The History of Cherry Tree Organics

The Blundy family converted to organic farming 20 years ago; the ‘light bulb moment’ occurred when Shane was ploughing a paddock, he looked behind at the soil he had just ploughed and realised the soil wasn’t like it used to be when he was a child growing up on the farm in the 1960s.

Shane remembered as a child every time land was ploughed there would be a mass of birds following behind.  The birds were there because the soil had turned up life - worms, beetles and ants - the soil was alive.  He realised there were no birds following the tractor as there was no activity in the soil, it was dead, killed by years of fertiliser use.

Shane with his siblings and father on the farm in the 1950's

This was the turning point, the start of the conversion to organic farming or going back to the type of farming which was the norm in Australia up until the 1970’s.  The more research we did about organic farming the more we learned about the health, animal welfare and environmental benefits.  Converting to organic farming in 1993 was a drastic step; the Australian organics industry was very small and farming beef and lamb organically was virtually unheard of.

We persevered, passionate about what we were doing and confident there was a market for our high quality organic meat.  At the end of the three year organic conversion process we had great quality certified organic meat however no stock agents were interested in buying our meat (most organic meat at the time was grown in outback Queensland and didn’t have a good reputation for quality).  Most people Shane approached is the organic industry said they appreciated the health benefits however they had tried organic meat and it wasn’t good eating quality therefore there wasn’t a demand for organic meat.

We were determined to not sell our meat as we had in the past, to a stock agent leaving us with no idea where our meat went and who was consuming it.   We had our beef MSA graded so we could guarantee to the consumer our meat was of a very high quality.  With no experience in the retailing or wholesaling industry we had no other option but to sell our beef to consumers directly given there were no buyers for organic beef at the time.    

Eventually after much persistence we had a small number of buyers for our beef.  We started off very small, processing just one lamb and one body of beef, which we couldn't sell entirely as the demand wasn't there.

Selling direct under the newly created Cherry Tree Organics brand was a challenge and something a farmer wasn’t used to.  Initially we were very naïve, like most farmers we just grew beef & lamb, sold the animal and had no idea what happened to it after it left the farm.  We received some occasional feedback about the weight and fat content however that was about it.

It’s a different story when it is your animal which you follow from the paddock through to the plate.  You quickly begin to appreciate the factors which are important in eating quality and realise the life of an animal prior to its slaughter is the main factor.   As farmers we had been guided by abattoirs and butchers with a focus on yield, it didn't take us very long to realise yield wasn’t related to eating quality.  We promptly returned to farming British breeds (Angus & Hereford) renowned for superior eating quality rather than yield.  The herd of cattle at Cherry Tree Organics today is a result of 20 years of organic breeding, each year as we improve the quality of our breeders we improve the quality of our beef.

In 2009 we took the final step in following our product from paddock to plate.  We opened the Cherry Tree Organics butcher shop in Beaconsfield, Melbourne.  The butcher shop gives us complete control of the process involved in taking our animals from our paddock to your plate.

In 2013 Cherry Tree Organics entered the delicious Produce awards and was named a finalist in the 'From the Paddock' category.  This was an extremely proud moment for us, highlighting our beef as one of the highest quality products available in Australia and giving Cherry Tree Organics the public recognition it deserves.