The success and failure of the Wallis Lake Fisherman’s Co-Op is driven by its people

Wallis Lake Fisherman’s Co-operative by Andy Day & Cam Cansdell

Established in 1947 to become the voice of the local fisherman in the area of Forster Tuncurry and the central receiving depot to handle the daily catch & distribution, the Co-op members today are made up of the children; grandchildren and great grandchildren of the original fisherman.

The cooperative itself stands not to make a profit (and hopefully not a loss!) but to represent the collective will of its members and improve the profitability and welfare of the 50 active and 40 non-active shareholders.

Several years ago the Co-op found itself on its knees in a state of financial disrepair, facing bankruptcy, and fighting to keep shareholders.

70% of the Co-ops activities on the water take place on Wallis Lake itself and its surrounding estuaries and this is where we find ourselves today, observing and absorbing the passion of the Co-op’s Operations Manager Suzie McEnallay, member Danny Elliott and the Co-op Chairman Greg Colby.

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Blessed with blue skies and crystal-clear water for the day it’s easy to be lulled into the belief that life’s a breeze here in paradise.

However, like many primary production industries the fishing community faces pressures. Several years ago the Co-op found itself on its knees in a state of financial disrepair, facing bankruptcy, and fighting to keep shareholders.

Droughts affect the Co-op just as badly as agricultural industries inland and on the coast. A lack of rain means a lack of nutrients entering the estuaries, in turn providing less food for the aquatic food chain and reducing fish stocks.

Commercial pressures and compliance with regulations are constantly evolving and can only be properly managed by a collective; “how do we market our 3 ‘U’s (undervalued, under fished, underused species)?”,”how do we best make people aware this is Australian fish, and not imported?” and “how do we do business with Woolworths and not get pressured?”

The most impressive lesson from today was learning not WHAT the challenges were but rather HOW and WHY the community took them head on.

Facing bankruptcy less than a decade ago the Co-op’s board of directors made the bold decision to effectively ‘freeze’ shares, meaning no member could sell their share(s) until 2019. This was a clever solution to secure what capital the co-op had at the time and create an ongoing commitment from their members (a large proportion of whom are now the non-active shareholders having since retired) that the co-op must endure and succeed for the individual shareholders to themselves survive. Beyond that the shareholders effectively bought more shares to build up the Co-ops capital and help it pay off debts. Only a tight community has the courage to band together at such times, and only an extraordinary one has the strength to survive it.

They face the distinct possibility of running out of fisherman over the next 30 years with an average active shareholder age of 54. This is further compounded by a stemming of generational fishing families; the next generation are either told not to or don’t want to become professional fishermen.

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With almost no young, skilled fishermen coming through the ranks in the next decade it was vitally important for the Co-op to assist 18 year-old Jack in securing a grant from the Rural Assistance Authority to begin the process of acquiring fishing license endorsements so that they could build up and sustain their shareholder base. The process to obtain a commercial fishing license in NSW is quite a lengthy & intricate process. Even the governments’ own guide to commercial fisheries says that ‘due to the complex nature of the NSW commercial fishing arrangements it is impossible to produce a simple guide that is guaranteed to fully explain all aspects. The law and policies are also subject to change, so anyone who wishes to fully understand all elements of the current arrangements must not rely solely on this guide’.

And by working with the FRDC (Fisheries Research and Development Corporation) the Co-op can more effectively influence, through education and research, the market factors that create the “3 U’s” and can generate a better revenue stream by successfully marketing species like Luderick and Mullet that are in such strong supply in Wallis Lake.

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The Wallis Lake Fishermans Co-operative is blessed with a wealth of pristine resources and hard-working, passionate individuals that form a sum greater than all the parts. Their methods and resourcefulness is the key to their success and is something to be admired and imitated by any business willing to create a more collaborative and egalitarian environment for business.

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it’s a pigs life at melanda park

Melanda Park by Aaron Ward, George Papaioannou and Kelvin Shaw

From potatoes to pigs, that’s how farmers Matt and Sue Simmons have spent the last 13 years of their lives, on the farm that has been in Sue’s family for almost 100 years. Located in Ebenezer just outside of Sydney, Melanda Park began its life as a citrus farm, before floods; market crashes and ageing orchards gave way to cattle in the latter part of the last century.

