Kangaroo Island networks help bring fig wine vinegar to fruition

Dan Pattingale is a farmer who understands the necessity of innovating.

The Kangaroo Island orchardist, whose Stokes Bay property has abundant figs and olive trees, has cleverly designed many food products under The Figgery brand to address unexpected crop gluts, droughts and varying cost shifts that have affected his business.

However, he also knows that innovation alone will not sell his wares.

“I’m a hands-on farmer, but not a marketer,” admits Dan. “I need to get my products into people’s mouths to make them love what I produce, and to do that from somewhere as isolated as Kangaroo Island, I need a network.”

Dan Pattingale picks figs on his Stokes Bay property.

Dan has achieved this, largely thanks to the deliciousness of his products. Beyond producing exceptional extra virgin olive oil for the past 20 years, Dan has created sticky figs, and sold the preserving fluid as sticky fig syrup.

Now he is creating a unique fig wine vinegar that will be available from July.

“I can’t sell 12 tonnes of fresh figs that I harvest – they’re too delicate to transport – so I’ve got to keep thinking of new ways to prolong their shelf life.

Now I’ve got 200 litres of fig wine – it’s quite sweet and spicy – that I’ll be converting into fig wine vinegar. Sure, it’s different, but just having an interesting product from Kangaroo Island is not enough. It has to be exceptional and consistent – and available when customers want it.”

Dried and sticky fig products and the sticky fig syrup at the central market. The newest addition will be the fig wine vinegar from July.

Achieving this is difficult due to high freight costs, but Dan’s great allies have been Justin and Jane Harmon, who run the Kangaroo Island Stall in the Adelaide Central Market.

Since 2014, they have stocked more than 50 of Kangaroo Island’s boutique food and drink producers, providing a first opportunity for many to reach the Adelaide market.

Importantly, the stall also gave customers a first taste of The Figgery’s unique products, which triggered word of mouth demand.

The Figgery products are now distributed to 50 stores throughout South Australia, although Dan says the Kangaroo Island Stall is where he will officially launch the new fig wine vinegar.

“It’s been an essential supporter for small producers,” he says. “They’ve employed young people from the island; my daughter Nina still works there. It truly represents the island.”

Jane and Justin Harmon of the Kangaroo Island Stall in the Adelaide Central Market help promote island produce to city folk.

One more crucial cog is required to make boutique food production on Kangaroo Island a viable proposition – cost-effective distribution to the mainland.

Tiff Turner has filled this role by creating KI Complete, a food distribution and transportation service. The former general manager of Island Pure sheep dairy now makes weekly runs to Adelaide, ferrying goods from about 20 small producers (including The Figgery), and returns to the island the following day with supplies of artisan milks, breads, fruits and vegetables.

“I’ve seen first hand that freight costs can destroy a business on KI before it really gets going, but I also know that if we work together, we can solve a lot of the problems,” says Tiff.

“That’s why I decided to pitch in. I really want to see the island get ahead.”

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Garlic glory on Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island man Shane Leahy is on a mission to ensure South Australians have a better chance of consuming locally grown garlic.

His fledgling enterprise, Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic, is the island’s first commercial garlic farm, and Shane says this year’s harvest is his first successful yield after three years spent perfecting his growing techniques.

He is a strong advocate against imported garlic, saying the flavour of the local produce compared to imported is second to none. He is also passionate about the health and environmental benefits of choosing Australian grown garlic.

“It stunned me when I first started growing and learning about garlic about what they do to imported garlic,” he says. “By the time it gets here to Australia and it’s put on our plate, you may as well eat a cardboard box.”

According to the Australian Garlic Producers Group, Australia imports about 95% of its garlic from China, where the garlic is treated with a growth retardant to prevent it from sprouting and is also sprayed with chemicals to extend its shelf life.

Shane Leahy of Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic based at Stokes Bay on the island.

Australia also imports garlic from Spain, Argentina, Mexico and the US, with all imported garlic treated with methyl bromide upon arrival to ensure it meets stringent quarantine import conditions.

Australia’s garlic crops are generally planted in autumn, ready for harvest by late spring, depending on the conditions and growing region.

To combat the seasonality of locally grown garlic, Shane has launched a range of value-added products so consumers can enjoy locally grown garlic all year round. He invested in peeling and dehydration equipment to make garlic granules, garlic powder and garlic salt, made with no additives or preservatives.

