South Australia’s mushroom men in the market for expansion

Growing up in the family’s fruit and veg shop must have rubbed off on South Australian brothers Nick and Nat Femia.

For almost half a century their father Sam worked as a greengrocer, with 36 of those years spent at Sam’s Fruit Market in St Agnes Shopping Centre in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.

But it seems one vegetable in particular stuck with the Femia brothers – mushrooms.

Nick and Nat, together with Sam, are behind family business SA Mushrooms, based at Waterloo Corner on the Adelaide Plains.

Every week 20 tonnes of Swiss brown, white button, field mushrooms – and a special Vitamin D rich variety – are grown in a humid climate controlled facility.

The mushrooms are grown in a climate controlled facility at Waterloo Corner before being harvested and transported to the SA Produce Markets.

But it’s when they hit South Australia’s biggest fruit and veg wholesale markets, the SA Produce Markets at Pooraka, that the real action begins.

“The farm is located 15km from the SA Produce Market – we’re the closest mushroom farm to a wholesale market in the country,” says Nick, CEO of SA Mushrooms.

“It’s good for our carbon footprint.”

The SA Produce Market is the biggest of its kind in the state, selling 250,000 tonnes of produce, worth a combined $550m, between wholesalers, growers and retail operators every year.

It’s the only wholesale market that supplies to independent fruit and veg retailers in SA such as IGA, Foodland and independent retailers.

“Every mushroom that we grow ends up at the produce market,” Nick says.

“From here our mushrooms are trucked to independent supermarkets including 110 Foodland stores across the state.

“Our mushrooms also end up in pizza bars and restaurants, and we are heavily dedicated to the greengrocers, after all, my dad was a greengrocer.”

SA Mushrooms is one of many traders at the market, the state’s primary fresh produce wholesale market.

The SA Produce Market is pivotal to the northern food bowl area, as almost half of SA Produce Market traders are growers from the Northern Plains, in particular Virginia.

Nicol Carrots, IG Fresh Produce, and T Musolino and Co are all said to have undergone farm expansions or celebrate innovations in recent years – achievements reflective of SA’s strong agribusiness sector.

SA Mushrooms isn’t exempt from growth either.

Nick says the business has experienced significant growth across production, staff numbers and turnover and that an expansion is on the horizon.

“We’re in the process of planning for an expansion in the next year-and-a-half across our composting and production facility,” he says.

“Our staff will increase from 50 to 100.”

The SA Produce Market is also set to undergo a new chapter by way of a $25m expansion.

The project includes new food processing, packing and warehousing facilities, export consolidation, and retail tenancies.

The SA Produce Market is will undergo an expansion that is expected to significantly benefit local businesses.

SA Produce Market CEO Angelo Demasi says the growth will allow businesses to consolidate their manufacturing processes and have direct access to the market.

“The opportunity to work so closely to the market and have their operations in a similar place is a huge benefit to businesses that are looking to expand,” he says.

“The project is currently in the early stages with businesses in discussions that would benefit significantly from the project.”

Angelo says the market plays an important part in the SA economy, with more than 1500 people employed on site.

“ … 13,500 permanent and an additional 24,000 seasonal staff all rely at different levels on the SA Produce Market on a daily basis,” he says.

“Horticulture contributes $3.232 billion to the SA economy on gross food revenue of which $1.65 billion is attributed to the markets.”

Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to read more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.


Theo’s theory on the success of SA’s spuds and onions

High-tech innovations and a two-fold business growth in 18 months.

It’s been a big past few years for Australia’s leading potato and onion packer, The Mitolo Group, and according to Theo Sasopoulos, it’s still all systems go in the world of spuds and onions.

Theo is the group finance manager for the longstanding family-owned company that built its fortunes on growing, harvesting and packing potatoes and onions.

An accountant by profession, Theo says he’s working in the best of both worlds – finance and food.

“The SA food industry is a key growth area for our economy, especially in the Northern Adelaide Plains (Virginia and surrounds) and traditional food bowl areas like the Riverland and Mallee,” he says.