In 2003 they started producing certified organic vegetables like potatoes and leafy greens and in keeping with organic farming principles they introduced pigs to the farm as a way to remove the excess waste and vegetables left behind and also to prepare the soil for the next round of planting. It was using these industrious animals to clean up the paddocks that inspired Matt and Sue to actually start breeding free range pigs as well as their organic vegetables.

The pigs are all free range and pasture raised and roam as they please, for 365 days of the year. They’re are able to dig for grubs and potatoes, wallow and interact with other pigs.

The pigs at Melanda Park fatten at a slower rate but have a much more flavoursome meat because of it.

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We were fascinated at the speed of which the pigs grow and at the age they’re able to reproduce. After only 4 weeks a sow is able to give birth (farrow), having up to 10 piglets in a litter. The sows have special hutches designed with straw stoppers to farrow in as the 1 or 2kg piglets need to be protected from natural predators like eagles and foxes as well as their mothers.

When we first walked onto the farm I thought it was just about rearing a pig and sending them off to the abattoir but there is so much more. Matt and Sue constantly have to check the soils, check the PH levels, the hydration levels and continually throw seeds to grow grass, not just for the pigs to graze but to keep the neighbours happy with keeping the dust levels down. Having that strong base in a nutrient rich soil is a fundamental part to being able to rear a pig at such a high standard, as Matt and Sue have accomplished.

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The Simmons have carved a niche in the industry by rearing suckling pigs, averaging a weight of 15-18kg at just 8 weeks old. Through their care and dedication to free range farming and a superior tasting product they have found their way into the Sydney fine dining restaurant scene. Their passion for what they are doing on the farm really shows in the pigs they produce and constant high standard of the farm they work.

At Melanda Park you can hear the wind coming up the valley, no pig squeals, the occasional barking Maltese terrier, but no stress and a relaxed feel. The open fields and paddocks where the pigs graze or lay in the hutches where they farrowed smell clean, like a farm, grassy green with a scent of manure, whipped up with the wind but an expected aroma of a farm.

 

We visited Melanda Park as part of the 2016 National Finalists Produce Tour of NSW.

the cultured butter

myrtleford butter

written by Lilani Goonesena

Intrepid and innovative are the words that spring to mind at our visit to Myrtleford Butter Factory on the third day of the Electrolux Appetite for Excellent Produce Tour in Victoria. In 2008, Naomi Ingleton, a former chef, bought a rundown, 110-year old butter factory. Initially she set up a café but a year later, dwindling business pushed Naomi to change direction.

“I was making butter in the café from scratch but the bulk of it came from Belgium and France. And I thought, ‘Why isn’t anyone doing a really good French cultured butter in Australia?’ So I did.”

It wasn’t quite that simple. There was very little information available on making butter on a commercial scale. However, an AusIndustry grant in 2010, a Churchill Fellowship in 2012, and a Skype friendship with Swedish butter maker, Patrik Johansson, who supplies to Noma Restaurant, helped things along.

Naomi spent 8 weeks in Europe learning from some of the world’s best butter makers. When she returned to Myrtleford, things “fell into place”.

“We had consistency, started winning awards and got really busy. My husband, David, left his pharmacist job and became the production manager. I started managing the business.” Naomi’s mum, Bronwyn, put the proceeds of her Melbourne property into the business and moved to Myrtleford too.

They started supplying to chefs and restaurants, and opened an online shop. “We sell to everyone we can – gourmet retailers, direct consumer online sales, restaurant, food service and bakeries,” says Naomi.

7 years later and Myrtleford is a national business. In early 2016, they will open their new factory at Moyhu in the King Valley, quadrupling the size and output of their business.

“It’s another beautiful old 100-year old butter factory on 6.5 acres. Here, we’re turning 500L a day; over there, we can do 2,000L. We have the market for it but not the product,” says Naomi.

Myrtleford, soon to be called King Valley Dairy, currently produces cultured crème fraiche, buttermilk, and salted, unsalted and flavoured butters. There are also plans underway for flavoured buttermilk, apple brandy cream, almond and honey butter, whey-based protein drinks, pastry sheets, and pork and veal smallgoods.

