Grow local, buy local, support Australian owned. It’s what everyone is talking about at the moment, but Yarrawalla couple Sue Bennett and Brian Smith of Synergy Farms have already been doing this and saying this for years.
Their high quality, certified organic apples are 100% Australian grown and packed on their farm near Pyramid Hill, using local labour. The couple switched from mixed cropping and diversified to horticulture in the early 1990s. Along with timber, olives and onions, they experimented with apples, not usually grown so far north due to the hot summers. By focusing on the hot climate varieties; pink lady, sundowner and royal gala, the couple have successfully grown the business and developed a range of products selling as Billabong Organics.
The move to organics was in response to providing a high-end, niche product that was completely Australian and celebrates the bounty of nature. Sue has been producing her own range of dried apples since around 2014. They are dried and packaged on site and have absolutely no additives. Besides the dried apple slices, the range also include a crunchy apple snack, a toffee variety, salted and a healthy, chewy treat - apple leather.
In order to maintain the organic certification from the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA), the apples are grown without using pesticides, insecticides or fertilizer. The business is audited each year and documentation provided to ensure authenticity. The trees are nourished with natural compost and lightly dusted with a ‘sunscreen’ of clay in summer to protect the fruit from the hot, northern Victorian sun. Any pest control is done using biological methods of encouraging other, natural insect predators.
Sue’s range of apple purée and cooked apple slices are cooked and bottled on the premises without any sugar, salt, preservatives or additives of any kind. “When you purchase our products, you know that you are getting 100% Australian made, owned and grown,” Sue said.
As a fourth-generation farmer in the area, Brian is committed to his local community and is proud to employ locals on the farm. With Sue’s background as a teacher, they have trained their seasonal workers in best practice and hope to encourage others into the horticultural and farming lifestyle. Their daughter is now the fifth generation to farm the area.
Currently, Billabong Organic products are available from the farm website and through suppliers in Melbourne, but now the company is excited to join The Loddon Shed, an online store especially developed to put unique and quality products from the Loddon Valley at the fingertips of discerning shoppers throughout Australia.
Billabong Organics products will be available in the store where customers may choose to purchase the products for themselves or have them made into a beautiful hamper, along with other products from the region, and delivered as a gift anywhere in Australia.
The Loddon Shed will be the perfect way for Loddon businesses to extend their reach and for local producers to show what a great range of innovative products are grown here in the Loddon Valley.