“As our economy has moved away from traditional manufacturing businesses, food and agriculture along with many renewable (energy) type industries will be at the forefront of economic growth in the future.

“There is no better time to be involved in the food industry or with a business such as Mitolo.”

Shop at any of the supermarket giants for spuds and onions and chances are you’ll be buying Mitolo produce, grown on farms located across the Adelaide Plains, and Murray and Mallee.

Every year, 200,000 tonnes of washed and brushed potatoes and onions are graded and packed at Mitolo’s Virginia base and packing facilities in NSW.

Theo Sasopoulos is an I Choose SA for Food, Wine and Tourism ambassador.

The majority of produce is trucked within Australia to Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and IGA supermarkets, greengrocers, and produce markets throughout the country.

Only 5% of produce (mostly onions) is exported to Europe and the Middle East.

Theo joined the Mitolo team almost six years ago after working at Adelaide consulting firm Deloitte for three years.

“I already had a relationship with The Mitolo Group as a client through my time at Deloitte,” he says.

“The variety and opportunities that come with working in a passionate family business is both inspiring and rewarding from a personal perspective.”

The Mitolo Group has come a long way since it was launched as Comit Farm Produce in 1989 by Bruno and Angela Mitolo.

Bruno immigrated to Australia with his parents at the age of 13, while Angela was born in Australia to immigrant parents.

The couple has three sons, Frank, John and Darren, who now run the business.

“When Bruno was in charge of the place, it was all about hard work and determination,” Theo says.

“Now with Frank it’s about building on that with professionalism and innovation.

“They (the three sons) have taken a good business with strong foundations and made it great.”

Some of The Mitolo Group’s latest successes include the acquisition of large vegetable supplier Oakville Produce, which went into receivership in mid-2016.

“We’ve doubled in size in the last year and a half – we now have 750 staff across our farming, packing and administration,” Theo says.

“From a production point of view we’ve doubled the amount of produce we dispatch throughout the country.

“Similarly, both costs and revenues have increased substantially.”

Also in 2016, The Mitolo Group invested $5m in near-infrared sorting technology to X-ray onions at a rate of more than 1000 per minute.

The X-ray process detects onions that are damaged or rotten on the inside.

Despite the successes, Theo says working in agribusiness comes with its challenges.

“There are so many variables that can change from one day to the next because the weather conditions have such a big impact on the quality and yield of potatoes and produce in general,” he says.

The father of two says he’s proud to be able to pursue his career within a prosperous industry while calling SA home.

“I am a born and bred South Aussie with a proud Greek heritage,” he says.

“This will always be home.”

Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to read more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.

Top Note launches red and rare sweet drop

Kuitpo couple Nick and Cate Foskett have backgrounds as far from winemaking as you can get – opera singing and IT – but their latest winemaking pursuit has struck a rare chord.

The Fosketts, who are behind Top Note Vineyard, are pouring a new release of a dessert wine made from the rare red semillon (also known as semillon rose) grape.

Top Note is one of the few places where the pink-berried variety is planted separately, as it’s usually scattered among one in every 30 or so white semillon vines.

The 2017 Noble Rose dessert wine is “less sweet” than past vintages due to a later than average harvest last year.

The Fosketts say the drop shows “orange blossom, jasmine and white tea on the nose with touches of lime”.

“The wine is delicate and has a good balance between acidity and sweetness with honey, citrus and nougat flavours on the palate,” says Cate, who has built a career in opera singing both in South Australia and overseas.

The 2017 Noble Rose.

The new release is named Noble Rose in reference to both the semillon rose variety and the ‘noble rot’, botrytis.

Botrytis is a bunch rot that can occur in grapes and is responsible for making dessert wine so sweet.

The rot draws moisture from the berry, concentrating sugars and therefore increasing sweetness and flavour of the fruit.

“Semillon is the queen of dessert wine grapes and we wanted to do something special with these gorgeous, fat, pink grapes,” Cate says.

