Fairytale life: Pigs at Bundarra Berkshires in southern New South Wales are raised freerange.
Fairytale life: Pigs at Bundarra Berkshires in southern New South Wales are raised free-range.

Richard Cornish

Tim Wyatt had been a chef and worked in the building industry when he and wife Deri-Anne decided on a food-lovers' tree change in 2006. They established their small organic farm on the slopes of an extinct volcano near Daylesford in central Victoria. Almost seven years on, their Angelica Farm is renowned for its full-flavoured garlic, which sells as far afield as northern Queensland.

Wyatt concedes building the business hasn't been easy. ''It's hard, physically demanding,'' he says. ''But I have a really lovely office and wouldn't want to be doing anything else.''

The Wyatts' online customers (about 1000) and many more who buy from them at farmers' markets are no doubt grateful the couple decided to devote themselves to organically growing the food they love.

Tim Wyatt of Angelica Organic Farm.
Tim Wyatt of Angelica Organic Farm. Photo: Armelle Habib

At first, customers buy the couple's garlic online for convenience, Wyatt says, then come back because it's hard to find quality garlic.

Like the Wyatts, Kathy Barlow's workplace is her home. Her country kitchen at Wanalta, in northern Victoria, is blissfully bucolic and filled with baskets of freshly picked fruit and tomatoes.

The smell of spices fills the air from a pot of chutney bubbling on the stove; a few dozen empty glass jars wait expectantly. Barlow grew up cooking preserves and chutneys at her grandmother's side, later turning excess farm fruit and vegetables into fund-raising preserves for the school her four children attended.

Barham Avocados are perhaps the best avocados in the country.
Barham Avocados are perhaps the best avocados in the country.

When council regulations on food production were tightened, she spruced up her family kitchen to be certified commercially so she could continue making her popular preserves without breaking the law.

''That's when I thought to myself, 'If I have gone to all this effort, paying for hand-washing basins etc, I could actually make some money,''' Barlow says.

She began selling online a little more than a year ago and now has customers around Australia.

Jones Potatoes.
Jones Potatoes. Photo: Paul Rovere

The Wyatts and Barlow join an increasing number of cooks, farmers, growers and producers who are cutting out the middleman and going direct to their clients using online stores as their shop fronts and the post and couriers as their delivery boys.

Barlow uses Australia Post-supported website farmhousedirect.com.au, launched in April 2012, to link with customers.

Leader of the Farmhouse Direct team Vivien Astl says: ''What we're offering is the opportunity to taste real products and not have to go to the supermarket. It's a real alternative.'' With Farmhouse Direct, customers order and pay online, and the producers pack and send the products in prepaid boxes that have been discounted. Australia Post's aim is to recoup the discount through the volume of deliveries.

Myrtleford butter.
Myrtleford butter.

''We looked at what was being sold online and saw both an opportunity and an area for potential growth,'' Astl says.

Farmhouse Direct now has 150 farmers and food producers taking part across Australia with another 360 about to come on board, Astl says.

While the delivery of meat, fish and smallgoods with Farmhouse Direct is limited at this stage (delivery vehicles for these goods must be registered with state authorities), Australia Post is investigating recyclable cold delivery systems used in other countries.

Justin Telfer, from Bangalow Cheese Co near Byron Bay in NSW, is also working on the problems that arise with online orders for perishables. His team hand-wraps cheese then surrounds it with satchels of leak-resistant frozen gel. Orders are then placed inside sealed polystyrene boxes and sent by overnight courier around the nation.

''We are no longer separated by distance from almost any cheese lover in the country. The nation is our market,'' Telfer says. ''This style of ordering, direct from cheesemakers like us across Australia, means that cheese lovers have direct access to great cheese where they might not have before.''

One of the benefits of online sales for meat producers is that they can sell whole carcasses to consumers.

Jenny Anderson started Rutherglen Lamb in 2004 and supplies whole baby lambs and butchered larger lambs to customers in Melbourne and Sydney. ''If you start breaking lambs up, the lesser-loved, but absolutely delicious, cuts such as neck and shoulder sometimes don't sell,'' Anderson says.

