Neil & Ruth Cook with their son John and daughter-in-law Marie have been supplying Lettuce Deliver with their delicious & refreshing, not to mention famous…..Cooks Clear Apple Juice since 1999 and more recently, their Cloudy Apple Juice and Granny Smith Apple Juice.
Early varieties of apples including Summer Dels, Early Dels and Jonathon as well as Clapps Pears are also available to us most years between mid January and mid February…. Neil & Ruth always supplying us at a very fair and reasonable price unlike others with apples available at the same time who look for extremely high prices as reward for the first apple of the season.
Marrying in 1962, Neil & Ruth purchased the Farm situated at the The Summit in Queensland from Ruth’s family in 1970, and then bought an adjoining Farm in 1990 bringing the total size of the farm to 75 acres, 2/3 of which is today orchard….some of the trees dating back to the 40’s, when the Farm was run by Ruth’s parents.
Cook’s Farm was first Certified Organic with ACO, (formerly known as BFA) in 1990, being amongst the Pioneering Farms moving Chemical Free produce into the 20th Century. Upgrading to Biodynamic Certification in 2005, the Farm has now been farmed without any chemical inputs for almost 20 years. When I asked Neil why they had converted to Organic Farming, the answer was simply ‘for the good of the environment, for a cleaner product and also the health of the family’. Growing conventionally for almost 3 decades, the Cooks have seen the results of chemical farming and the impact it has on creating an artificial product; chemical sprays, waxing and then stickers that were necessary to use when supplying the large chain stores.
Cooks Apple Juice came into production in 1997, being juiced and bottled off farm by a small plant in the district. Since 2007, the entire operation is now completed on Farm…in fact today other Certified Growers ask the Cook Family to juice for them also.
Work on the farm is intense and continuous…..
the Trees (mainly red del varieties and granny smith’s) begin to flower in early October, thinning of the apples on the trees begins in early November to ensure good quality fruit,
‘praying’ starts in Spring and early Summer that there is good rainfall so that the fruit sets properly.
Harvest (hand picking) begins early January and continues until mid to late April when the Juicing begins and continues until the end of July.
June sees the leaves fall from the trees and the pruning begins, to complete the orchard takes until late September.
….so as you can see the family get at least 2 – 3 days off per year (smiles).
When I asked Neil what was his greatest challenge, he responded with the weather of course, considering the Farm is Dry Farmed (relies almost solely on rain for irrigation) as well as Insect and fungal diseases.
Neil has always been one to consider the big picture, including the prices paid by the consumer which is so important when considering sustainability and long term success. As well as supplying Lettuce Deliver each year with thousands of bottles of juice, Neil and Ruth have offered us much support, advice and guidance over the years in regards to Apples of course, as well as general questions about produce, not to mention conversation on the Organic Industry as a whole….for the encouragement we received at the time we first bought Lettuce Deliver we will be forever in debt.
Update April 2015
As many of you are aware Neil & Ruth Cook have been supplying Lettuce with their famous Juices and early season Apples since we started in 1999. As a pioneer of the Organic Industry Neil & Ruth's farm was one of the first recognised as Certified Organic and we all have a lot to thank him for in terms of the produce we all choose today. Being 60 something quite a few years back, both Neil and Ruth decided it was time to step back from the farm and allow the next generation to take the reins. Sadly things have not turned out as expected and it has been decided that it is best to clear most of the Apple trees from the Farm...leaving only a handful of mature trees which is manageable...those trees labelled 'for Emma'. The treatment of these trees has not changed and they will continue to be loved under the guidelines of the National Organic Standard as they always have been...but for such a small area it is not worth renewing the Certification of the property. So...our beloved Cooks Clear Apple Juice is finally back on the list but it cannot be sold as Certified Organic.