Sunshine Coast Hinterland Feijoa farmers, Peter Heineger and Sally Hookey.

Acres Australia continues to follow the progress of Queensland’s Belli Park,  feijoa farmers, Sally Hookey and Peter Heineger of Hinterland Feijoas, since their initial orchard planting in 2008, through to their first commercial feijoa fruit harvest in 2011, continuing on to the development of their value-added lines in 2012.

 

Hinterland Feijoas Orchard.
Hinterland Feijoas orchard.

THE last few years have been a busy and successful ride for enterprising couple, Sally Hookey and Peter Heineger.

They have built the profile of feijoas and created demand in the fresh fruit market, launched four new Hinterland Feijoas value-adding product lines, and built a thriving agri-tourism arm to the business through opening their farm to the public each season.

In 2012 and 2013 Hinterland Feijoas were winners in the Sunshine Coast Excellence in Business Awards, and in early 2014 their farm achieved fully accredited certified organic status.

To top it off in December 2013 Peter and Sally spent a day in their orchard with the film crew from SBS Destination Flavours and host Adam Liaw, with the episode airing in August this year.

On location at Hinterland Feijoas with Adam Liaw Destination Flavours Down Under.
On location at Hinterland Feijoas with Adam Liaw Destination Flavours Down Under.

“Having the film crew on the farm for a day was an amazing and somewhat daunting experience, but it’s great to see so much interest in local family farmers and food on a national level, built in the large part by successful television programs like Destination Flavours and The Gourmet Farmer,” said Sally.

“Host Adam Liaw’s overriding impression from all the producers he met around Australia and New Zealand was the incredible  amount of passion they all had for their crops, and that most of the people he met had chosen to change careers and learn how to farm,  facing  many challenges along the way.

“Our amazing year ended on a high, when we learnt that Slow Food Noosa had chosen to sponsor us, along with chef Matt Golinski, and buffalo cheese artisan Trevor Hart from Cedar St Cheeserie, to travel to Italy in October 2014 as Australian delegates at the Slow Food International bi-annual conference of farmers and chefs, known as Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre.”

As we go to press, Sally and Peter are in Italy imbibing farming and food cultures from all countries around the world, and giving the world a taste of their feijoa jams and chutneys.

Feijoas are very well known in New Zealand, and are gaining a strong following in Australia due to Peter and Sally’s determination and drive.

The fruit originated in South America and is prized for its refreshing tropical flavour and health properties, including high Vitamin C and anti-oxidant levels combined with a high fibre content.

“When we planted our crop, we knew that we would have to develop a market for the fruit, as well as master growing the fruit, so we had plans in place for all contingencies, from selling fresh fruit, to putting the whole crop into product ranges if no-one liked the new taste,” said  Sally.

“Studying and learning from successful and sustainable small farming models from around the world, one thing in common was that they had a diverse product offering to minimize risk and build year-round income streams.”

By value-adding and shortening the supply chain as much as possible Peter and Sally have been able to use 100 per cent of their crop, achieving their goal of zero waste.

Sally Hookey proudly displays the feijoa range at a local IGA store.
Sally Hookey proudly displays the feijoa range at a local IGA store.

Hinterland Feijoas now markets four different jams and two chutneys, launching a Feijoa and Mango Chutney created this year after a bumper local mango season.

Feijoa and Mango Chutney - a new product with new branding.
Feijoa and Mango Chutney – a new product with new branding.

“We’d been planning this chutney for a few years, but wanted to use mangoes from our area, so patiently waited for a good season and were rewarded this year. This chutney uses rapadura sugar and a little chilli, so is sweeter than our straight feijoa chutney, which is lovely and spicy,” said Peter.

“Local chef Peter Wolfe of Cedar Creek Bush Foods makes most of our products for us, and we have collaborated with Lief Chocolates at Eumundi to develop a fine hand-made Belgian feijoa chocolate range, and several local Gelato makers to develop a range of feijoa gelato that sell from the farm gate in the season.

“We have launched two Balsamic products, a glaze and a dressing, and are working on some new lines for next year.”

“This year we also re-branded our product lines, using feedback from retailers to make the products more suitable for shop shelves,” said Sally. “This included buying bar-codes, and sourcing a new jam jar suitable for a labelling machine. Even though the labelling machine is hand operated, it is amazing how much time this has saved, and how much more professional our products have become.

“Our new branding features pen and ink artwork created for us by my sister Ailsa Crammond, and reflects that our products are artisan and organic.

“Opening the farm gate every year has been the best thing we did. We are creating family food memories for the children that visit us, that will be so much better than a visit to a fast food outlet. Families really look forward to their annual pilgrimage for Feijoas, and we really look forward to seeing them.”

As well as making the supply chain non-existent and fruit as fresh as possible, Peter and Sally say the open farm gate mean they are connecting direct with their customers, and now call many friends. “We get to see how happy our customers are with the fruits of our labour, which is a link missing when you send your produce to a wholesaler, and makes the hard work seem more worthwhile.

“We have a free cuppa available and a fantastic view, and I can only say no one wants to leave in a hurry! If I have time on the weekends a try out a new recipe using feijoas, and our visitors get to taste test. Of course the recipes go on our website and facebook page  if they  get the tick of approval!

 

Feijoa product sold at the farm gate.
Feijoa product sold at the farm gate.

“We also let kids connect with our farm animals, including guinea fowl, chooks, and two mini-ponies called Twinkle Toes and Smokey the Bandit, bought specially for the purpose. These two rascals are now firm favourites with kids and parents alike, and get totally spoilt all season,” continued Sally.

“This year we were chosen as an on-shore tour option for the coast’s first tour ship visit, but unfortunately the weather didn’t shine on tourism that day. Being farmers first we really preferred the rain,” Peter said.

We’ll look forward to catching up with Peter and Sally when they return from Italy and see how their range was received in an international forum.

24/10/2014