''The 'whole lamb' concept means we farmers don't get left with meat sitting in the coolroom at the end of the week.''

One of the initial problems in the business was convincing customers that a whole lamb

carcass, when butchered, could fit into an average-size domestic freezer, Anderson says. Now, her biggest problem is maintaining supply.

The price of a whole lamb, delivered, varies from farmer to farmer, but costs about $195 for a 12-kilogram (net weight) animal. That's about $16.25 a kilogram. Depending on the cut, the price of lamb in a supermarket can be far more expensive.

''Going direct is better for both the farmer and the customer,'' Anderson says.

By getting better margins for themselves, smaller farmers with high overheads, such as free-range pig farmers, can remain profitable. At Greenvale Homestead in the Grampians in Victoria's west, pigs are raised in insulated straw houses. ''Customers need to ask where their food is coming from,'' farmer Amanda Kumnick says.

''We have new customers seeking us out not only because our pork has more flavour, which it does, but because we treat our animals so well.''

''We hand-deliver our pork and can not only tell our customers how life is on the farm, we can [also] explain to them how to cook the various cuts of pork.''

Sometimes, there are emotional reasons for farmers and producers changing from price takers to price makers with increased margins. ''It is disappointing when most people have never tasted a fresh citrus fruit,'' says citrus grower Tim Arnold, from Loxton in South Australia.

''We were producing the most juicy, succulent fresh fruit that has a floral fragrance. Then we'd see it in the supermarket weeks later with dry and leathery skins with a ridiculous price tag on it. It's bloody tough selling.''

Knowing they had a good product and wanting to stay on the land, the Arnolds thought laterally and began searching online for different business models to keep their farm viable.

''We found family citrus farms in Florida [in the US] were able to keep viable by selling direct to the public,'' Arnold says.

Four years ago, they started selling online at freshcitrusdirect.com.au. ''It's a chance for the public to taste real fruit and perhaps a way for us to stay on the land … I hope,'' Arnold says.

While many country mums work in town to earn off-farm income, the chance to earn extra money cooking at home is a bonus for Barlow. ''With four children to look after, working from home, doing something I love, means a lot to me,'' she says. ''Neighbours drop excess fruit in and I barter it for jam, so I am never lonely. This [ordering food online] thing is brilliant.''

 

From butter to bush tucker, mangos to mettwurst - the farmers and producers who deliver direct

Fruit and vegetables

Fresh Citrus Direct

Out in South Australia's Riverland, the Arnold family wanted the rest of Australia to know what really good, fresh citrus fruit tasted like so started selling their navels, pink navels, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit, tangelos and blood oranges online. Season starts May. Australia-wide. freshcitrusdirect.com.au

Barham Avocados

Grown on the banks of the Murray River at Barham, NSW, these are delivered tree-ripe and make an attractive table decoration, softening naturally to give you perhaps the best avocados in the country. Australia-wide, except Tasmania and Western Australia. barhamavocados.com.au and farmhousedirect.com.au

Jones Potatoes

In the deep, rich earth of Gippsland, Gordon Jones grows excellent-quality potatoes with varieties such as: Dutch Cream, Pink Fir Apple, Kipfler, Innovator, Blue Moon, Wilwash, King Edward, and Nicola. Australia-wide, except Tasmania and WA. farmhousedirect.com.au

Angelica Organic Farm

Complex and intensely flavoured cool-climate garlic grown in deep, rich, red soil on the slopes of an old volcano near Daylesford, central Victoria. Australia-wide, except Tasmania and WA. angelicaorganicfarm.com.au

Cherryhill Orchards

Beautiful, big, juicy cherries from Wandin in the Dandenong Ranges, outside Melbourne, and Cobram on the Murray in Victoria's north. Season runs from November to February. Australia-wide. cherryhill.com.au

