Food trail, retail outlet could put Mypolonga's growers on the map

Woodlane Orchard's Kelly Johnson wants to make sure nothing grown locally is wasted – and that's just the start.

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No-one can turn lead into gold, but Kelly Johnson can turn leftover vegetables into almost anything.

Two years after she started selling choc-dipped peaches to help a neighbour get rid of his excess fruit, her business – Woodlane Orchard – can hardly keep up with demand.

It has processed more than 20 tonnes of produce in 2020-21, and sells to more than 30 outlets in four states.

Dehydrated produce is her speciality: not just preservative-free dried fruit, but soup mixes and meal packs to which you just add water.

Most of her products are made from locally grown fruit and vegetables which would previously have gone to waste.

“My brother bought a citrus orchard, so we started drying that,” she said.

“Then we had a guy who had eggplant he needed to get rid of, so we created a ratatouille.

“Then we had heaps of people come to us saying ‘can you do this for me’, ‘can you do that for me’?

“There’s nothing I won’t try to dry.”

Some growers have even ended up selling to her as a first preference, and for better prices than they would have got at market.

She had been able to give neaby Bakehouse Farm 70 cents a kilo for their pumpkins this year, she said, when the best they could get from a wholesaler was 29c.

“I’m the daughter of a farmer,” she said.

“They do it tough.

“If I can pay them 5c more, I will.”

But she’s starting to dream of something bigger for Mypolonga’s primary producers, too.

First, she hopes, will be a cafe and outlet in Mypo’s town centre: somewhere she and other local producers can sell their products to passers-by.

Out the back would be a factory where she could increase production.

In time, though, Ms Johnson hopes to entice more and more tourists to come and see Mypolonga.

What about a food trail showcasing all the local producers in the area: apricots, olive oil, pomegranates?

Perhaps visitors could listen to an audio tour as they drove, timed to coincide with the producers they passed.

“How cool would it be?” she asked.

“(Mypolonga) has gone from a citrus and stone fruit region to olives, grapes, strawberries, beehives, onions, potatoes – there’s such a diverse range of produce out there, and it makes sense that we should start to capitalise on that.

“In SA we have wine regions, but we don’t have that many well-known food hubs.

“I think we need to be one of the first.”

Disclosure: The author was given several samples of items from the Woodlane Orchard range after interviewing Ms Johnson for this story.