It’s ambitious but the foundations are strong. Myrtleford has a reputation for excellence using local, sustainable and quality ingredients.

“Our cream is here 48 hours after milking and it’s butter within a day,” says Naomi. “It’s really fresh cream. We know what the local cows are eating everything is done by taste and smell and feel.”

“When the fresh cream comes in, we test the pH, smell, taste, fat content, and protein content,” says David. “Winter cream is a bit flat; this batch has less proteins. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it but spring is always the best time to make cultured dairy products.”

David keeps an eagle eye on the pH levels and temperatures inside the churn room. “It’s a balancing act,” he says. “Everything runs according to time, pH and temperature.”myrtleford butter

The warm, delicate crème fraiche is the first off the cream that morning. It is just cream and cultures – four strands of lactic acid bacteria that eat the lactose (sugars) in the cream, converting it to lactic acid. A 42% butter fat content gives the crème fraiche a light acidity and clean finish.

The cultured cream is then moved to the churner where after about 10 minutes – “just long enough for a cup of coffee” – the buttermilk is ready. David expertly funnels it directly into plastic 1L and 350ml bottles. He manages 260-280L per batch.

It’s a light and delicious buttermilk that’s “completely different” says Naomi. “It’s full of probiotics and lactic acid. It has 5-week shelf life, even with a broken seal.”

When the buttermilk is finished, David runs very cold water (1 degree) through the churner, to remove the buttermilk remnants and harden the butter.

Australian butter requires a minimum 82% of butter fat. “Producers often add water to get it closer to 100% but this changes the composition,” says Naomi. “Our butter content is 88-89%; we don’t add water.”

Myrtleford butter is a lovely sunflower yellow, thanks to the grass fed cows. “Some imported butter is white,” says Naomi. “It’s made by cows that never go outside and see daylight.”

They also produce flavoured butters – confit garlic, smoked salt, and truffle, contracting local farmers to supply all the ingredients.

“Our garlic is supplied by a local grower in King Valley. We forecast how much we’re going to sell each year and they grow a whole crop for us,” says Naomi.

David is also enthusiastic about the factory’s equipment, some of which he has salvaged and repurposed himself. A sausage press is used to make their log-shaped butter rolls. Crumpet molds shape their flavoured butters. David also developed a ghee using a 78L cooking pot from a microbrewery.

Myrtleford’s success is a testament to Naomi and David’s perseverance, creativity and love of their trade. As Kim Galea, co-owner of Pitchfork Restaurant says, “They’re constantly trying to find something different to do, to be better, the best in this field. They’re not going to stop.”

 

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David’s tips for cooking with buttermilk

“I make pancakes for the kids and banana smoothies, and I marinate meat in it; my favourite is beef rending. At Christmas, we’ll pour 5L into a bucket and marinate a whole turkey.”

 

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green fields and ham

greta valley pork

Written by Lilani Goonesena

There’s nothing quite so endearing as a week-old piglet, and everyone wants to hold one at Greta Valley Free Range Pork farm. It’s Day Three of the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence produce tour in Victoria and we’re out in the green and muddy fields of Brian and Kim Smith’s 316-acre property. It’s cold and threatening rain, and the little piglets squirm in our arms, anxious to get back to mum and the warm, straw-lined farrowing shed.

It’s rare indoor time for these piglets and sows, which otherwise spend their entire lives outside.

“We have 80-odd animals and they live out in the paddocks all the time. These babies won’t venture out a lot now,” says Kim. But from three weeks, they’re running around everywhere.”

Several wooden, 3-sided sheds dot the paddock for each sow and her litter. The piglets are weaned at 6-7 weeks and go into the first of the grower paddocks, while the sows return to the boars for mating, and the cycle begins over.

Kim and Brian have been pig farmers at Greta Valley for five years. Though they had both raised animals, neither had had experience with pigs. Yet, their dedication to the free-range ethos has made their pig farm one of the best in the country and put their meat in high demand.

“Our buyers want 18-25 animals a week which is good for us but we don’t have the numbers,” explains Kim. “These are rare breed pigs; you can’t pull them out of thin air. It takes about 12 months to get them ready for market.”

