

One of her sons had a campfire campout for his 10th birthday a few weeks ago with 30 mates. The parents had to drag them home the next day they all had so much fun.

"Everyone wants to come over for a sleepover, they spent whole day fencing the other day and they still loved it,” she said.

The older boys are also responsible for feeding the animals and checking the waters.

The Orchard Yeppoon. Black Sapote or Chocolate Pudding Fruit.
Black Sapote or Chocolate Pudding Fruit. It is said they taste just like chocolate and can be substituted for bananas. Allan Reinikka ROK100719aorchard

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So far the farm has chicken, two ponies, goats and dogs.

"It's a slow progress... all the animals can only eat certain things but they are learning in due course,” Bernadette said.

In a complete shake up, you may also see Bernadette's face popping up some more over the next few months.

Bernadette has plans of running for council in Livingstone Shire Council's next election in March.

She ran in last election with good success and is fired up to try again.

The Orchard Yeppoon. rheedia madruno.
Bernadette's favourite, the rheedia madruno. A sweet but sour fruit, similar skin and seed to a lychee. Allan Reinikka ROK100719aorchard

"I don't see any mums with young kids on council that have a vested interest on how the town is run and what facilities there are and how the town is going to progress,” Bernadette said.

"You cant whinge about everything if you don't do anything about it.”

Bernadette noted the cost of living is really challenging and finances needed to looked at.

"If you don't put money in then you cant expect to have any facilities or expect your road to be paved, graded or upkept,” she said.

"I think the money needs to be spent much more responsibly, efficiently and effectively and I think a mum who runs a household budget has some pretty good grips on it.”

THE ORCHARD YEPPOON:

  • Cobraball Rd, Bondoola
  • 10 minutes from Yeppoon, 20 minutes from Rockhampton
  • 16 hectares
  • Unique and exotic fruit orchard
  • Available for events, weddings and photography location
  • Find them on facebook