Farmer of the Year title is the cherry on top

Chris Hall (middle) with Adam Marshall MP and NSW Farmers' president James Jackson.
Chris Hall (middle) with Adam Marshall MP and NSW Farmers' president James Jackson.

Cherry farmer Chris Hall of Hall Family Orchards has picked up the NSW Farmer of the Year award.

Farmers were recognised at the Farmer of the Year Awards at the NSW Farmers Writers Association luncheon at NSW Parliament last week.

Mr Hall said it was a huge thrill.

"It has been a lot of hard work so it was good to reflect on what we have done over a short period of time. It was a proud moment for the family and myself. It was awesome," he said.

There were three finalists in the NSW Farmer of the Year category.

After being nominated for the award, Mr Hall made written submissions to the panel of judges covering categories of production, innovation and safety.

Specialising in tree nutrition and with a background in horticulture, Mr Hall explained there's been focus on soil and tree health, microbes and cover crops between orchard rows to boost cherry size and flavour.

He said this season's harvest has been a "little down in production".

"Size is down a bit with the dry and hot conditions. My biggest limitation with bore water is I don't like the quality, it's not how I'd like it," he said.

"We gain size and yield when the dams are full.

"Wind has been a bit troubling but our fruit has held up pretty well. We've been working on firmness with calcium and silicon levels which are showing a good indication that the microbes are working. Both elements make the cell walls stronger and reduce splitting from wind."

Investments in an optical grader last year has reduced costs of labour.

While on the health and safety front they've reduced 15kg lugs to 9kgs to reduce risks with handling and picking cherries.

Earlier this year Mr Hall was presented with the 2019 National Carbon Cocky Award for demonstrated improvement in carbon management in horticulture and was a finalist in outstanding performance in soil carbon sequestration.