“Our butchers want black piglets which are really juicy and tasty. We provide suckling pigs at 25kg. We did have little oven pigs for restaurants in the beginning but we had to stop; the abattoir workers found it too traumatic. The smallest they’ll do is 16kg, which produces a 12kg carcass.”

Greta Valley primarily breed Berkshires, which are known for their meat quality.

“They are slower to grow but have exceptional eating quality due to having both partition fat and intramuscular fat,” says Katy Brown of Glen Eyrie Rare Breeds Farm. Katy is an expert on heritage breed pigs in Australia and we’re fortunate to meet her at Greta Valley.

A handful of Large Whites were also picked for their temperament and meat. “They’re a wonderful pig with personality and they’re easy to handle,” explains Katy. “Maternal sows are good mothers, they put a lot of energy into growing good piglets. And they produce fantastic pork and bacon.”

Good genes and attentive mothers give Greta Valley piglets the healthiest start in life. There is no tail docking and constant access to dirt and grass reduces mortality from gut issues.

“In the spring and summer, all these paddocks fill with grass,” says Kim. “Our stocking densities are way below the standard of 15 sows per acre. We run 10 per hectare. I think that’s why we have grass year round.

“In winter, the pigs love digging up the soil and making mud.”

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Our boots can attest to the thick, squelching mud as we head out to feed the pigs. They all receive specially formulated Rivalea diets.

“The piglets need to grow when they’re really young and then their diets change,” says Kim. “After weaning at 14 kg, they move onto Little Creep pellets which are high in energy and protein. Then it’s Weaner feed until 25kg when they go on a superporker, Grower diet until slaughter at 21 weeks. By then they average 68-70kg; very different to commercial pigs, which are about 120kg at market weight.”

The pigs excitedly squeal and snort as they hurry to the troughs. “They’re not hungry really; they’re greedy,” laughs Kim. “We reckon if they knocked us over, they’d just eat us too.”

Most of the gilts (female pigs) stay on the farm. At nine months, they are ready to fall pregnant. The majority are in the far paddocks where three enormous boars – CB, Arnie and Colgate – each have a harem of females.

“Usually three sows go in with the boar 4-5 days after weaning their last litter and stay until 3-4 weeks before farrowing. We scan them at 28 days and keep scanning until we find a pregnancy. Gestation is 115 days – 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days.”

Khanh Nguyen a chef at Mr Wong in Sydney is very enthusiastic about the farm. “It’s a great experience, being able to see and feed them. At Mr Wong, we use free range Berkshire pigs for our char siu pork, and marinate the meat in red bean curd. Berkshires, because of the marbling, take on the red colour so it makes the pork beautifully red. It’s also fattier and juicier which is what we want.”

Louise Naimo, a waiter at Estelle Bistro in Melbourne, is also impressed with the relationship between farmer and restaurant. “I never realised how much the restaurant trade is at the forefront of people’s awareness. We use a lot of jowl at Estelle, which is a cheap cut of meat but we cook it really well. So if people start cooking that, then it’s one step closer to having the whole pig used which is great for the farmer,” she says.

Kim agrees. She would love to see the whole animal used by restaurants, creating a more sustainable farming process.

 

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Handcrafted Boosey Creek Cheese

Written by Lilani Goonesena.

It’s a Tuesday morning on the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence produce tour and that means blue cheese day at Boosey Creek Cheese.

Cheesemaker and co-owner, Ken Cameron, gives us a tour of the dairy and 900-acre farm where 350 Friesian cows produce 400 million litres of milk a year. Only 100,000 litres goes into the cheesemaking, yet this ‘side business’ is the heart of Boosey Creek.

“We’ve been milking cows on this farm for 14 years and have been dairy farmers before that,” says Ken. “But when the drought came through, we sold the bigger part of the dairy and started making cheese.”

That diversification, spurred by a family history of cheesemaking and Ken’s passion has turned around the family business.

“The second batch of cheese I ever made won a silver medal at the Sydney Royal Show,” says Ken proudly. While the Boosey Blue is their best seller, the Warby Red Brie/Camembert is racking up the awards, including Australia’s Champion Washed Rind Cheese in the 2015 Australian Grand Dairy Awards.

On Mondays, they make Camembert and Brie, on Tuesdays, it’s blue cheese, and Gouda and cheddar are made “any day of the week.”