“We thought we’d try to cane cut it and raisin the grapes on the vine, while allowing any natural botrytis development to add complexity to the wine.”

The Fosketts first released a red semillon drop in 2013.

Prominent five-star Sydney restaurant Aria bought 25% of the vintage and matched it to desserts on their degustation menu for six months.

Other fancy establishments also took a liking to it, including Restaurant Orana, Mount Lofty House and Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island.

So what makes red semillon so special?

Nick and Cate Foskett. PHOTO: Brian Kowald Photography.

A occurring mutation of the white semillon variety, red semillon is widely found in France and South Africa and was first planted in the Barossa Valley in the 1930s.

In 1995, prominent SA viticulturist and winemaker Neville Falkenberg transplanted canes from the red berry vines to three cool climate vineyards.

“He planted these canes as rows of just the pink on our vineyard, with white semillon right next to it,” Cate says.

Cate and Nick Foskett bought the Kuitpo property in 2011.

Cate had been based in London for more than a decade before returning to Adelaide to perform in State Opera of SA shows, among others.

She met Nick, a computer chip designer who had worked in Silicon Valley.

A curiosity for winemaking took charge, with the pair studying the craft at university.

The 2017 Noble Rose will officially launch at a sold out garden party on February 11.

Top Note’s cellar door is at 558 Peters Creek Road, Kuitpo, and is open on weekends and public holidays from 11am­–4pm.

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Adelaide Festival Centre set for big musicals and more visitors

In 1973 Flinders University student Douglas Gautier was an extra in the opera, Fidelio, at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s official opening.

Fast forward more than 40 years and the proud Adelaidean is at the head of the city’s entertainment attraction.

The Adelaide Festival Centre was Australia’s first multipurpose arts venue when it opened – three months before the Sydney Opera House did – and now hosts one million visitors a year.

“That opening night was a very exciting time,” says Douglas Gautier AM, the centre’s CEO and artistic director.

“Then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was there and he said, to words of this effect, that the Adelaide Festival Centre was something to make people in Adelaide proud.

“But he said it would also lead the country.”

And lead the country it has.

Adelaide Festival Centre CEO and artistic director Douglas Gautier.

The Festival Centre is home to events within the Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and State Theatre Company, of which draw people from across the globe.

It’s involved in the production of the world’s biggest cabaret festival, Australia’s largest guitar festival and one of the country’s most prominent international festivals, OzAsia.

“We had 50,000 people attend (the OzAsia Moon Lantern Festival) in one year,” Douglas says.

“It says a lot about our city, it’s a lot different than 10 years ago, it’s much more multicultural.

“We try to open it (the Festival Centre) up to all areas of the community and OzAsia is a good indication of that.”

A recent report by Ernst and Young shows the Adelaide Festival Centre’s total economic contribution and social value hit $160m and created 1076 jobs in 2015/16.

The new look new look Adelaide Festival Centre promenade. PHOTO: Kelly Carpenter.

More recently the centre has undergone huge transformations and redevelopments, including its new northern foyers which now face onto Elder Park and the Torrens.

The new riverbank precinct has also welcomed new features including The Star Kitchen and Bar and the Walk of Fame.

Unveiled in January, the Walk of Fame features 132 plaques naming top performers, including Tim Minchin and Olivia Newton-John, who have showcased their talents at the Festival Centre over the years.

Douglas says the new features create a “very compelling package for both locals and visitors alike”.

“We do position ourselves as the main festival city in the country and it’s important that it’s constantly pumping,” he says.

Spot the celebs! The Walk of Fame recipients with Douglas Gautier AM and Premier Jay Weatherill.

The Adelaide Festival Centre Trust (AFCT) also manages Her Majesty’s Theatre (HMT) on Grote Street and is giving the “grand old dame” a facelift, growing its capacity from 970 to 1500.

HMT will close in March before reopening in late 2019/20.

This year is also a bumper year for big musicals, including The Rocky Horror Show, American Idiot, The Wizard of Oz, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Mamma Mia.

The sixth musical for the year, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, will open in December 2018, ending a record-run of big song and dance shows.