Tropical Harvest

Up in Tully in north Queensland, Linda and Kelvin Abell buy tropical fruit from their neighbours - bananas, pineapples, mangos, papayas and melons - and dehydrate it at 45 degrees to produce colourful, flavourful, sulphur-free, dried tropical fruits. Australia-wide. tropicalharvestqld.com.au

Padron peppers

Imagine small green capsicums, only sweeter, with one in 10 delivering a spicy punch to the mouth, a favourite in Spanish bars. Grown at Conondale in Queensland's Sunshine Coast hinterland. midyimeco.com.au

Camilo Olives

To the west of Melbourne, Camilo grows pendolino, ligurian and koroneiki olives and makes award-winning extra virgin olive oil, olive salt, olive relish, brined olives and tapenade and honey balsamic glaze with honey extracted from hives on the grove. farmhousedirect.com.au or camilo.com.au

 

Meat

Plains Paddock

Anna Kelly raises Dorper lambs on the family farm in Mathoura in southern NSW. Customers appreciate the tender, full-flavoured meat and choice of cuts. Melbourne metro, central Victoria, southern Riverina, NSW. plainspaddock.com.au

Bundarra Free Range Berkshires

Excellent marbled pork from Berkshire pigs raised on pastures on the banks of the Murray River at Barham. Diet is supplemented with avocados from Barham Avocados. This pork has become popular with Melbourne chefs. Delivery Melbourne and Sydney (from May), Kyneton, Koondrook (Victoria) and Barham, Mudgee (NSW). bundarraberkshires.com

Linke's Butcher

Old-fashioned, German-style Barossa mettwurst made from slowly fermented pork, then smoked over mallee and red gum by Graham Linke in his butcher shop in Nuriootpa. Call (08) 8562 1143 to place a credit card order.

 

Seafood

Tathra Oysters

Some of the best oysters in Australia are grown on the south coast of NSW at Tathra. Live, unopened oysters, kept at about room temperature, survive for a week or more and arrive via post, alive, ready for shucking. Call Jo Rodley on (02) 6494 1453.

 

Cheese and dairy

Myrtleford butter

To learn more about cultured butter production, Naomi Ingleton recently toured Europe and her beautifully wrapped cultured butter is now even better. Delivered with a packet of seeds to turn the polystyrene delivery box into a mini vegetable garden. thebutterfactory.com.au and farmhousedirect.com.au

Goldfields Farmhouse

These artisan cheeses are made in a factory in Ballarat in central Victoria from milk from Friesian and Jersey herds elsewhere. Best known for blue-vein cheeses such as Welshmans Reef, a Stilton-style blue. Australia-wide where possible. goldfieldsfarmhouse.com.au, credit card orders on 0408 393 792.

Locheilan Farmhouse Cheese

Just to the north of Shepparton, Sue and Bruce McGorlick make farmhouse cheeses from a mixed herd and are known for their blue cheeses and award-winning triple-cream brie style. Metro only for Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney but Victoria-wide. farmhousedirect.com.au or inquiries @locheilan.com.au

Little Creek Cheese

While these central NSW coast gold medal-winning cheese makers specialise in hand-stretched haloumi, they are doing a roaring trade in feta marinated in garlic and dill and creme fraiche flavoured with seaweed and wasabi. Australia-wide. farmhousedirect.com.au

Bangalow Cheese Co

From a mixed herd of Jersey, Guernsey and Friesian comes butter, buttermilk, creme fraiche and white-mould and hard cheeses made at a small dairy on the northern NSW coast near Bangalow. bangalowcheese.com.au

 

Beverages

Frou-Frou Cordials

Innovative cordials made from Australian fruit mixed with spices such as lime and kaffir lime leaves made in a country town near Albury. Australia-wide. froufroucordials.com.au

 

Honey, nuts, rice, preserves

Waggle Dance Honey

Organic honey harvested from bee hives in the Stirling Ranges in the Great Southern region of Western Australia and processed using organic standards with minimal warming. Australia-wide. farmhousedirect.com.au

Australian Gourmet Hazelnuts

This small Mudgee-based company processes a sweet cultivar of hazelnut, developed here in Australia, that roasts with a dark colour and caramel flavours. gourmethazelnuts.com.au

The Nut Farm

Just outside Gympie, John and Lesley Groves have a small macadamia plantation and sell their processed macadamias, macadamia paste, cold-pressed oil and honey online and by phone. Australia and international. thenutfarm.com.au or (07) 5483 4746.