 

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Ken uses 500 litres from the first milking of the day for the cheesemaking. The milk runs directly from the cows to the dairy through a pipe barely a metre long between the two buildings. “That’s one thing we do differently,” says Ken’s mother, Ada Cameron, as she expertly cuts a Warby Red for our tasting. “As soon as you have to transport your milk even 100m across the yard to the factory you have to cool it, then heat it up and pump it again, whereas our milk only gets one little pump. That makes a huge difference to the quality of the cheese.”

 

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The quality is also in the cheesemaking.

“Everything is done by hand,” explains Ada. “The salting, hooping, wrapping and milling. After the curds set they have to be milled. Big factories use machinery but we do it with the chopping board. You’ve got to have it done within so many minutes so the pH doesn’t change so we’re all madly chopping away.”

The success of a small-scale, artisanal cheesemaker is one of the factors that impress chef Jordan McLeod and waiter Robert Luo from Oscillate Wildly.

Dan Moss, chef and restaurateur from Terroir Auburn, also appreciates seeing things first hand. “We make our own Haloumi cheese so I can relate to a few of the processes. We use milk from Jersey cows in the Fleurieu so it was interesting to see this milk from Friesians, and the sheer size of them,” he says.

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By-products, such as whey, are returned to the farm. “We make a poo shandy,” says Ada. “We have a two pond system for our effluence. During irrigation season we shandy that with our irrigation water and it goes on the paddocks. The grass loves it.”

The irrigation system also means the cows feed on perennial and annual pastures all year round. They are also fed grains during milking, depending on their individual feeding allowance.

“All the cows have RFID tags; when they walk into the dairy, it reads their number and that information is used for the feed system. There’s also a milk meter that checks how much milk they give,” says Ken.

“On average, a cow produces 30 litres a day, and up to 50 litres when they calve. Friesians produce more milk than most breeds. We milk three times a day and the majority goes to Parmalat for Pauls milk.

“They are two years old when they’re started and they calve every 12-15 months. We have cows calving all year round and about half of those are female, so the herd is growing by 100 cows a year. We don’t buy any; we sell the older cows routinely, and the male calves at five-days old.”

We walk around to the shed where a dozen doe-eyed brown calves are hand fed by Ken and his family. The calves poke their noses through the wooden gates and lick our fingers.

It’s life on a dairy farm, and the result is award-winning cheese that spells success for the Cameron family.

Boosey Creek Cheese
734 Grinter Road
Boosey VIC 3730
+61 3 5748 4374

 

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The Good Oil

Written by Lilani Goonesena.

The screech of cockatoos pierces the air on a cold winter’s day. “They’re a pain in the ass,” pronounces Ken Dugan with wry affection. We are at Cockatoo Grove in Cobram on the first day of the 2015 produce tour in Victoria.  Ken, who founded and sold Cobram Oil, the biggest olive oil company in Australia, now owns a historical 100-year old estate on the Upper Murray River with 20,000 olive trees on 200 acres.

“We planted these in 1997, with 100 trees to an acre in the traditional Italian style of 8 x 5 metres apart,” says Ken. “We chose mostly Italian and Spanish varieties including the popular Manzanillo. But that was subject to frost, so we ended up pulling out those 7,500 trees.” “We also had 2,500 Nevadillo Blanco, another Spanish variety. Our first harvest won two gold medals; it’s a very powerful, wonderful olive oil. But after the first three years, we didn’t get anymore fruit so we had to pull them out too.”

Today they mainly grow the world-renown Tuscan variety, Frantoio Correggiola, also called ‘Paragon’ in Australia. “It grows very well here; it’s frost tolerant, disease resistant, and has wonderful flavours,” Ken explains.

Magic mulch
Cockatoo Grove is certified organic and Ken also produces his own organic mulch. He holds up pungent handfuls. “This is magic stuff, it’s the heart and soul of the bacteria in the soil,” he claims with enthusiasm. “When you take the fruit off the tree, you’re taking massive nutrients and minerals out of the soil. You’ve got to put it back somehow. But the synthetic stuff upsets the balance of the soil and it’s the bacteria in there that makes it all happen.” says Ken.