These products have launched into independent supermarkets and selected greengrocers across metropolitan Adelaide and regional SA, with distributors also in Queensland and Darwin.

The fresh, whole white and purple hardneck garlic bulbs are currently only available on KI, but Shane says plans are afoot to distribute the produce statewide.

Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic also supplies freshly peeled garlic to top restaurants and cafés in Adelaide and on KI, including Southern Ocean Lodge, Rockpool Café, Sunset Food and Wine, and the Aurora Ozone Hotel.

Aside from fresh bulbs, Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic also makes garlic salt, garlic powder and garlic granules.

“Because of the strong flavour of Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic I only need to use one third of the quantity to achieve the same flavour as inferior products,” says Aurora Ozone Hotel head chef Lenny Numa.

Shane took to garlic growing after spending most of his working life in the wool industry as a wool classer. While born in SA, his family moved to Fremantle in WA where he spent most of his childhood and adolescence, completing a TAFE course in wool classing.

He then spent years travelling around the country, hopping from shearing shed to shearing shed until he one day took a wool classing job on KI.

He still moved around during the off-season but grew tired of the constant travelling. In 2003, KI became his home base, with its population of 4000 people and the many mates he made at the front bar of the local pub.

Two of those mates were brothers Lachie and Sam Hollitt and over a few beers the trio came up with a grand plan – to grow garlic on the island and sell it to market.

Shane says Sam was the brains behind the idea, with the three men eventually taking a trip to the Mid North to “pick the brains of an old fella” who had been growing garlic for years.

But on the cusp of launching their enterprise, Sam was killed in a car accident, leaving the small community devastated. In a second bout of tragedy, Lachie later fell ill with testicular cancer and nine months after the diagnosis he passed away.

This year’s harvest is Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic’s first successful yield.

Months later, Shane toyed with the idea of continuing the garlic venture in honour of his two mates, believing “it was what the boys would have wanted”.

And so he carried on with the plans in their memory, eventually meeting a grower in Renmark, buying seed and planting thousands of them by hand over one acre on his property at Stokes Bay.

Four years later and the garlic crop of about 300,000 plants takes up about 3ha of his 250-acre farm, which also runs 400 crossbred ewes for meat production.

Shane says he hopes to do the brothers proud with his garlic enterprise, which is still a one-man operation besides a small number of workers employed seasonally.

He says KI’s cold climate helps accentuate the strong flavour of the garlic and says his go-to garlic recipe is a simple garlic butter.

“Work half a pouch of the garlic powder into a knob of butter and you have the best garlic butter in the world,” he adds.

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Café with a cause at Kangaroo Island Airport

Airline passengers touching down at one of South Australia’s most popular tourist destinations are now able to get their caffeine fix after a disability service organisation established its first social enterprise at the Kangaroo Island airport.

Not-for-profit organisation Mobo Group strengthened its presence in the state’s regions this week when it opened a café at the newly upgraded Kangaroo Island Kingscote Airport, providing employment opportunities for locals living with a disability.

The yet-to-be-named café is currently serving hot beverages and small treats to visitors flying in and out of the the island, giving Mobo employees a chance to build social and vocational skills.

CEO of Mobo Group Andrew Ramsey says he is looking forward to witnessing the many benefits the café will create for employees, patrons and Kangaroo Island’s tourism industry.

Airline passengers order coffee at the newly opened café run by the Mobo Group at the Kangaroo Island Kingscote Airport.

Not only will Mobo employees be provided with employment, they will have the chance to receive barista training, develop their social skills through engaging with customers and will also become tourist ambassadors for the region.

“This new café will enable people living with a disability to be the best that they can be, by giving them the opportunity for sustained employment within the community as well as employment-related support,” he says.

“The café is our first business enterprise on Kangaroo Island and we really look forward to being an even greater part of the community and helping to support the tourism trade and those transiting through the airport.”

Although the airport café is the organisation’s first social enterprise on the island, Mobo Group is long delivered youth services, alcohol and drug programs and run the local Centrelink agency.

The new café complements the recently upgraded Kingscote airport.

“We hope that this will be the first of a number of social enterprises which can be developed on the island, building on the support that we already provide to Kangaroo Island residents living with a disability,” Andrew says.