Tweenhills Chestnuts

The first of the Italian chestnut variety marone will be harvested in the next few months out at Hoskinstown, south-east of Canberra. With the spiky burrs removed, these are the perfect roasting variety. Deliveries start mid-April. Australia-wide. tweenhillschestnuts.com.au

Randall Organic Rice

Third-generation rice growers the Randall family grow and process their rice near Griffith, NSW, home-delivering koshihikari, fragrant jasmine, long grain and a low-GI rice online with all varieties available polished and brown. Australia-wide. farmhousedirect.com.au

Wanalta Hill

Preserves and cakes made in a country kitchen using produce from the garden. farmhousedirect.com.au

Bush Tucker Shop

At Kurrajong on the edge of the Blue Mountains, Lee Etherington grows finger limes, mountain pepper berries and native mint among other native foods and spices while a team of indigenous harvesters across Australia forage for bush tomatoes. Australia-wide. bushfoodshop.com

Research: Georgia Booth

 

Victorian-only farmer deliveries

Plains Paddock

Anna Kelly raises Dorper lambs on the family farm in Mathoura in southern NSW. Customers enjoy the tender, full-flavoured meat and choice of cuts. Melbourne, central Victoria, southern Riverina, NSW. plainspaddock.com.au

Greenvale Farm

Fresh pork, English-style hams and bacon from rare-breed Wessex saddleback pigs grazing freely among the river red gums by the Hopkins River in western Victoria. Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, Ararat and Port Fairy. greenvalefarm.com.au, 0458 541 344, farmhousedirect.com.au

Bunbartha beef

Beef from French Charolais and Limousin breeds and British Angus and Hereford hand-selected cattle raised free range on pasture near Shepparton. Carcasses are dry aged for three weeks for extra depth of flavour. North-east Victoria and Melbourne. Kelly McPherson on (03) 5826 9653.

Cherry Tree Organics

The Blundy family raise organic, grass-fed lamb and cattle at Tarwin Lower in South Gippsland and process the carcasses at their butcher shop in Beaconsfield. They also stock organic pork and chicken from like-minded farmers. Victoria wide. cherrytreeorganics.com.au

Poon Boon Lamb Co

Cross-bred of full-flavoured merino and sweet, tender, old-fashioned English meat breeds give Poon Boon Lamb an edge with flavour as well as meticulous butchery. Melbourne. poonboon.com.au and farmhousedirect.com.au

 

Try these NSW-based farmers and suppliers

Milly Hill Lamb

Award-winning lamb from New England, as used by chefs in Sydney and Brisbane. Place orders for lamb, beef and pork (from a neighbouring farm). Delivers to Sydney, Newcastle and north-west NSW. millyhill.com.au.

Nanima Farm Lamb

Tim Woods and his family use sustainable practices to raise sheep on saltbush-based pastures at Wellington in central western NSW. They offer packaged half lambs (butchered) and deliver to areas in Sydney and the Blue Mountains. nanimalamb.com.au.

Melinda Park Pork

Although it sells its butchered pork at the Eveleigh farmers' market, this neighbour to Martin Boetz's The Cooks Co-op farm, only delivers its 100 per cent free-range pork as whole pigs - perfect for spit roasts, home charcuterie and home-butchery aficionados. melandapark.com.au.

Brilliant Food

Based in Botany, Leisa Colin hot smokes ocean trout and kingfish, and makes trout rillettes and gravlax. Her business will deliver to homes in Sydney, Canberra, the Blue Mountains and Bowral. brilliantfood.com.au.