In the hinterland of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, there is a long tradition of fruit farming. Innovators like second generation farmers Robert and Karen Martin are part of the gourmet production in this fertile area with its sub-tropical climate. They are enthusiastic horticulturalists who take great pleasure in bringing the best exotic fruits, like custard apples, dragon fruit & lychees to Australians’ plates. And they are now gaining worldwide attention with innovations like the PinksBlush custard apple variety and the award-winning Custard Dust® sweetener.
Robert and Karen Martin are the latest producers to take up the fruit-growing tradition at Yanalla and reinvent it for contemporary Australian tastes.
Here in Queensland’s Glass House Mountains region (named by Captain James Cook in 1770 because the mountain shapes reminded him of glass-making foundries), early European settlers found the perfect place to grow tropical fruits in the rich volcanic soil.
In the 1920s, the land that is now Yanalla was part of a soldier settlement allotment. Some of the pecan trees from that time still survive on the property and still produce sweet nuts.
Robert Martin’s parents, Bob and Janelle Martin, bought the property in 1976 and named it ‘Yanalla’ after Janelle’s childhood home at Mosman in Sydney (which was once the home of author Ethel May Turner).
The farm was then growing pineapples but Bob and Janelle were keen to experiment with crops that were less labour-intensive and would reach a premium market. They eventually replaced all their pineapples with avocados, custard apples and lychees. Robert and Karen worked alongside them for a number of years.
A new Generation
When Bob and Janelle decided to retire in 2011, Robert and Karen bought the property and rebranded it Yanalla Farms. Robert and Karen replaced older orchards with new trees to meet emerging demand. They planted popular varieties of lychees and introduced dragon fruit.
Their most exciting innovation is developing an unusual custard apple with its origins on a tree Bob noticed 20 years ago.
Today the unusual pink-tinged custard apple is nearly ready to be licensed to other growers who will benefit from this delightfully different, delicious new variety.
Robert and Karen are keen to celebrate the region’s fruitful legacy and continue the local horticultural traditions. Their farm is now the venue for occasional food events where locals and visitors come and feast in the orchards beneath the Glasshouse Mountains, which have been part of the landscape for more than 25 million years.