Home' Smart Farmer : Dec 2010-Jan 2011 Contents December 2010 / January 2011
Smart farmers' markets
HERE is a big difference between potato
production and an intensive vegetable
enterprise -- but Michael Tranter man-
ages to do both at Hillbilly Vegetables on the
"Our family business involves growing pota-
toes for McCain, and 100ha are given over to
potato production," Michael said.
"But I decided to branch out a bit, and grow
a few vegies 'after hours' you might say, so I
put in a few hothouses and had a go at small-
"I've always enjoyed growing vegetables, so
it was a natural way to progress.
"We started off selling through the farmers'
market, and the demand just grew from there.
"Now we sell through various district outlets
as well as into the local pubs and restaurants."
Michael, his wife Nicole and children
Georgia, Taylor and Sarah are all involved with
the vegie production.
"We grow lettuce, carrots, beetroot, cap-
sicums, chillies, broccoli and pumpkins,"
Michael said. "We're also trying some new
varieties of cucumber and the more attractive
types of lettuce, such as corals -- we don't see
much of those varieties down here, and there
is a definite market for them."
Michael makes his own mulch and adds
organic fertiliser to the property's deep, fairly
'Expansion' is a word he doesn't use much.
"It depends on the market," he said. "There's a
good local market but it isn't huge, and I still
have the commitment to the family business.
"If an opportunity to expand should present
itself, I wouldn't rule it out. But I'm not push-
ing it too much. We'll just see how things work
The Tranters are great supporters of the
"I still like to go," Michael said. "But I don't
always have produce to sell there now, because
of the demand from other outlets.
"The best thing about farmers' markets is
meeting the customers and getting feedback
about your product direct from them.
"They are certainly great places for small
growers to get established in the market, and I
would really like to see them given more sup-
port in the community."
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with ZANNIE FLANAGAN, CEO Adelaide Showground FM
I RECENTLY had the pleasure of taking some old
friends from New Zealand around my region,
giving them a 'this is my life' tour -- starting
from when I first arrived in McLaren Vale 30
Back then, there was one restaurant and a
pizza bar with the only cappuccino machine in
The region's unspoilt rural landscape, nestled
in the Willunga Basin, is surrounded by amazing
physical features that overwhelm the senses.
No wonder I decided to make it my home -- I
had arrived in an earthly paradise. But I wasn't
stepping into a pristine, virgin landscape. There
were plenty before me who had laid claim -- the
Kaurna people have a significant dreaming with
the area, and settlers began arriving around
1850 -- building, mining slate, farming and creat-
When I arrived in the early 80s, the flourishing
wine industry supported around 50 wineries and
cellar doors, but from a visitor's point of view,
there was little evidence of a food culture that
could be easily accessed.
There were, however, operating dairies, stone-
fruit orchards and a significant almond industry.
Olive groves had also been a feature of the land-
scape since settlement and a renaissance of this
industry was just beginning.
Some of the best barley and wheat grown in
Australia used to be shipped out to the world
from Port Willunga, and even now fields of
wheat and barley can be seen on the coastal hill
So with all these wonderful ingredients, it is
no wonder this region developed a vibrant, mod-
ern and creative food culture -- complementing
not only the wine industry, but also the land-
scape that plays host to us all.
It was the collective creative vision of a hedo-
nistic crew of entrepreneurs that helped bring
this cultural change about. They have built on
what went before and will leave opportunities to
those who come next. As a region with a reputa-
tion for good hospitality, it will continue to wel-
come those who are prepared to invest in its
My NZ friends and I ate in as many places as
we could in the time available. Everywhere we
went, the food was fresh and fabulous, with
menus proudly reflecting the extraordinary diver-
sity of local produce -- much of which is now
available throughout the region at the local
farmers' market, providores and farm gates.
The Willunga Farmers Market has definitely
played its part in helping to develop the region's
reputation as one of the best food regions in
Australia, but so has the vision and hard work of
all those people who planted, picked and pickled
olives, opened restaurants, planted orchards,
vines and strawberry patches and who milked
from dawn 'til dusk.
Many of us who first came to play ended up
staying. I'm so happy I did. This region feeds the
body and soul. It's the reason many of us contin-
ue to fight tooth-and-nail to make sure this little
piece of paradise continues to feed many more
souls into the future. Its inherent value to the
State is immeasurable and it will continue to rise
the more the region is protected.
The holiday season is almost here and I know
we'll welcome many visitors in the coming
months. Make sure you make it for a sunset pic-
nic of local plonk and produce, picked and pur-
chased from paradise. We have much to be
grateful for. Merry Christmas.
Vale culture feeds body and soul
Michael Tranter, Hillbilly Vegetables.
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