If 2017’s Matilda the Musical audiences are anything to go by, the 2018 musical lineup won’t be a hard sell.

“People are buying a lot more tickets … with Matilda we sold well over 100,000 tickets and audiences all reacted very well,” Douglas says.

“We have invested very strongly to ensure these big shows are coming here.”

Musical composer Tim Minchin alongside his ‘star’. Tim composed, Matilda, which drew thousands of visitors to the Adelaide Festival Centre in 2017.

This year marks Douglas’ 12th year being back in Adelaide after living in Hong Kong for 25 years.

During his time in Asia he headed one of the world’s great art festivals in Hong Kong and was deputy executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Douglas says Adelaide might be the country’s smallest capital city but it “punches well above its weight” in arts and tourism.

“We believe in this city, particularly in its creative industries,” he says.

“It’s got a certain power and that’s people power.”

The Adelaide Festival Centre is holding a free public Open Day on February 11. See more information here.

Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to read more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.

Crusta juice plant back in Riverland hands

The Crusta Fruit Juices site at Ramco in the Riverland is back in the hands of a local family who say the reacquisition of the facility is good news for local citrus growers.

Lochert Bros. Pty Ltd sold the plant to drinks giant Coca Cola Amatil in 2004, but has now “seized the opportunity” to buy it back for the “benefit of the Riverland and South Australia”.

The site is located opposite Lochert Bros.’ existing orange packing facility and is the only Riverland based processing plant able to hold large volumes of citrus for storage and distribution.

While the sale included the land, buildings and all juicing and storage facilities, it doesn’t include the Crusta brand name or company.

The former Crusta site adjacent to Lochert Bros.’ existing packing house at Ramco, near Waikerie.

The first batch of oranges are already rolling along the production line to be juiced for two juicing companies, one in SA and the other in NSW.

Lochert Bros.’ founding managing director Robert Lochert says the company has no plans to launch its own line of juice or bring back the Crusta name.

“But there has certainly been a lot of community support and people saying they would love to have Crusta juice back in the marketplace,” he says.

“But at this stage it’s not part of the plan, we can’t reinvent history.”

The company says in a statement on its Facebook page that demand for quality oranges will increase due to China’s acceptance of South Australia’s fruit fly free status.

“This will enable Lochert Bros. to pay higher prices for oranges exported to China in 2018,” the statement says.

“Lochert Bros. will be talking to growers about additional supplies of both navel and Valencia Oranges for 2018 and beyond.”

Robert says the feedback from the community has been positive and that the prosperity of local growers is of high importance to the company.

“It’s always been a part of our philosophy that we look after growers because if there are no oranges growing, then we don’t have a business,” he says.

Lochert Bros. staff Shawn Wood, left, Peter Kuchel, James Lochert, Lochert Bros. owner Robert Lochert, factory manager Timothy Lochert, and Mel Brisco.

Robert has been packing citrus since 1961, before the Crusta brand was established a decade later in 1971.

His father was also a Riverland citrus packer, starting out in the business in the early 1940s.

“We have always taken fruit from the Riverland, mostly from around Waikerie,” Robert says.

“Of the fruit that we pack, the majority is exported overseas … we have been involved in exports for 30-40 years.

“We supply markets in Singapore, Malaysia, The Philippines, China and Japan.”

Lochert Bros. Pty Ltd packs about 20,000 tonnes of fruit a year.

Three new staff have been employed at the Crusta site and Robert says additional work will be on offer to Lochert Bros.’ casual and part time workers.

“I hope to build the business up,” he says.

Watch below: the first oranges in close to a year enter the former Crusta juice factory. SOURCE: Lochert Bros. Facebook.

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Summer barbecue sizzlers with Sprout duo

Summer in South Australia is a barbecue boss’ time to shine.

You could dust off the gas bottles, buy a meat tray from the local butcher and throw a snag on the ‘barbie’ … or you could do it the “modern Australia” way.

