Meet Cindy Cross
Where it all began
I have a passion for homegrown produce, and great home-made food, so in 2011 I established “Amber Ridge” – a farm shop Café & Nursery at the old “Yallamata Homestead”. I restored the 110-year-old cottage, developed a productive kitchen garden and, armed with a passion for food, started the tiny café and nursery on the outskirts of the tiny township of Apsley, Victoria.
I used my own fresh organic produce in the creation of all of my meals, which varied according to the season and produce that was ready to pick from our own vegetable growing and wholesale nursery.
Fast forward to 2018, I have moved to Compton, Mount Gambier in South Australia, and my new venture has begun.
The Potager & Pantry
Cooking & Gardening School
G’day folks, my name is Cindy Cross and I’d like to welcome you to my business / heart and soul – The Post and Rail – Potager and Pantry.
It is a Cooking and Gardening School set on a 5 acre picturesque property in Compton South Australia, just 10 mins from the centre of Mount Gambier.
The name of the school came about after the completion of a Post and Rail fence around the Potager Garden, around 8 months after we purchased the property.
It has special meaning for us as my partner Matt Bunt has a Lucas Mill and milling business and we went to a rural spot in Glencoe, nearby and milled a massive Cyprus limb. We had a specific purpose in mind and we cut the posts and rails to size to surround our garden.
After a day of milling, Matt carted the timber home in 2 lots and then over the next few weeks built the fence, using the traditional method of cutting out notches and slipping in the posts. It was the beginning of something great and far exceeded my expectations.
Riding on this wave of excitement, I used the off cuts of timber to create garden beds on both sides of the fence. Once I got over my fear of the whirling wheel of death….aka the sliding compound mitre saw, I then crafted 4 bench seats for around an outdoor table that we positioned in the garden.
Might I say that I can’t believe how good the Rattle gun is as a drill. Wow!
The garden is roughly 18 x 20 metres. Since arriving, I have planted a collection of Berries (12 different varieties), 3 Cherries, 2 Peaches, 2 Apricots, 2 Plums, a Fig Tree, 2 Nectarines, 9 Different Citrus, a Persimmon, a Pink Fleshed Apple, a Black English Mulberry, 2 Pomegranates and 3 eating Grapes.
These go around the perimeter of the garden, with the 10 rectangle beds in the middle. Here the vegetables are planted, and although I love straight rows of vegetables, alas, I have not been gifted with this ability, so they are planted as close as I can manage to straight.
To be honest, the garden is neat and tidy, but I believe it should retain some wildness as if it is too much of a display garden, the willingness to pluck from a perfect row of cabbages outweighs the need to eat it, and at the end of the day, I grow produce to eat it, not just look at it!
Also, I like to save seed of the things I have grown successfully, and this means putting up with a somewhat scraggly plant as it is dying off and preparing its seed for the following season.
One of the wonderful things of living in Australia is that the growing season is fantastic and long. There is barely a time when something isn’t coming out of the garden.
I am a huge fan of Heirloom Fruits and Vegetables. Their flavour and goodness far outweighs the recent hybrids and I also love the different colours that you can get.
I will try growing nearly anything in the garden, sometimes not even expecting a result, but often being pleasantly surprised.
I have an Advanced Diploma in Horticulture and have 24 years of experience in the industry, ranging from my first job as a Gardener/Greenkeeper at the Naracoorte Council, to working in a Garden Centre, Owner of numerous Garden Centres, Owner of Wholesale Nursery, owner of a Farm Shop, Nursery and Café in Apsley called Amber Ridge, to recently starting a Garden Design business in my new location.
I have also been a presenter on a Garden Talk back show on the ABC Southeast for the last 14 years.
Food wise, I started making Preserves and Catering from my Apsley home a few years before I started the Farm Shop, Nursery and Café. I started this, having no café experience, or cooking training. Just a home cook with a passion for food. This was an extremely steep learning curve.
With an amazing array of produce behind me and our own Pork and Lamb, I was not expecting the instant success this business had and was quite shocked as our location was quite rural. It was a regular occurrence to get 150 people turn up on a Sunday for lunch. Luckily I was well supported by my family and staff. It was not unusual to phone Mum on a Sunday around 12pm, and just say “Help!” then hang up….. 5 mins later, she turns up, apron in hand and ready to go.
Here I learnt how to preserve large amounts of produce and tweak recipes, or invent them to have that little bit of something special about them. Often, it wasn’t anything other than, picking the fruit or vegetables and taking them straight in from the garden and making something with them. But there is no escaping the flavour of something just picked.
I’ve often been asked to do public speaking, or cooking demonstrations and have given quite a few Master Classes at Amber Ridge so when the Post and Rail fence was built, Matt and I looked around and I said “I’d love to share this garden with people. And my passion for cooking and preserving.” I then got those wonderful butterflies of excitement and I knew I was on the right track.