Ngeringa’s bounty draws a complete biodynamic picture

More than just a farm, Ngeringa has become a significant South Australian brand synonymous with freshness and flavour – across a raft of premium wines, vegetables, fruits and meats that are featured in many of the state’s best and most progressive restaurants.

It proves that Erinn and Janet Klein’s diverse 75-hectare farm at Mt Barker has captured something special through embracing biodynamic farming principals.

However, somewhat surprisingly, Erinn says the farm’s cohesive output hasn’t been the result of a master plan, rather that the Kleins have kept reacting to change and seizing opportunity as it has occurred through the past two decades.

“The original vision was simply to create a biodynamic vineyard, according to the biodynamic farming principals of Rudolf Steiner, and the concept has grown as it went along,” Erinn explains, acknowledging that Ngeringa was previously his parents’ world-renowned Jurlique herb farm.

The Ngeringa farm at Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills embraces biodynamic farming principals.

This land has been certified biodynamic for more than 20 years, establishing a unique platform for the five-hectare vineyard and straw-bale winery building that was established in 2001.

While the certified biodynamic Ngeringa brand produces a raft of significant wines – from its estate harvest of chardonnay, pinot noir, syrah and viognier grapes, with some sangiovese, nebbiolo, and aglianico – it’s the farm’s diverse food output that has made the Ngeringa biodynamic story so compelling.

“We inherited a significant fruit orchard that was established long before Janet and I got here. We introduced animals to help the land remain in balance – sheep to reduce the weeds that grow among the vines, some chickens, some Southern Highland cows,” Erinn says. “Vegetables came almost as an afterthought. It took a long time and a long of hard work before the farm managed to look complete.”

The current situation has evolved thanks to the introduction of Andy Taylor to the farm about two years ago, to specialise in vegetable production – and this only occurred because an experiment in leasing parts of the farm for share farming didn’t work.

“We found that we couldn’t attract people who were prepared to look after the land as we would ourselves,” says Erinn. “We know that requires a lot of hard work, but we were very disappointed by the outcomes, until Andy came along.”

Animals such as these Southern Highland cows, were introduced to the farm to help the land remain in balance. Photo by Tyrone Ormsby.

His expertise and commitment to growing a diverse mix of vegetables has bolstered Ngeringa’s produce output from two garden beds (which mostly fed the Klein family and a few friends) to now cover two hectares.

“Word about our vegetables kind of leaked out. We’d give a few boxes of surplus food to restaurants that bought our wine, as an added extra, and the chefs went nuts about the flavour and freshness,” Erinn says. “Everyone wanted more, but we just couldn’t provide. Andy’s energy and focus on the gardening has made expansion possible.”

Ngeringa doesn’t sell through wholesalers, because Erinn says that system couldn’t guarantee the absolute freshness of vegetables being promptly delivered. Instead, they pick to order – orders placed by Monday mornings are picked on Monday and Tuesday, and delivered on Wednesday.

Beyond this food being received by six local greengrocers and about 12 restaurants – including award-winners Orana and Africola, Gather @ Coriole and Etica – there are about 25 boxes of mixed vegetables sold to local customers.

“Having some regular families placing orders keeps it real for us, but we are now at the absolute capacity of what we can provide,” says Erinn. “Growing an array of vegetables is seriously hard work that requires an incredible skill set, and Andy is an exceptional gardener.”

Chef Brendan Cato of The Farmed Table, left, with Erinn Klein at a Ngeringa vintage lunch prepared with produce fresh from the farm.

The patience of chefs and customers to only receive what food is available rather than pressure Ngeringa for constant supply has been a game-changer – not only with seasonal vegetable supplies, but also with sporadic meat. Ngeringa runs about 110 ewes and lambs a year, which means that chefs can only be offered fresh lamb every six weeks or so as a special offer. They don’t complain.

“We’re not viewed as unreliable because we don’t have everything available all the time,” says Erinn. “Adelaide has a whole group of smart chefs who respect this. They know that food from our farm has guaranteed freshness and incredible flavour.”

The best advertisement of what the farm provides are sporadic weekend feasts held at the winery cellar door, either as special events for regular customers or as part of festivals, recently using freelance chef Shannon Fleming (formerly at Orana Restaurant) to use only Ngeringa produce.

