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Amber Ridge’s Cindy Cross champions region’s produce

FROM GARDEN TO TABLE: Cindy Cross shares her passion for fresh food made with love. Pictures: SARAH SCULLY

FROM GARDEN TO TABLE: Cindy Cross shares her passion for fresh food made with love. Pictures: SARAH SCULLY

When Cindy Cross opened Amber Ridge Farm Shop, Nursery and Café, she had her fingers crossed at least 20 people would walk through her front door.
“We didn’t have much money left over to advertise, so I thought if 20 people came on the opening day, I’d be so excited,” Cindy said. “We had 200 people – I nearly passed out.”
Amber Ridge, about four kilometres from Apsley on the Wimmera Highway towards Edenhope, grew out of a passion for horticulture, cooking and sustainable living.
“Nine years ago, my ex-husband Mark and I built a house on the family farm, with the idea of becoming a bit self-sufficient,” Cindy said.
“We wanted to have an orchard and a big vegetable garden.
“We moved into the house five weeks before our second child was born. At that stage the house wasn’t even fenced off. We had sheep at the front door, sheep at the back door.
“That first year was harsh, but we did get our orchard planted – 100 trees under bird netting. About three years later the fruit came in and I started catering for events in Coonawarra.”
It was Mark’s idea to convert an old farm house on the property into a business.
“It was old and dilapidated. Sheep were living in it. It was two halves of a house – the middle was missing, it was just dirt and sky,” she said.
“When Mark suggested we do it up, I took one look and said, ‘there are six inches of sheep manure and two sheep carcasses. Birds are living in the walls. There is no way’. But he did it. He spent a year doing up the house and did an amazing job.”
Cindy, who has an advanced diploma in horticulture, said the initial idea involved a farm shop and a nursery.
“The café bit was just put in because I thought I’d be bored,” she said.
“I’d learnt how to make preserves and I was a reasonable home cook.
“I previously ran a nursery for a long time so I was confident in those areas.
“I figured I’d put in a little café. That way, if someone comes, I can offer them coffee and cake. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be busy.
“I couldn’t be more blessed to have chosen that perfect timing, the perfect rustic cottage location, cooking food like grandma used to make.”

Amber Ridge Farm Shop, Nursery and Cafe, near Apsley

Amber Ridge Farm Shop, Nursery and Cafe, near Apsley

Cindy said she expected the business to be 70 percent nursery and 30 percent café.
“From the beginning, it was the other way around,” she said.
“I didn’t realise I was hitting the nail on the head of so many things that were on trend with food: culture, organics, the back story of things made with love and using heirloom varieties.
“I’ve always loved heirloom vegetables. I’m really passionate about getting those varieties before man has tampered with breeds of things.
“You get these amazing coloured vegetables and fruits that taste so much better.
“The downside is, they don’t store and stack like a supermarket. But because I serve food that’s seasonal, you don’t have to store it. You just pick it and make something.
“It’s a very spoilt way to live, to be honest. It also means you can put your hand on your heart and know you’re serving something that is not only delicious, but is good for you. Nourishing.
“It’s an amazing feeling to do something for a living you know you’re meant to be doing.”
Amber Ridge is open from Wednesday to Sunday.

Cindy Cross fires up the outdoor pizza oven during warmer months.

Cindy Cross fires up the outdoor pizza oven during warmer months.

Cindy said she regularly served 150 people on weekends alone.
“Here is what blows me away – they come from two hours away. On purpose,” she said.
“There’s no big shop next to me or big attraction. They’re simply coming to eat my food, at my place and have my hospitality. I have to stop myself from pinching people’s cheeks and hugging them and saying, ‘thanks so much for coming all the way here’.
“I feel very fortunate and blessed it’s all fallen into place. I’m not saying it’s easy, because I’ve never worked so hard in my life, but I’m having a blast.”
Cindy has incorporated produce from the region into her business, including stocking wine from her family’s vineyard.
“All the wines are local, within 100 kilometres and all from boutique, hand-crafted wineries,” she said.
“Anyone I think is doing a really good job, with that hand-crafted, made-with-love thing, I get their produce or products in as well.
“I’m trying to champion the region and its produce. We’re lucky, because we have some wonderful stuff here.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere – but maybe it’s becoming somewhere.”


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Posted on Jul 27 2016

Posted by on Jul 27 2016. Filed under Agriculture, FEATURED, Food & Wine, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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