Kangaroo Island Council CEO Andrew Boardman says the café will be a welcome addition to the airport, which recently underwent a multi-million dollar upgrade.

The State and Federal government funded the works, with the council also developing the project.

“The opportunity to leverage council infrastructure to create opportunities for all in our community is a key thrust in the design of the new facilities, and the council is looking forward to this initiative being the start of great things to come in this area,” Mr Boardman says.

Mobo Group employee Bec Davis restocks the beverages. Bec, along with fellow employees Carmel and Julie, were instrumental in bringing the café to fruition.

Mobo Group supports more than 200 people with disabilities in finding employment and engaging in employment-related support services across metropolitan and regional SA.

The organisation was formed from the merger of two disability enterprises, Hands On SA and Finding Workable Solutions and has a presence in regional areas of Berri, Brinkley, Goolwa, Totness, Mt Barker and Victor Harbor.

Mobo runs a number of business enterprises across the state in document destruction, firewood, food packaging, garden maintenance, mailing campaigns, packaging and processing services, product assembly, print finishing, sewing services and salvage shops.

It is a registered provider of NDIS services, and supports people with disabilities in finding a job, transitioning from school to work, accessing alcohol and drug awareness, and youth services.

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Fleurieu cookbook a feast for foodies

McLaren Vale foodie Rojina McDonald fell in love with the culinary delights of South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula simply by growing up in the food and wine region.

Adopted from Sri Lanka as a baby, she was raised on an olive grove between McLaren Vale and Willunga, and remembers jumping the neighbour’s fence as a child with her sister to fill their pockets with pistachio nuts.

Now the baking queen and self-publishing entrepreneur has taken her passion for the Fleurieu’s food scene and poured it into her first book, Faces and Food of the Fleurieu.

Launched recently, the coffee table cookbook profiles 80 restaurants, cafés and producers across 29 towns on the Fleurieu, helping to shed light on the region’s gastronomic delights.

Written by local writer Heather Millar and illustrated with photographs by Josie Withers, the book tells the story of each business owner and shares recipes featuring local produce and signature ingredients.

The duck a l’orange dish by Ryan Callaghan of Au Pair Restaurant in Willunga.

“What makes the Fleurieu is the food and wine, a good quality olive oil, the produce, the vegetables grown throughout the region, and the agricultural industry as a whole,” Rojina says.

Among those featured include The Salopian Inn with its steamed tofu and Asian greens dish, d’Arry’s Verandah with a Yuzu-cured tuna with smashed cucumber, the Willunga Farmer’s Market with lemon, almond and ricotta cake, and Coorong Wild Seafood with a pan-fried Coorong mullet and buttered potato, kale and capers recipe.

Faces and Food of the Fleurieu has received praise from Australian cooking royalty Maggie Beer, local author Heather England and leading winemaker Corrina Wright of Oliver’s Taranga, and is already available in 60 places across the Fleurieu, as well as book stores, visitor information centres and airports.

Rojina came to appreciate the Fleurieu’s food sector as a teenager when she worked weekends at the McLaren Vale Continental Deli and Café (now Mullygrub).

She says customers would line up out the door, waiting for their fix of fresh, regional produce. She remembers the cream blobs formed on top of Alexandrina Milk while making coffee and the smell of the freshly baked bread delivered to the deli by Andy Clappis from Italian restaurant Our Place at Willunga Hill.

Katelijne Van Cauteren of Three Monkeys café in Willunga features in the book.

“The deli was one of those proper continental delis where everything was local including the bread, cheeses, milks, condiments and preserves, sandwiches, cakes and home-cooked lunches,” Rojina says.

“I worked there for four years and still to this day people say to me, ‘Hey! You’re the girl from the deli!’ and I still recognise their faces too. That really taught me about how important and special regional produce is.”

Rojina then went onto work at a number of other local cafés, restaurants and in retail before hitting hard times and being diagnosed with anxiety.

To reset her mental health and wellbeing, she spent time at home and began baking cupcakes. It started with a batch of 20, then word got out and the orders started pouring in.

“I started baking 20 a week, then 150, then 200 a week out of my little kitchen in McLaren Vale. I was delivering them to my sister’s florist, the hospital and businesses in the main street,” Rojina says.

“I did that for about two years and was dubbed the cupcake queen and awarded the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the McLaren Vale Business Association.

