Businesses in the Murray region are putting themselves on the foodie map.

Story Terri Cowley  Photo Lara English

About a year ago Emma Kennedy set up a boutique farm-product business to complement the main cropping business run by her husband Sean’s family in Corop, Vic. She’d never done anything like it before and was also juggling the care of two young daughters. It was suggested she attend a workshop being held by Murray Regional Tourism, which allowed her to focus on how she was presenting the products and, importantly, provided valuable networking and learning opportunities from other local business people.

Emma’s Kennedy Farm Produce is one of the success stories associated with the Murray Farm to Plate Program. The program is aiming to put the Murray on the ‘foodie map’, and has recommended the creation of a Murray Regional Food Council, a food provenance accreditation system, a regional food brand and a ‘farm to plate’ business innovation incubator. “It has blown me away the support we have been given,” Emma says. “It has been a crazy year … a bit unexpected.”

The business was born out of a desire to value-add to what the farm was already producing. Sean’s parents Pat and John began growing tomatoes, diversifying with chickpeas, red lentils and popcorn in later years. With 2018 being such a dry year, Emma’s venture has helped to diversify the business as a whole and mitigate risk, bringing in an extra income stream. One of the keys to its success has been a very simple idea, which suitably reflects the aims and goals of the Murray Farm to Plate Program: a unique popcorn product.

“One of our popcorn seed sellers mentioned you could pop corn straight off the cob,” Emma says. Popcorn is a specific variety that dries hard, unlike the sweet corn many of us might be more familiar with. It is hand-picked and sold as a waxy-looking, sun-dried cob wrapped in a hand-packaged brown paper bag at markets and through small food stores. Place the cob in the bag, microwave for two minutes and, presto, you have a bag of what some say is the best-tasting popcorn ever. 

“We didn’t intend this, but we’ve ended up providing some education about food,” Emma says. “We’re showing how it looks before it’s packaged in the supermarket. People are so used to seeing kernels in a plastic bag. It is also giving us this connection with consumer and community that you often don’t have with big-scale contracts.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #123

Outback Magazine: February/March 2019