This summer, our challenge to our fellow South Aussies is to live up to our reputation of premium food and wine and take your barbecue to new heights.

This doesn’t have to mean breaking into the piggy bank or spending hours in the kitchen, rather just a little more focus on fresh, local and seasonal produce.

Try using vibrant and full flavoured herbs and summer fruits to lift salads, dry spices for additional flavour on meats and perhaps throw an eggplant on the barbie with olive oil and crushed garlic too.

Seafood is a big hit during our hot summer, chargrilled prawns and calamari are a favourite but try supercharging your seafood with a smokey spice rub or rich spicey sauce.

Why not try our paprika prawns with romesco sauce and chilli beans this long weekend?

The best part about this dish is that you can cook the whole meal on the barbecue (including roasting your own capsicums on the grill) and that it requires minimal preparation which means you can spend more time standing near the barbecue, looking busy, with a cold beer in your hand!

Paprika prawns with romesco sauce and chilli beans


Ingredients (serves 4)

1/2 Cup roasted capsicum pieces

1/4 Cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped

1 Garlic clove

1 Teaspoon smoked paprika, plus 1 tablespoon extra

1 Teaspoon ground cumin

1/3 Cup tomato passata (pureed tomatoes)

Zest and juice of a lemon

2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon extra

500g Peeled prawns

4 Large handfuls green beans, topped and tailed

1/2 Teaspoon chilli flakes

8 Anchovy fillets, finely chopped (optional)


  • To make the romesco sauce, combine the capsicum, half the almonds, garlic, one teaspoon paprika, cumin, tomato passata and half the lemon juice in a food processor. Blend until smooth, add the two tablespoons of olive oil and blend briefly to combine.
  • Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Coat the prawns in the remaining tablespoon of paprika, season with a pinch of salt, then add to the pan. Cook for one minute on each side or until golden brown. Remove the prawns from the pan and leave to rest, lightly covered.
  • Add the beans, chilli flakes and anchovies, if using, to the pan and cook for about two minutes until bright green and slightly tender. Transfer into a bowl and toss with the lemon zest and remaining juice. Divide the beans among four serving plates. Top with the prawns, romesco sauce and the remaining almonds and serve.

Nutritional information (per serve):
Energy: 1520 (363cal)
Protein: 34.8g
Fat: 19.6g
Carbohydrate: 7.9g
Sodium: 1006mg
Sat far: 2.7g
Sugar: 4.8g
Fibre: 7.3g

PHOTO: James Knowler / JK+Crew

Themis is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and managing director of Sprout. He loves good food, great wine and sharing these with friends and family.  He is passionate about food and health and helping others to understand how these can be enjoyed together!

Callum, a cook and author, founded and operates Sprout with Themis. He draws his inspiration from the seasons and using the best possible local produce. He loves to show people how easy it can be to create quick, delicious and healthy meals.

It’s all so seamless for State Theatre Company’s Enken Hagge

Hand sewing hundreds of fish “scales” onto a waistcoat, making a post-apocalyptic costume out of curtains and having to think about fake blood stains on material are just some of the work challenges faced by Enken Hagge, the wardrobe supervisor at the State Theatre Company.

Enken Hagge had done two undergraduate degrees, in media and arts, and had started an honors degree in English Literature when she suddenly realised she would spend most of her life “writing essays that no one would see”.

That realisation was the catalyst for the 34-year-old to pursue a whole new career, based on her love of sewing.

“I’d always liked sewing as a hobby but I have little interest in commercial fashion, so I had no idea how to make it a career until I found out about the Diploma of Costume Construction at AC Arts, which sadly no longer exists,” she says.

While completing her diploma, Enken managed to find work on some feature films and TV shows being filmed in Adelaide and also did work experience at State Theatre Company on a show called Three Sisters.

Enken Hagge, wardrobe supervisor at the State Theatre Company.

“From there on I was employed casually until I finally joined the State Theatre family in 2014,” she says.

Enken’s daily routine involves working closely with a production’s costume designer interpreting their designs and deciding what parts of the costume need to be handmade and what can be sourced or bought.

