Neil and Lyn Handasyde
Handasyde’s Strawberry Farm
When Neil and Lyn Handasyde say their strawberry business is “built on love” they mean it in more ways than one; their story literally began among these sweet heart-shaped fruits.
Strawberries have long been linked to love and romance and legend has it that when two people split a strawberry to share, they’ll fall in love.
That legend holds true for Neil and Lyn as they met in a strawberry patch nearly three decades ago. Lyn was a strawberry picker and Neil was her boss when she went to work on his strawberry farm. And, as the red berries grew and ripened, so too did their romance.
“Lyn and I had a great connection right from the start. Of course, it helped that she loved strawberries.” Neil says.
Neil was raised on a strawberry farm in Mt Barker making him a second generation grower. He’d bought his own Albany-based parcel of land in 1991 and he and Lyn later expanded the business onto Chester Pass Road to be closer to more berry-loving customers.
Now with 48 hectares and hundreds of thousands of strawberry plants, the couple have added other berries and fruits to the farm including lemons, limes and passionfruit. They even have 700 chickens producing certified-organic eggs.
“There are sections of the farm where we produce organically-certified products but, regardless of certification, we apply the same high levels of environmental care to everything we grow and do,” Neil explains. “We use biological growing techniques to naturally build microbe health in our soils and sustainability is at the core of our business practice. This lets us produce high quality products with exceptional flavour in an environmentally friendly manner.”
While growing and selling strawberries (retail and wholesale) is still a big part of the couple’s business, it’s the cafe, playground and function facilities that are now capturing the attention of thousands of customers each year.
With a reputation for producing homegrown, homemade, deliciously tasting food, the Handasyde’s Cafe is where Lyn works her magic.
“It all started with me making scones to showcase our jams and things simply grew from there,” Lyn says. “When customers started asking for other items we’d trial them and add the best to the menu list. That list has certainly grown and we now cater for a range of tastes and dietary requirements.”
Lyn is well known as a highly respected boss, mentor and mother-figure to nearly 40 staff who work in what is, undoubtedly, the largest and most comprehensive kitchen in the Great Southern. It’s here that Lyn and her capable staff create high quality foods at affordable prices that reflect Lyn’s motto of “Natural is Best”.
“Neil and I have 12 children between us and nearly 20 grandchildren so we know the importance of a place that’s welcoming to all ages,” Lyn says. “Some come for the playground, some come for coffee and cake and others come for a relaxed lunch or a party in The Hay Shed. I believe in healthy foods; no preservatives, no additives and no rubbish so everything that comes out of my kitchen is made from scratch. We make our own sauces and syrups, pastries and breads, gelato and sorbets – we even make the marshmallows for our hot chocolates and baby-chinos.”
Neil and Lyn are certainly a tight team and even though they spend much of their day in different areas of the farm, they definitely run their business side by side.
With all this, it’s easy to see how Neil and Lyn have created a strawberry success story; Handasyde’s is where business and love go hand in hand.