“That’s when I got back into food and it really helped with my anxiety, I think something like that has to happen to push you in the right direction.”

Rojina switched her mindset and adopted the power of positive thinking, becoming inspired by best-selling self-help book The Secret, which she says has changed her life.

Among her personal goals was meeting Maggie Beer, winning a scholarship at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and writing for a food magazine – all of which she would later achieve.

In 2013 she set off for Le Cordon Bleu in London to complete a certificate in basic patisserie and that’s when the idea for a cookbook featuring the Fleurieu’s food producers was born.

“I met all these people from around the world and I was trying to explain to them where I was from. I thought if only there was a coffee table book that showcased the beautiful beaches, the food and the stories of the Fleurieu,” Rojina says.

She kept the book idea in the back of her mind and returned to Australia before life took over and she welcomed her first child, Orion.

Rojina McDonald grew up always appreciating fresh produce from the Fleurieu region.

In 2016 Rojina had settled into motherhood and was working part-time when she decided it was time to reignite the cookbook idea. So she set about gathering local support, started her own company Soul Publishing and got local food businesses to fill the pages.

A successful crowdfunding campaign earlier this year raised $16,000 to push pre-orders and help cover printing costs.

The 29-year-old says orders for Faces and Food of the Fleurieu have been tumbling in, giving her the confidence to plan for a second edition in early 2019, this time profiling the region’s beer, wine and spirits.

“It will showcase 40 prominent wineries, breweries and distilleries and will tell their stories,” she says.

“Many of McLaren Vale’s wineries have been around for years and handed down through generations. We want to complement these stories with beautiful photography, brewery tips and gin recipes.”

For more information on Faces and Food of the Fleurieu, visit the website.

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Vintage-inspired food truck a mini delight for KI beachgoers

‘Coffee at sunrise and cocktails at sunset’ – that’s the motto of Kangaroo Island foodie Em Woskett, owner of pop-up food truck Mini De Lights.

The pop-up cocktail bar, kitchen and beer garden is fast gaining popularity with KI locals and visitors to the stunning Emu Bay beach, one of the island’s most popular swimming spots.

The vintage-inspired food van is one of Kangaroo Island’s first licensed food trucks, joining a growing fleet of pop up vendors helping to push the region’s profile for being one of the state’s leading food and wine destinations.

Mini De Lights serves bite-sized street food, coffee, cocktails and desserts. Its summer menu includes honey popcorn chicken with spicy slaw, prawn, ginger and carrot balls with wasabi mayo, as well as all-day breakfast granola, zucchini fritters, and eggs Benedict with prosciutto.

The Mini De Lights popcorn chicken.

Em says sourcing local produce, beer, wine and spirits is essential to the small business which rolled onto the food truck scene in February this year.

“I’ve been using local cheese and family farms down the road supply the pork and lamb, we use Fleurieu Milk and our coffee is from a local coffee roaster,” she says.

“Our cocktails are made from Kangaroo Island Spirits, and we have False Cape Wines, The Islander Estate, Bay of Shoals and Kangaroo Island Brewery beers on offer.

“As local businesses, we try to promote one another, that is our bread and butter. If you don’t have local support you’re standing on your own. We are all passionate about the region and we want to see each other succeed.”

Mini De Lights joins a small fleet of other food trucks operating at various events and locations across the island, and Em says they each have a knack for creative thinking and a passion for food.

The arrival of the Mini De Lights food truck marks the first time in more than a decade that swimmers have been able to access food and beverages at Emu Bay, with a nearby kiosk closing some time ago.

“Emu Bay is a beautiful beach, 70% of the houses are holiday rentals so it’s full of people in the holiday periods, but there is nothing here on the beach front,” Em says.

“The pop-up concept was always an idea I’d loved because there are no boundaries and you can play around with what you serve and how you serve it.”

Mini De Lights has also popped up at local businesses and catered for special events. From December 1 and throughout summer it will open seven days a week at Emu Bay from 7am–7pm.

Originally from Adelaide, Em has spent most of her working life in hospitality in Australia and overseas.

Em Woskett is the woman behind Mini De Lights.

She spent time in New Zealand and London before returning to Adelaide and heading for Kangaroo Island, taking on the role of restaurant manager at Southern Ocean Lodge.