“A lot of my job involves finding bits and pieces of a costume out in the ‘real world’ and bringing everything together,” she says.

“I also source all the fabrics for the sewing room, shoes and accessories. Essentially, a designer shows me their dream costume and I work out how to make it a reality.

“So imagine we need a ladies’ Victorian era outfit consisting of a skirt, blouse, hat, shoes and undergarments.

“I might buy the fabric for the blouse in a local fabric shop, purchase the trims online, find an appropriate skirt in our vast State Theatre store that we can alter and use again and make a new corset from scratch to fit the actor.

“The shoes I might also find in a vintage shop, or source online.

“The hat base might be vintage but we can re-decorate and trim it to suit. Often I buy fabrics from all over Australia and worldwide.”

Enken with colleagues Sandra Anderson and Martine Micklem.

Being able to bring a simple costume sketch to life and see it work well on stage is the most rewarding aspect of the job for Enken.

“I love getting a design that looks impossible to pull off and then making it a reality,” she says.

“The most challenging part is realising a costume design that may look pretty as a sketch, but would not be appropriate onstage – for example, where a designer has drawn a female character in a slinky, restrictive dress and high heels although her role requires lots of physical action on an uneven stage.

“In that case it’s a delicate negotiation between the designer, the actor and myself to get to a final design that everyone loves.”

A typical day for Enken involves doing fittings with the actors and the designer first thing, then there is usually sourcing to be done, fabric buying and returning unwanted stock.

The best part is later in the day when she gets hands on, crafting costumes and accessories such as hats, bags or masks, or altering existing costumes.

Enken and her partner Kyle Bowen.

Being able to problem solve creatively and thinking outside the box are key qualities of any wardrobe supervisor, says Enken, pointing out that costume making is very different to fashion design.

“Theatre is not the real world – clothes often have to do some interesting things,” she says.

“Our costumes need to withstand both rough treatment and action onstage as well as repeated laundering.

“They also need to accommodate things like quick changes (very fast changes of costume at the side of the stage) so we have tricks to make those possible.

“Also, actors might be dealing with things like fake blood onstage, so the fabrics that we use have to be appropriate. Anything we make ourselves is made to be as tough as possible to survive a season of a show!”

“For Masquerade (2015) I made a fish’s waistcoat which involved hundreds of individually sewn-on shimmery fabric scales.

“For Mr Burns (2017) I created a post-apocalyptic dress for Lisa Simpson that was made out of old curtains and that I embroidered with nuclear waste symbols.

“Sometimes the fabrics are silk, and sometimes we make very intricate costumes out of humble cloth – it takes an equal amount of time!”

Working with natural fabrics, especially linen and wool, is a highlight for Enken because they “behave” well under the sewing machine, are comfortable to wear and are long lasting.

“But there are now really interesting developments in thermoplastics – heat malleable sheets of plastic that can be bent and formed into any number of useful things like headpieces and armour,” she explains.

“I’m always finding new ways to use them.”

Enken says there is still so much to learn in her field, improving her skills and learning new techniques, and in the future she’d love to do more costume designing.

Not surprisingly her philosophy on life is “be curious, and never stop learning!”.


Port Lincoln gives a toss for its fish throwing tradition

Fish don’t fly. Or do they?

Once a year in Port Lincoln, tuna can be seen hurling through the air for the town’s annual Tunarama – Australia’s longest running regional festival.

The Port Lincoln Tunarama will unfold this long weekend and organisers say enthusiasm for the three-day event isn’t dampening anytime soon.

About 15,000 people are expected to descend upon the Eyre Peninsula from January 26-28 to celebrate the festival and its highlight event – the tuna toss.

Tossing a tuna into the air is no easy feat. The world record is 37.23m.

Port Lincoln local Barb Davies is the Tunarama Festival’s committee treasurer and office volunteer.

She marched in the first Tunarama Festival parade in 1962 at the age of 10 and says the event continues to entertain thousands of people 56 years later.

