Artisan, gourmet, pure and organic: the Loddon Valley is rich with unique, creative products and eco-friendly microbusinesses. With its Mediterranean climate, rich soils, open plains and ancient granite outcrops, wetlands and forests, the area has long attracted innovative and eco-conscious creators, farmers and artisans with a passion for high-quality and sustainable production.
Now, thanks to an exciting new partnership between the Loddon Shire Council and The Food Purveyor, The Loddon Shed puts high quality local produce at the fingertips of discerning shoppers across Australia.
The Loddon Shed is an online store showcasing the best of Loddon’s food producers, growers and microbusinesses, with the platform allowing people anywhere in Australia access to the region’s artisan produce, delivered directly to their door. Customers can also choose to have gift hampers custom made and delivered to the recipient of their choice.
One of the businesses expanding their reach through The Loddon Shed is Billabong Organics, the brainchild of Yarrawalla couple Sue Bennett and Brian Smith of Synergy Farms.
The couple switched from mixed cropping and diversified to horticulture in the early 1990s, and their high quality, certified organic apples are 100% Australian grown and packed on their farm near Pyramid Hill, using local labour. 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 under the brand Billabong Organics.
The move to organics was in response to growing demand for Australian produce, produced without chemicals and additives. In order to maintain organic certification from the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA), apples are grown without using pesticides, insecticides or fertiliser. 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.
For farmers, producers and small business owners like Sue and Brian, the Loddon Shed store is the perfect way to extend their reach and sales as part of the recovery of COVID-19. The platform offers a fantastic opportunity for producers in our gastronomy region to show the rest of Australia what a diverse range of innovative, high quality products are available from our local growers and makers.