It was during her time at the luxurious boutique hotel that she fell in love with the island’s produce, and also met a local stone mason, who is now her partner.

She says Kangaroo Island is growing its reputation as a premier food and wine destination and that locals and visitors are “spoilt for choice” with culinary offerings and landscapes to explore.

“It’s taken some time for Kangaroo Island to have its time in the light, and it’s just starting to get there,” she says.

“It’s almost like a hidden treasure, we have so much to showcase, the coastlines, the wildlife, once you cast your eye around there is so much choice, we are spoilt rotten.

“The island’s charm is that it’s untouched. It’s simple, yet so beautiful.”

Header photo courtesy of The Islander.

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Kangaroo Island spins its own unique wool story

When sheep and grain farmer Christine Berry walked into a Japanese clothing store and saw suits tagged with ‘made from Kangaroo Island wool’, she couldn’t resist buying a jacket to take home to Australia.

“When we walked into United Arrows, it’s like Myer in Japan, and saw a suit presented so beautifully and with the Kangaroo Island label it was wonderful, it was so powerful,” the chair of Kangaroo Island Wool says.

It’s been a dramatic change in approach for the collaborative group of 22 shareholders and producers who joined forces in 2012 to create a new way to market and sell their wool.

Before Kangaroo Island Wool was jointly started with veterinarians Greg Johnsson and Deb Lehmann, local producers would sell their produce with little idea of its end destination.

“Traditionally, our wool would take us 12 months to grow on the island, we’d shear and the bales would go to Adelaide and then be sold in Melbourne, we’d have no idea where it would go,” Christine says.

The fabric of the island.

Now they can trace where their wool lands in a global market and they are paid a premium for the high quality product.

This year, they’ve even managed to take it to the next level in selling their own range of wool jumpers, beanies and scarves online and at seven Kangaroo Island stores.

“For me personally, I’ve always wanted to wear a garment made from wool from our farm,” Christine says.

“I do now, I wear a jumper every day made from our wool, it makes me feel proud, I love what we do on Kangaroo Island.”

There’s a strong emphasis on sustainability and animal welfare for the producers who mainly sell through their biggest customer, Australian Wool Network.

The network combines Kangaroo Island wool with New Zealand possum fur to make luxury knitwear for MerinoSnug, and is now also helping to produce products for the group’s own brand.

In fact, it was Kangaroo Island that was the first region in the nation to help launch the Australian Wool Network’s unique Direct Network Advantage (DNA) wool supply program in 2015.

The DNA scheme enables consumers to follow the wool’s journey from bale to garment – when they buy a MerinoSnug product it comes with a QR code to scan and links to a video showing how the wool was produced.

Kangaroo Island wool grower Geoff Nutt.

Christine says the group is committed to a code of practice ensuring farmers focus on sheep health and welfare, social good and environmental care.

And, as a result, the company has a reputation for producing high-end fibre, consistently producing wool finer than the national average.

“As professional woolgrowers our simple philosophy is that looking after our sheep will ensure they look after us,” according to the group.

As demand for the group’s new range grows, it has employed Lucy McNaught as sales and marketing officer and plans are afoot to design a 100% Kangaroo Island wool rug with a local artist.

“On the island we have beautiful food and we have beautiful wine and honey, we know people love that but they are all consumables and we thought there was space for a tangible product for people to buy and take home to remember Kangaroo Island,” Christine says.

At her own farm Deep Dene, she cares for more than 5000 merino sheep with her husband Lloyd and daughter Caitlin.

Kangaroo Island Wool chair Christine Berry.

Lloyd’s parents arrived as Soldier Settlers in 1955 and when Caitlin returned to the island in 2015 after studying animal husbandry in Adelaide, she became the third generation to be farming the land.

They also crop 600ha with GM-free canola, broad beans and wheat, and “we can trace where everything we produce ends up,” Christine says.

Much of the wheat is sold to South Australian company Laucke Flour Mills at Strathalbyn for bread flour and Arnott’s for biscuits.

The family is part of a proud history for the island that began farming sheep in 1836 and, at its peak, was home to 1.24 million of them.

Others among the Kangaroo Island Wool ranks are third generation farmer Simon Wheaton, whose family has been working land across the water from Kingscote at Redbanks for 100 years.

While Mitch Wilson is a fifth generation farmer whose ancestors arrived from England in the early 1860s, buying land at Willson River in 1867.