“During processing, the vegetable matter, pip and kernel are discarded. To that we add hay, cow poo, chicken poo, and some mushroom mulch. We follow an Australian organic standard that takes 5-6 days keeping the temperature around 55 degrees. You get this beautiful black stuff that goes back into the soil.” 151109_CockatooGrove_story We step over uneven ground, crumbly soil and weeds. “This farm has more weeds than most because we can’t use any synthetic weed killers,” explains Ken. But it’s also a healthy farm that’s full of life. Cherry, mandarin and orange trees also grow readily in the rich soil.

Though it sounds romantic to own an olive grove, Ken says olive farming is just hard work. “The tree itself needs a lot of managing; pruning and cleaning to continue to get new fruit coming through.” Ken is also proud of their ‘minus 4’ processing. “Our oil is processed in less than four hours from harvest, usually at night. So you’re getting the freshest oil that you can get anywhere.”

We follow him into the processing shed where floor to ceiling stainless steel vats squat side by side. Everything is done in-house, including bottling. After washing and crushing the olives, the residue goes through a series of malaxors to separate the oil. Finally, it is put into the tanks and left to settle. A36O5330  
An oily palate

The varieties are stored in separate tanks and blended later. Differentiating varietal subtleties in olive oil takes a skilled palate. “A straight Manzanillo is probably too strong but you could blend it into the Correggiola. For a point of difference, you might blend a Picual,” says Ken. Under his tutelage, we taste the organic olive oil. “Put some in a little cup and warm it in your hands. Take a sip and swirl it in your mouth. You’ll get bitterness, a strong pepper flavour, that’s the polyphenols, and a flavour of grass. This is powerful oil, that’s what you pay for,” he explains.

Josh Gregory, the sous chef at Biota Dining in the Southern Highlands of NSW, loves the potency. “We use a lot of olive oil and Ken’s is one of the best I’ve tasted, very herbaceous and grassy. I’d use it with fish as it has that really nice grass note to drag it back from the ocean into the earth.” We leave Cockatoo Grove with bottles of oil tucked under our arms and its namesake still screeching overhead.

Cockatoo Grove
T: + 61 3 9561 7522
E:office@cockatoogrove.com.au
W: www.cockatoogrove.com.au to learn, shop & purchase

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Fresh Produce Report

Murdoch Market Update

  • Arrivals; Broadbeans, Horseradish from Tassie & local pomegranates
  • Limited: Heirloom Tomatoes, wild rocket, baby spinach
  • Pricey: Brocoli, Mango

Murdoch Produce has created a full Market Update for a great insight to what’s in this week

Spotlight….Quince

Healthy Fact
Quince used to be considered a delicacy. It is a low calorie fruit, has a good concentration of vitamin C and minerals. In some parts of the world, the seed is soaked until a viscous substance is produced which can be used for medicinal purposes.

Did You Know?
Originally from Asia, Quinces are grown commercially in small quantities in Australia. It grows in cooler subtropical areas to cold temperate regions, and has a culture similar to that of apples and pears. It is in season from mid February until late April

unadulterated & refined

Written by Chloe Proud, Mathew McNamara, Michael Cole

Jim and Lisa at Longridge Olives in Netherton, South Australia have been producing for 16 years. Their 100 acre property of rolling hills is defined by a Mediterranean climate, sandy soil with high salinity and a rainfall of 450ml/year on average. They believe this to be the ideal conditions for growing this hardy fruit tree as it mimics almost exactly the conditions in which these plants originated- sitting at 35 degrees south of the equator where the Mediterranean is 35 degrees North.

There are over 6 different species planted on their Super High Density grove, the largest of which in Australia. Most of these have been selected due to the appropriateness for the environmental conditions and for this style of planting, with the intent of yielding higher volumes of quality fruit from smaller trees – thus facilitating easier harvest. These include: Barnea, Picqual, Frantoya, Koreniki, Arbequina and Arbosana.

One of the key aspects of sustainably farming their property is accessing the underground water aquifers that run naturally from higher altitude areas down to the coast. This allows, through the process of boring, access to freshwater destined to mix with salt water in the ocean before it becomes so. It also helps regulate rising salinity levels in the earth and keeps the top soil neutralised.

We also visited Tatiara Olive processing, which Lisa and Jim own and operate out of, to watch the systems with which they take a large quantity of olives from a collective of growers and extract oil.

