CHRISTMAS fever has hit Cherry Park with owner Graham Minifie hailing the 2014 season the best he's seen in 10 years.
The five hectare property, located just north of Stanthorpe at The Summit, has been revelling in the drier weather in the lead up to the start of harvest in November, with Mr Minifie hoping for around a 3kg yield of cherries per tree.
"It's been a fairly good year, mainly because we haven't had any real, good rain," Mr Minifie said.
Although many farmers are in desperate need of wet weather, Mr Minifie said it was a case of producing a crop to match the climate.
"Someone benefits and so many don't - for cherry growers, it's better because rain splits the cherries so the less rain, the more good cherries we get."
The New Zealand born fruiterer originally opened the farm 20 years ago with 5000 cherry trees but has since halved his cherry crop and diversified into growing figs and feijoa while also reaping the benefits of solar panels.
"Both the fig and feijoa are well suited to the Granite Belt growing conditions and while the feijoa is very unusual here, it's quite popular, and that makes the farming of that particular crop quite easy.
"That's just us changing our strategy and trying to ensure an income in the rainy years."
Moving to the area to run an orchard netting company with his business partner, Mr Minifie soon fell in love with the landscape and now wife, Rhonda, and now employs 15 pickers during the peak of the season.
"I came over from Tauranga in New Zealand and established a company that supplied and built protective canopy systems over orchards and that went quite well and now it's probably one of the largest netting companies in the southern hemisphere.
"The Granite Belt is where we really started the company and I suppose, with many things, you start somewhere and plant roots and enjoy that area."
Now, with only one third of the original cherry plantation remaining, Mr Minifie is looking forward to semi-retirement and working on restoring and moving into the original homestead.
"We're aiming to sell all the products through the shop here, instead of sending them to market and so far it's worked really well.
"We're selling the fresh figs and cherries and we also have a cherry wine which we've put together as a way to reduce the waste if we have a wet season."
Mr Minifie described his specialty wine as 'bloody beautiful', yielding an intense flavour akin to a port liqueur, and rating a bit over 18 per cent alcohol.
"It's an offshoot from the years when we have so much rain and we thought we'd better try and do something with the damaged fruit and produced this in an attempt to recoup some funds."
The love of producing a high quality product has kept Mr Minifie in the orchard game with the former Kiwi looking forward to celebrating the Christmas cheer with his family before heading back to work in the New Year.
"The window of cherry sales time for us is very small and then we move onto our other fruits.
"The figs are starting now and they'll go through to April and then feijoas start in February and go through to June. So we're kept busy year-round.
"Seeing the smiles on people's faces when you can produce a quality cherry is what it's all about - I don't think there's much not to like about cherries."