He and his wife, Ros, now shear about 12,000 sheep a year.

“Wool is a natural, renewable fibre, and Kangaroo Island Wool is dedicated to the long-term development of an industry that is socially and environmentally responsible,” the Wilsons add.

Industry in focus: Craft industries

Throughout the months of November and December, the state’s craft industries will be celebrated as part of I Choose SA.

South Australian craftspeople make up some of our most creative thinkers and makers of sustainable and innovative goods. Read more craft stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Laucke Flour Mills elevate the humble grain

The Laucke Flour Mills tagline is “good grains, great flour” and it excellently summarises the philosophy the family business which has been operating in South Australia since 1899.

Its flour mills are located in Strathalbyn and in Victoria, employing about 100 people, with benefits also rolling for regional growers who supply grain to the long-standing and locally-based operation.

Mark Laucke, managing director of Laucke Flour Mills, is the third-generation to take the reins, and is passionate about ensuring Laucke customers get the best possible product.

For Mark, that process begins right back at the soil where the wheat crops are grown, and also through his 30-year association with the Adelaide-based wheat breeders’ group, Australian Grain Technologies.

Mark Laucke is managing director of Australia’s oldest family-owned flour miller.

“We were the first commercial flour mill in Australia to be certified organic,” he says.

“And now we are working with local farmers who value sustainability to ensure ongoing food safety. We help our farmers use less chemicals so we can build the microbes in the soil and create sustainability of the farming land.”

Elevating the humble wheat grain to its rightful place as a vital sustainer of life in regional SA, Laucke has partnered with Primary Industries and Regions SA, Skala Bakery, Drakes Supermarkets and local farmers to produce Single Origin Flour products from Kangaroo Island and the Mallee region.

Milled from selected varieties of wheat, Laucke’s Grains of Provenance flours are used to create specialised baked products, as well as being sold to consumers for their own baking needs. The flours each have defining characteristics around flavour and baking performance.

“Kangaroo Island is a unique environment, with its fresh sea winds and pure water,” Mark says.

“The area produces a very pure product, but the grain production area is relatively small. The Mallee is a much bigger, more diverse region, and unique in its own way.”

The Mallee Flour has recently been included in the new Laucke Bake at Home Sourdough Kit, allowing consumers to bake their own professional quality sourdough bread at home.

Laucke Flour Mills supports regional grain growers like Alex Hillerman who supply the premium product direct.

The Single Origin Mallee Flour creates strong doughs that are capable of trapping gas under pressure and also provide volume.

“When I was a young man, there were two sorts of bakers,” Mark says. “There were those who did a long ferment, what we now call a sourdough, and there were far more who did a shorter ferment – which was anywhere between eight and 12 hours.”

“These days, with the push for cheaper items in the supermarket, the ingredients are not dissimilar, but the methodology is much different.”

Mark explains that to reduce the costs of production of mass-produced sourdough, the fermentation period is often only around 40 minutes.

Laucke Flour Mills has been an important part of SA’s food industry since 1899.

While it is enough time to allow some gas into the bread, it creates distinct disadvantages such as lack of flavour and the loss of that crispy crust.

“There are also many health benefits in allowing sufficient time for the fermentative microorganisms to partly digest the constituents of the flour. This makes it easier for humans to digest and provides more available nutrition with less glycaemic response,” Mark says.

“There is also a wide range of beneficial outcomes as a result of the healthy complement of gut microbiota.

“If you ask me, the best bread you could eat is a wholemeal sourdough, and with a glass of wine to accompany it, I think we would all be pretty happy.”

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Industry in focus: Agribusiness

Throughout the month of October, the state’s agribusiness industry will be under the magnifying glass as part of I Choose SA.

South Australian farmers, producers, agricultural researchers and biosecurity workers are the lifeblood of our country communities and are big players in the state’s overall economic welfare. Read more stories here.


Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Kangaroo Island showcases pure grain to the world

Kangaroo Island Pure Grain (KIPG) is helping to further strengthen the island’s clean and green reputation to drive export markets and support local farmers.

For more than a decade KIPG has endeavoured to provide premium returns for local growers of non-genetically modified grains, oilseeds and pulses that are fully traceable back to individual farms.

While the domestic market is an important part of KIPG’s operations, its export market makes up the majority of its sales.