“We can provide everything that the chefs use, except dairy, and it shows that what we have here is very special,” says Erinn. “Our biggest challenge is how to figure out how we could do more without making it impossible for ourselves to manage.

“At Ngeringa, everything is still a work in progress – perhaps it always will be – but what we’re doing is working well.”

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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Adelaide Hills shoppers nuts about Charlesworth

Longstanding family-owned business, Charlesworth Nuts, will have a crack at the Adelaide Hills retail market when it opens its 11th South Australian store in Mt Barker later this month.

The new nuts, dried fruit and chocolate store will open on October 17 in the Mt Barker Central Shopping Centre, with four staff soon to settle in their roles, plus another 12 workers employed in time for the peak pre-Christmas period.

It will be the first time the 80-year business has branched out into a regional area, and CEO Brett Charlesworth says the company has already been warmly welcomed by the local Hills community.

“We are really happy to be opening in Mt Barker,” he says. “The area has a lot going for it, with new estates opening, as well as a new sports centre recently announced.

“We have been pleased by the level of enthusiasm from the community. We had around 500 people send in a résumé once word had spread that we were recruiting.”

New Charlesworth Nuts employees undergo an in-house training program both away from the shop and in-store.

“The main thing we look for is a bright and bubbly personality and someone who is interested in helping our customers,” says Brett, who is also I Choose SA ambassador.

“We are very passionate about what we do, and we have built up the business on our reputation for quality, fresh products.

“We take a lot of pride in our work, and our people do as well. We have many employees who have been with us for 20, 25, even 30 years. We are very lucky to have such genuine people working with us.”

Charlesworth Nuts CEO Brett Charlesworth is also an I Choose SA ambassador.

There are also those who are second, or even third generation employees – taking after the Charlesworth family, with Brett and his brother Mark, chief financial officer, the third-generation business custodians and Brett’s sons Rhys, Kain and Liam also working in the business.

The Charlesworth legacy began in March 1934, when Herb Charlesworth bought a small nut stall in the Adelaide Central Market, one of the largest undercover fresh produce markets in the southern hemisphere.

The store continued well for the next 20 years, but when Herb’s health began to deteriorate, he called upon his son Chappy to take over the business.

Chappy built the business further, laying a strong foundation for Brett and Mark who took over and were able to open the company’s first new store in 40 years in the Westfield Marion Shopping Centre.

Four more retail outlets soon followed at Colonnades Shopping Arcade, City Cross Arcade, Tea Tree Plaza and Elizabeth Shopping Centre. New stores have since been opened in Rundle Mall, West Lakes Shopping Mall and Burnside Village.

“We are careful about the locations we pick,” Brett says. “We are all about making sure we are in the right centre, and the right site at that centre.”

Brett says the fit out of the shops is kept similar between outlets, but that the Mt Barker store will include some ‘experimental’ displays.

“Our shop fitters have just finished refitting the Tea Tree Plaza and Marion stores, so it was straight from those projects onto the Mt Barker build,” he says.

The shop displays take around 2-3 weeks to be built off site, then another 2-3 weeks in store when the displays are installed.

“One of our core principles is that customers should be able to buy fresh nuts, cooked on-site, at each of our stores,” Brett says. “The hot nuts are certainly a product which leads people in with their noses!”

The Charlesworth family at the Marion store.

With the retail market set to enter the busiest time of year – the Christmas shopping period – the nuts, dried fruits, chocolates and other treat maker is set to experience yet another influx of consumers.

“At this time of year our gift sales go through the roof, as do our mixes, cooked products, and chocolate range,” Brett says.

“We find that people are looking for something to either take with them to a party, or to serve when they are entertaining.

“Now is also the perfect time to pick up one of our Christmas cake ingredient packs which have the dried fruit and nuts you’ll want to make your own cake – and the tried and tested recipe to put it all together.”

Charlesworth Nuts also has a new product out – Salty Macadamia Pearls – with a portion of the proceeds going towards a local cause.

The new line has been launched in conjunction with the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation with 20% of the proceeds donated to the foundation’s Beach House Project.

“The Beach House Project is a holiday house at Encounter Bay which has been fitted out with all the equipment necessary for families with children in palliative care to have a relaxing holiday,” Brett says.

“It is all about creating beautiful memories and making the most of the time the family has together. We are really pleased to be supporting this worthy cause.”

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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