“The whole foreshore will fill up and the town usually doubles in size,” Barb says.

“Tourists stay in nearby Coffin Bay, Tumby Bay and Cummins – people stay all over the place, so it’s a huge boost for the town and everybody benefits.”

The Tunarama Festival aims to highlight the significance of the tuna industry and features a schedule of other quirky traditions including the salmon and prawn toss, prawn peeling contests and sheep shearing competitions.

The tuna toss sees strong contenders hurl fish across the foreshore lawns in a similar style to hammer throwing.

While whole frozen tuna were originally used in the event, polyurethane replicas were introduced in 2008 to ensure seafood supplies weren’t wasted.

The tuna toss is only one aspect of the Tunarama.

Barb says competition is fierce among contenders.

“It becomes quite competitive, and we’ve had a father and son duo compete in previous years – Michael and Levi Proude,” she says.

“A lot of the time it only comes down to inches of difference.”

The world record is 37.23m set by former Olympic hammer thrower Sean Carlin in 1998.

Despite its popularity, the Tunarama hasn’t been without its hurdles as last year the future of the event was in doubt.

But Barb says the community banded together to support the event and the benefits it brings to the region.

“This year we’re back on track,” she says.

“The amount of people who have come out of the woodwork to help has been great.”

The keg roll is another of the festival’s quirky activities.

The Port Lincoln Tunarama Festival dates back to 1962 as a celebration of the local fishing industry – the largest in Australia.

The event comprised a ‘blessing of the fleet’ from a local priest to bring a safe and promising season.

The event also included a parade and Ambassador Quest where local women would line up in hope of being crowned Miss Tunarama.

The beauty aspect of the quest faded and today the contest focuses on the contender’s ability to represent their town and develop personal growth.

Men were also included in the quest.

Despite the many traditions of the festival, it’s the tuna toss that has attracted the most attention, with contestants travelling from Japan to take part.

Thousands of people line the Port Lincoln foreshore for the event, which includes the popular plywood boat making contest.

The tuna tossing act itself pays tribute to the men who would unload the tuna from boats in the port by hurling them off the deck and onto trucks.

Barb has called Port Lincoln home for all her life and says it’s an “amazing place”.

“I went to the same school my father went to and now my kids and their kids are going there too,” she says.

“We have beautiful beaches and it’s a great, safe place to grow up.”

“My husband was a prawn fisher for 40 years and my son is in the oyster industry.

“Fishing has been the backbone of this town.”

For more information about the Port Lincoln Tunarama Festival visit the Facebook page.

Check out this compilation of Port Lincoln tuna tossing from the ’80s – 2010.

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Trish has been working her possum magic for almost 30 years

When it comes to possums, Renmark local Trish Stevens knows exactly what the small marsupials like to munch on.

For almost three decades, Trish, always accompanied by her trusty dogs, has wandered down to the Renmark riverfront every afternoon to feed up to 30 hungry possums.

“They love bananas best of all,” says Trish, who moved to Renmark in 1989.

“But they don’t like celery or beans and they only eat the tips of asparagus.”

Trish Stevens has been feeding the possums on the Renmark Riverfront for almost three decades, creating a small tourist attraction. PHOTO: The Murray Pioneer.

The nocturnal creatures scramble down their palm tree homes to see what fruit and vegetables Trish, fondly known as “the possum lady”, has on offer.

The spectacle has become a drawcard for both locals and tourists in the Renmark, in South Australia’s Riverland.

Trish spends about $20 a week on carrots for the marsupials, supplemented by “whatever she has leftover”.

She also nails carrots to the line of riverfront trees, allowing the creatures something to nibble on at all times.

“If I’ve got anything spare I give them that,” Trish says.

“They love everything, including water melon – they’ll eat anything really.”

Carrots are nailed to trees lining the Renmark riverfront. PHOTO: The Murray Pioneer

Trish says sometimes people call through her check-out at Renmark Woolworths where she has worked for the past 11 years and donate a bag of apples and carrots or hand over a few coins “for the possum tin”.