Recently the company hosted a delegation of Japanese buyers who visited the island for a first-hand insight into the local grain industry and the pristine environment.

“We have high interest from Japan in our non-GM canola, so we’ve been doing business with them for nearly 11 years,” says KIPG CEO Shane Mills.

“Our canola goes to Japan as pure non-GM canola oil and they’ve really embraced the clean, green and pristine environment it comes from.

“That’s the real success story to date for KIPG.”

Delegates on their visit to KIPG in 2017. A group also visited the island this September.

Recently KIPG has branched out to help local farmers find new niche markets, particularly with well known brands in the food and beverage industries.

KIPG collaborates with iconic South Australian brewer Coopers to supply Westminster barley used for making beer.

The barley is malted at Coopers’ $65 million new malting plant in Adelaide and is also supplied to boutique breweries.

The collaboration has eventually led to the making of the island’s very first whiskey, produced by Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS).

KIS is preparing to distil the single malt whiskey also with the help of the island’s Drunken Drone Brewery and port barrels sourced from Bay of Shoals Wines.

KIPG CEO Shane Mills says relationships with well known companies such as Coopers and other leading businesses on the island “gives another arm to help the growers’ profitability”.

He says KIPG also supplies biscuit wheat to Adelaide’s Allied Mills which makes Arnott’s Tim Tams.

Drunken Drone Brewkery’s Greg Simons, left, Member for Mawson Leon Bignell, Kangaroo Island Pure Grain manager Dennis Jamieson and Kangaroo Island Spirits’ Jon Lark each enjoy a Lark Whiskey. They’ll have to wait two years before the island’s first whiskey is matured.

Kangaroo Island’s grain growers provide up to 20,000 tonnes a year to KIPG, with commodities including wheat, canola, broad beans and malted barley.

“Our broad beans that we grow on the island go right through South East Asia and they go into snack foods – similar to how we eat peanuts,” Shane says.

“We’re marketing that right through Indonesia and through Taiwan and we’re just breaking into the Middle East now.

“That’s another success story that’s provided our growers with another profitable crop.

“If you look at dollar terms our percentage of export is somewhere around 70% and tonnage wise it’s about 50%.

“We’re pushing to grow the export business a bit and maximise the value of our crops.”

KIPG was established in 2009 by a group of local grain growers who were looking for a more viable alternative than the local silo system to market their grain.

Shane says costs for transporting freight off the island to the mainland was a “real catalyst” for establishing KIPG.

“Our job is to market the grain at a profit that negates the freight factor, so we’re very much into niche marketing because we don’t accumulate hundreds of thousands of tonnes,” he says.

KIPG’s site near Kingscote on Kangaroo Island.

KIPG receives, classifies, stores, processes and markets the majority of the island’s premium grains, oilseeds, and pulses.

At harvest time – usually in early December – grain is sent to the KIPG receiving and storage facility just outside of the island’s main business hub of Kingscote.

KIPG partners with local trucking company Ugly Dog Transport to send the grain on the SeaLink ferry to domestic buyers.

It also has a processing facility at Osborne in Adelaide where the product is graded and packaged ready for export.

Kangaroo Island local Ben Pontifex is a fifth generation farmer, growing canola, broad beans and malted barley.

He says having a collaborative approach to grain growing on the island is “beyond integral” to the local industry’s livelihood.

“It gives us a fighting chance with the freight rate, and logistically too, all the way through from harvest to the end markets.”

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Quality at every turn for SA surfboard builder

South Australian surfboard shaper Mark Benson is keeping the local industry (not to mention the surfers themselves) afloat, by focussing on quality over quantity.

SA surfers are a hardy bunch, braving cold water, heavy Southern Ocean swells and the occasional toothy visitor in the pursuit of the perfect wave.

Of course, to do this, a surfer needs a board and Mr. Damage Surfboards, based out of Port Elliot on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula, has a strong local following amongst those who take their surfing seriously.

Mark Benson works on one of his masterpieces. Photo by Andy Alford of Photograffix.

The label was originally founded by local surf-culture icon Syd Willmett, whose surf shop, Southern Surf, still operates in the town’s main street.

Syd sold the shop and retired to Queensland many years ago, but the Mr. Damage brand lives on in the safe hands of owner and head shaper Mark Benson.