The fruit is first crushed, at varying rates depending on the ripeness of the harvest and a pectin-breaking enzyme is added to help break down the cell walls in order to extract more fruit. At this stage talc can be utilised to absorb any excess water to moderate consistency. The paste is then warmed and double filtered through centrefusion.

One of the most exciting parts of our visit was getting to try a number of oils extracted from different species at different times. We were amazed at how much the oils varied, which largely reinforced discussions we had with Lisa and Jim pertaining to the importance of oil blends for a consistent, versatile product.

Lisa and Jim also work intensively on the monitoring of oil quality in any olive oil sold in Australia, keeping standards of Australian produced olive oil as high as they can be and stopping inferior, competitively cheaper imported oils dominating sales. We were excited to discuss between us how we could utilise the flavour and texture subtleties of the different olives at a more advanced level in the restaurant sphere- capturing, enhancing and customising flavours and combinations to showcase such an elegant and important culinary product.

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longridge olives

www.longridgeolives.com.au
(08) 8573 6545

henschke – a family affair

by Joshua Niland and Sonia Bandera

Most people who enjoy a cheeky tipple every now and again (or more than a tipple, more often) will understand how special one might feel standing at the foot of Henschke’s Hill of Grace vineyard with Prue Henschke herself. The 2013 Electrolux Appetite for Excellence National finalists were fortunate enough to do just that, and felt honoured to visit not just a winery, but a family proud to be deeply entrenched in the history of their region and craft.

Henschke was one of only 7 wineries in the region at the turn of the century with their first vineyards planted in the 1860’s by Johann Christian Henschke with suspected James Busby vines. There were more plantings beyond this with lots around the 1950’s. The Hill of Grace vineyard is phylloxera free and all vines are on their original rootstocks, just another impressive fact that the family can add to their name. A visit here requires all shoes to be put through a bath to maintain the integrity of the beautiful 150 year old vines from the Grandfather Block and beyond.

Stephen and Prue Henschke are now at the helm and in their time have implemented bio-dynamic and organic practices with a focus on the integration of native flora and various fertilisation techniques, eased by Prue’s Botanist background. This move was sparked when Prue was researching mulch to preserve moisture in the dry grown vineyard. They’ve looked at how to use stems and stalks for compost and bring in green waste compost from Adelaide. There is a firm belief here in the positive effects of plant diversity. The winery itself, constructed of locally quarried sandstone with local mica and slate paths, has seen modernisation in many aspects including a bottling line in 1977 which, as of 2005, no longer utilises cork.

The family place huge emphasis on expressing the cool climates of the region which is reflected in the wines by a consistent elegance, tension and concentration not just in the Hill of Grace but throughout the range. Stephen says he tries to maintain as much floral, delicate fruit and spice with cooler ferments (24-26°C) in 4 ½ – 6 ½ tonne cement vats. The wines are batch pressed as selected in the vineyard from a single site; this enables increased flexibility but also increases the knowledge potential, allowing them to know the sites more intimately.

The highlight of the visit would have to have been the opportunity to experience first-hand the synergy between vineyard and bottle just like the synergy between Stephen and Prue themselves. This was made possible by seeing the vines and their environment and then tasting the resulting wine. The unified respect for the fruit and for the environment they’re grown in and how those elements affect the end product is the key to Henschke’s success and sense of place. Standing at the entrance of the original vineyard listening to the history of the family, the region and the vines themselves was so inspiring and special that we hardly noticed the rain. It was quite amazing to stand at one point in the vineyard and being able to see the various vine ages and therefore a piece of history. Tasting the wines it became clear that access to these vines without doubt provides them with a profound complexity balanced by wonderfully subtle nuances. As Stephen pointed out, if we closed our eyes we could in fact taste and smell the vineyard and see in our minds the red gums and red-brown earth.

One might easily confuse the reputation of Henschke and its place in the Australian wine industry as being simply another iconic big brand, but this would be wrong as at its heart is a family, a story and a real wish to nurture it to the best of their ability. The story we were left with was Stephen as a boy pulling bee stings from the soles of his feet after stomping on grapes for his Grandfather.

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Henschke
www.henschke.com.au
info@henschke.com.au