Fords Farm grow a variety of mandarins such as the Satsuma mandarin, a seedless variety that is easy to peel, full of juice which suits the kids the best and Imperials mandarins are also easy to peel, with few seeds and perfect for that portable snack.
Tahitian limes, kaffir limes, and lemons are available for picking on the opening weekend. The Hickson mandarins, known for their bright orange easy to peel skins, and Valencia oranges at the far side of the Farm, are yet to ripen over the coming weeks.
One of my favourite citrus fruits is the cumquat. An unusual feature of this small oval shaped fruit is the eating. The fruit is eaten whole, skin and all. When you eat the whole fruit, the inside is still quite sour but the skin has the sweeter flavour and it produces an unusual tart then sweet aftertaste. I introduced this fruit to the kids and their faces contorted as I ate the cumquat peel and all, as it was a foreign concept to eat the peel. They weren't game enough to try cumquats this time but I'm hoping that they will love them as much as I do.
Ford's Farm is located near Wiseman's Ferry, an easy hour and fifteen minutes drive northwest of the hustle and bustle of Sydney CBD. Start at the shed to be given a rundown of where the different fruit trees are. There is the option to use shears at $5, which is refunded when returned, as well as empty buckets to fill with your mandarin bounty.
We wandered through and around the fruit-laden trees, bright orange dots amongst the dark green foliage. The kids were running ahead on the hunt for the sweetest and largest mandarins they could find. Not much sampling occurred as it somehow turned into a race to see who could fill their buckets first before handing them over to their parents to carry back.
Once you have picked your fill, head back to the shed to weigh the fruit and pay. My advice is to pick closer to the shed, as I found carrying two bucket loads of mandarins from the back of the farm, tough work on my arms, but a good bicep workout in any case.
There is a selection of the Farm's homemade jams (mandarin and whisky, orange and brandy), honey, and chutneys on offer, too. Or have a go at making your own mandarin marmalade with your bucket loads of mandarins.
There is an entry fee of $5 per car at the gate to cover the cost of providing more facilities but not to worry, there is plenty of paddock parking. I totally recommend having a picnic and making a day of it with family and friends. There are picnic chairs and tables available as well as toilet and baby change facilities.
There are farm animals to see and also feed. Just buy some feed (50c a bag) at the shed to take with you to feed the sheep, which my kids loved.
Council has provided signage to state that Laughtondale Gully Road is now closed as the road is dangerous and difficult to navigate.
Travel on Old Northern Road all the way into Wisemans Ferry and when you see the township there is a road on your right (Singleton Road). Simply follow the big yellow signs all the way past Watkins Farm to the end of the road to Fords Farm.
Prices per kilo havenot changed for the past ten years, so you can buy your mandarins, lemons and limes for $2.00 per kg. We managed to pick my middle child's weight in mandarins which he's quite pleased about.
Cumquats are $10.00 per kg with a discount given on the purchase of large quantities.