By Andrew Jenssen
A third-generation vegetable producer’s decision to plant 80 mystery seeds in 2012 turned into a promising venture for the Adelaide Hills family farm which has become Australia’s only grower of Kalettes.
Seven years on, and despite an exceptionally dry start to the year, Scott Samwell of Eastbrook Farms in Mt Barker says he is expecting another successful crop as the trendy vegetable comes into season this winter.
Kalettes, which are a winter vegetable hybrid of red kale and brussels sprouts, are a creation from British company Tozer Seeds, 15 years in the making.
As the highly nutritious Kalettes are soon to arrive in shops, consumers are encouraged to choose SA by purchasing locally grown produce to support the state’s growers and producers.
The Samwell family has been growing vegetables in the Adelaide Hills for more than 60 years, with their first property in Summertown started by Scott’s grandfather.
With properties now at Mt Barker and Langhorne Creek, Scott says defined seasons and access to quality infrastructure are key benefits to farming in the state. Eastbrook has produced brussels sprouts since its foundation, but Kalettes are a recent addition.
“I just got told ‘here’s some seeds, they’re something new, give it a go,” says Scott. “In about 2012, I planted the first lot – about 80 seeds. Since then, we’ve upped our quantity to quite a few hundred thousand. It’s been a pretty exciting journey.”
Seven years on from that first planting, Scott’s farm is now producing approximately 50–60 tonnes of Kalettes annually. Alongside their green and Red Darling brussels sprouts, Eastbrook’s Kalettes are distributed to major supermarkets Australia-wide, as well as exported to South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand.
Scott puts the success of the Kalette down to its versatility, noting that the flavour is less intense than typical kale or brussels sprout varieties.
“They’re not as strong as kale, they’re not as peppery as brussels sprouts either. They’re quite a happy medium between the two,” he says.
“If people have a dislike of either of those, this is an alternative that is going to be just as nutritious without having as strong a taste.”
Eastbrook Farms also grows both traditional green brussels sprouts and their uncharacteristically sweet Red Darling sprouts.
“I was blown away by how sweet they were,” Scott says. “Sometimes sprouts are quite strong tasting, and you wouldn’t traditionally use the word ‘sweet’ with sprouts, but the Red Darlings are beautiful.”
Major supermarket Coles has shown strong interest in Scott’s Red Darling sprouts, having launched a successful state-wide trial which developed into a national distribution last year.
Scott is quick to point out the role that local customer relationships have played for his business, particularly through social media and Eastbrook’s new Paddock Identifier Project, which allows customers to see where and how their produce is grown, right down to the paddock in which they’re sown.
“In the past, we’ve always been a step away from the consumer,” he says. “My sister-in-law Deb manages our social media now, and that is connecting us with our customers. People can identify who we are, and where we are.
“As soon as the new year ticked over, we had people enquiring about when our Kalettes were coming into season.”
The importance of local support goes both ways for Scott, who says he sees the benefits in choosing fellow SA producers and supporting the local economy himself.
“It’s great when there’s a connection with the people who buy your produce, wines or meats through,” he says. “You know who they are, and where it’s coming from. It’s a good story, that’s what I think.”
To draw a focus on the importance of choosing local seasonal produce, I Choose SA has partnered with Sprout Cooking School and Pick a Local, Pick SA! to dish up a gourmet SA lunch experience in Rundle Mall on May 24.
Diners can pre-book their restaurant-quality dish, catered by Sprout, at ichoosesa.com.au and collect from under the Gawler Place canopy from midday.
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.