Mark got hooked on surfing at a young age and developed a habit of dropping into Syd’s shop after his regular lunchtime surf sessions.

Syd must have seen something special in his young visitor, because he eventually offered Mark a job, which included a three-year, informal apprenticeship in the surfboard shaping trade.

He didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of a long and distinguished career.

Mr. Damage Surfboards has built a loyal following. Photo by Andy Alford of Photograffix.

In the early 1990s Mark also made the move north, earning his stripes alongside some of the country’s most respected shapers.

After so many years in the business, Mark can only guess at the number of boards that have passed through his hands.

“I did a bit of calculating a couple of years back,” he says.

“Including boards I’ve shaped or laminated (with fibreglass), I worked out that I’ve made perhaps 15-20,000 so far.”

In 2009 Mark decided to hang up the tools and move back to SA, but it turns out you can’t keep a good shaper down.

A persistent chorus of voices asking for boards, paired with an offer from a friend to finance the set-up of a new factory, eventually convinced Mark to get back in the game.

And so, with Syd’s blessing, the Mr. Damage label was reborn.

When art and surfing collide. Photo by Andy Alford of Photograffix.

The decision wasn’t without its risks, of course. Surfboard manufacturing has undergone a significant shift in recent times, with small producers under significant pressure from big brands flooding the market with cheaply made imported boards.

But partly due to his extensive experience, and partly to an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, Mark has managed to carve out a niche for himself in Port Elliot.

“People recognise that I’ve put the work in and there are decades of experience behind every board I make,” he says.

“And the people who ride my boards like the fact that they’re made locally.

“They can come to the factory and chat with me about what they’re looking for, and a couple of weeks later walk away with a quality custom board made just for them.”

Anyone wanting to order a board from Mark need look no further than Facebook.

Alternatively, the Mr. Damage Surfboards factory can be found at 44 Hill Street, Port Elliot.

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Simple and sophisticated a winner at Port Elliot

Campbell Haig’s philosophy is simple – look after the community, and the community will look after you.

It’s an attitude that has served him well and meant the success of his businesses in the charming and character laden Fleurieu Peninsula town of Port Elliot.

Just a few days before Christmas 2017, Campbell opened a new restaurant in the main street – Thunderbird Restaurant and Bar.

Although only four months old, the restaurant has already made a name for itself.

Across social media platforms, people are raving about the food and highlighting the beauty of the simple yet sophisticated building which houses the wine and tapas bar.

Despite only opening months ago Campbell Haig’s Thunderbird restaurant is a hotspot in Port Elliot.

“It is a different meal option for people in the area,” Campbell says.

“One that wasn’t being offered, and it is great to see that both locals and visitors alike have embraced what we are doing.”

The restaurant has a focus on seafood and tapas. The menu is fresh and regional, with a wine list to match, focussing on local and international wines.

“We never set out to be in direct competition with anyone else,” Campbell says.

“I like to say there is always enough for everyone.”

If visitor numbers to the town over the holiday period were anything to go by, then there certainly is enough. Campbell has lived in Port Elliot for 10 years and says that the days between Christmas and New Year 2017 were the busiest he has ever seen.


“The main street was like Rundle Mall,” he says.

“The popularity of Port Elliot has definitely grown, and you can see that it has been in part to the infrastructure that has gone up around the place.

“The Southern Expressway makes it easier for people to get here, and the range of experiences and things for people to do once they arrive is helping to bring in the crowds.”

As well as the new restaurant, Campbell is also the owner of Waverley Estate, Thunderbird Wines and Vineyards and No. 58 Cellar Door and Gallery.

The businesses have each spurred the next, with the acre of vines located on the Waverley Estate property sparking an interest in the purchase of a farm with 15 acres of vineyard.


The next logical step was wine production and the opening of the cellar door and gallery. And then, of course, the restaurant.

On the boards for the Fleurieu Food Group and the Fleurieu Peninsula Tourism Board, Campbell is a strong advocate for the region, and for locals supporting locals.

“There is absolutely an economic benefit to employing local people directly and indirectly,” he says. “It keeps the money in the area and it helps to keep us all profitable.”

“The character and ambience of Port Elliot is unique.

“The town has a charm which is very different to other towns in South Australia. We have the beautiful historical buildings, as well as the beach and the train running through the middle of it. I love it.”

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