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Monash University > Publications > Monash Magazine > Alumni News

Alumni on the land

Issue 18 | November 2006

Report: Robyn Anns
Photography: Greg Ford and Melissa Di Ciero

Grape growers: Wendy and David Lloyd have made a success of Eldridge Estate Winery.

Over the years, Monash has produced quite a crop of foodies -- the alumni behind some of our most delicious wines, cheese, bread, fruits, olives and coffee. Here we profile three businesses, run by Monash graduates who like to get their hands dirty.

David and Wendy Lloyd are wine lovers whose hobby gradually turned into a thriving business. Trained as teachers, they now own the Eldridge Estate winery on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula.

David (BSc(Hons) 1977, DipEd 1978) and Wendy (BSc 1975) have shared an appreciation of wine since they met as Monash students. "We didn't have any money but we used to enjoy drinking wine, and David started a wine-tasting club at Monash when he was a student," explains Wendy.

After they married, the couple experimented by making their own wine in a specially built double-brick garage at their home in the Melbourne suburb of Highett in 1978.

In 1980, they obtained a liquor licence to sell the wine they produced as 'garagistes' a French term that describes small, often exclusive, backyard wine producers.

During the 80s, Wendy worked as a teacher while David divided his time between teaching and wine industry consulting.

In 1995, they moved from the backyard to the country when they bought eight acres of vines on 20 acres of land at Red Hill on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula.

Six years later, David "gave up the chalk" to concentrate on the winery, while Wendy remains teaching part-time until the end of this year.

Eldridge Estate was run down when the Lloyds bought it, but it is now internationally recognised and renowned for its excellent pinot noir. "It's actually returning money now instead of sucking it into a black hole," Wendy laughs.

David loves his work because of the creativity of wine-making. "Growing grapes and making wine is easy -- selling can be the hard part, but we have our dedicated followers," he says.

Monash alumnus Anne Gallace and her family run Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm on the Mornington Peninsula.

With her husband Mick, daughter Nicole, son Mathew and his wife Ruth, she helps run Australia's largest family-owned strawberry farm.

Ann and Mick took over his family's apple and cherry farm when they married in 1976. "Mick fell in love with strawberries, and we decided that was the crop for us," Anne says.

The farm has grown to 250 acres with 200 acres of strawberries and a few acres of avocadoes, raspberries and blueberries.

Anne's Monash degrees (BSc 1974, BSc(Hons) 1975, DipEd 1976, GradDipAgribus 1997) have helped them run the business.

"Having studied biochemistry and botany as part of my science degree, I could assist Mick in understanding plants, their conditions and diseases," Anne says.

"Our size means we are more into management than actual labour now, so my postgraduate agribusiness course has also been a tremendous help to the business.

"It was fantastic and very, very valuable. The knowledge I gained has allowed us to develop by using a more professional approach to our farming."

The good oil: Allison and David Ehrlich have taken up olive farming.

Allison and David Ehrlich are a couple with a medical background who underwent a sea-change when they moved to the country and began olive farming in 1999.

Their Krowera label extra virgin olive oil won a gold award at last year's 9th Australian Olive Expo and a bronze at this year's Sydney Royal Fine Food Show.

Allison (BSc 1984, MSc 2004) completed a nursing and midwifery degree before studying science at Monash. She is now a botanical artist, and her delicate illustrations decorate the Krowera business cards and gift boxes.

Dr David Ehrlich (BMedSc 1973, MB BS 1977) was a senior lecturer in anatomy at Monash from 1980 to 1991 before he decided to move into ophthalmology. He obtained his postgraduate qualifications and established a private practice in the Melbourne suburb of Box Hill in 1996.

He wanted to divide his practice between city and country, so the couple moved to Wonthaggi on the Gippsland coast.

"We wanted to grow something on the land in this area because it was so beautiful -- and to have a chance to revegetate the region known mainly for its dairy farms," David recalls.

In 1999, they found a small piece of land near the township of Loch in South Gippsland and began planting their olive grove of 1700 trees.

The family lives in the Wonthaggi region and visits the olive grove frequently, as well as having a family home in the Melbourne suburb of North Caulfield.

Krowera is an Indigenous word meaning 'windy' and they find the cool coastal climate produces olives that mature quite slowly, resulting in an A-class mild oil that is smooth and delicious. The olives are hand-picked and cold-pressed within 24 hours, and the oil is bottled locally.

The Ehrlichs have also planted 40 acres of native trees with the help of LandCare, and last year the property was used for PhD research into the restoration of native fauna, following reforestation. "For both of us it is a fantastic feeling to walk among the olive trees and under the 30-foot gums and know that we are doing something for the environment," Allison says.