“But I don’t look for it,” she says.

“It’s just a thing I do – I walked past one day and thought they looked skinny and hungry.”

Trish has been feeding the possums daily since 1990.

She’s only missed five days and that was when a bout of salmonella poisoning “a while back” put her in hospital.

“Someone came up to me the other day and said they come to Renmark every year and it (the possums) is the highlight of their visit,” Trish says.

“People are just fascinated by the possums.

“Sometimes I think ‘gosh I feel tired’ and I don’t want to go down there but I do it anyway.

“I enjoy the fact that I’m feeding something that’s hungry – and it’s nice down the river.

“I sit down there and have a chat to people so that’s a good part of it.”

Header photo courtesy of Tish Moritz.

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The grain idea that paid off into a fine food venture

Sometimes all it takes is a bit of thinking outside the square.

That’s exactly what fifth generation Clare Valley farmer Jim Maitland did in 2011 when he value-added his family’s durum wheat by launching a line of wholegrain pasta.

The Pangkarra Foods brand included a stone milled wholegrain flour and lavosh, giving the Clare Valley family a chance at a secondary income and launching them into the world of fine foods.

But the length of the boutique enterprise didn’t stop there.

In 2016, Pangkarra released a paddock to plate range of ready-to-eat snacks that are now sold Australia-wide.

The roasted pulses range has been a hit.

The line includes an Australian first in cooked and ready-to-eat chickpeas, as well as a trio of snack packs featuring roasted chickpeas, faba beans and broad beans.

Managing Pangkarra Foods is Katherine Maitland, Jim’s wife, who also has a background in media, marketing and public relations.

She says the range of snack pulses now make up to 50-60% of Pangkarra’s total sales, while a small portion of the range is exported to Asia.

“Paddock to plate-style, healthy snack ranges are really growing in popularity, especially with the nut free and gluten free (movements),” Katherine says.

“With the snack range there is less competition and a growing market – it’s been very successful.”

Fifth generation farmer Jim and wife Katherine Maitland on the Clare Valley property.

While Jim and Katherine are at the helm of Pangkarra Foods, Jim’s parents David and Margot head the family’s farm, Anama Park.

The farm, which also exports hay, has been in the Maitland family since 1866 and is the unit’s “core business”.

“We’re only starting to break even and make a small profit (from Pangkarra Foods), but the idea is that we’re building something for future generations,” Katherine says.

“It’s about not being a one trick pony, having another means to the end and controlling the supply chain a bit more.”

Pangkarra products are now sold in 150 stores Australia wide and online.

The name Pangkarra is an Aboriginal word which holds great significance to the Kaurna people and means a small piece of land that has been sustained for generations.

The Maitland’s Clare Valley farm has been in the family since the 1800s.

The family practices sustainable farming methods such as the use of organic fertilisers and crop rotation (changing the type of crop grown in a particular area).

Jim’s decision to branch out from a reliance on traditional farming has also benefited two other South Australian businesses.

Once harvested, the grain for the Pangkarra products are milled at longstanding establishment Laucke Flour Mills in Strathalbyn.

Laucke uses traditional stone milling methods to grind the grain into flour.

The grain is crushed, not cut, meaning that more than 80% of the nutrients are kept, resulting in a stronger, nutty flavour and a more wholesome product.

The Pangkarra 100% wholegrain pasta range was the Maitland family’s first taste of the world of fine foods.

The flour is then made into pasta by L’Abruzzese in Glynde in Adelaide’s north east using traditional Italian methods.

While the Clare Valley is mostly recognised as the home of Australian riesling, Katherine says it’s also emerging as a valued food bowl.

“We’re very lucky to live here in Clare, which is very well known for food, wine and tourism and it’s emerging as food destination,” she says.

“We’re working with our cool climate … which is good for growing crops and wine grapes.”

Katherine stresses the importance of choosing SA and says local shoppers have backed Pangkarra since day one.

“The products might be more expensive, but the process is of higher quality,” she says.

“Our best sales are here in SA.”

Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to read more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.