Kangaroo Island networks help bring fig wine vinegar to fruition

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By David Sly

Dan Pattingale is a farmer who understands the necessity of innovating.

The Kangaroo Island orchardist, whose Stokes Bay property has abundant figs and olive trees, has cleverly designed many food products under The Figgery brand to address unexpected crop gluts, droughts and varying cost shifts that have affected his business.

However, he also knows that innovation alone will not sell his wares.

“I’m a hands-on farmer, but not a marketer,” admits Dan. “I need to get my products into people’s mouths to make them love what I produce, and to do that from somewhere as isolated as Kangaroo Island, I need a network.”

Dan Pattingale picks figs on his Stokes Bay property.

Dan has achieved this, largely thanks to the deliciousness of his products. Beyond producing exceptional extra virgin olive oil for the past 20 years, Dan has created sticky figs, and sold the preserving fluid as sticky fig syrup.

Now he is creating a unique fig wine vinegar that will be available from July.

“I can’t sell 12 tonnes of fresh figs that I harvest – they’re too delicate to transport – so I’ve got to keep thinking of new ways to prolong their shelf life.

Now I’ve got 200 litres of fig wine – it’s quite sweet and spicy – that I’ll be converting into fig wine vinegar. Sure, it’s different, but just having an interesting product from Kangaroo Island is not enough. It has to be exceptional and consistent – and available when customers want it.”

Dried and sticky fig products and the sticky fig syrup at the central market. The newest addition will be the fig wine vinegar from July.

Achieving this is difficult due to high freight costs, but Dan’s great allies have been Justin and Jane Harmon, who run the Kangaroo Island Stall in the Adelaide Central Market.

Since 2014, they have stocked more than 50 of Kangaroo Island’s boutique food and drink producers, providing a first opportunity for many to reach the Adelaide market.

Importantly, the stall also gave customers a first taste of The Figgery’s unique products, which triggered word of mouth demand.

The Figgery products are now distributed to 50 stores throughout South Australia, although Dan says the Kangaroo Island Stall is where he will officially launch the new fig wine vinegar.

“It’s been an essential supporter for small producers,” he says. “They’ve employed young people from the island; my daughter Nina still works there. It truly represents the island.”

Jane and Justin Harmon of the Kangaroo Island Stall in the Adelaide Central Market help promote island produce to city folk.

One more crucial cog is required to make boutique food production on Kangaroo Island a viable proposition – cost-effective distribution to the mainland.

Tiff Turner has filled this role by creating KI Complete, a food distribution and transportation service. The former general manager of Island Pure sheep dairy now makes weekly runs to Adelaide, ferrying goods from about 20 small producers (including The Figgery), and returns to the island the following day with supplies of artisan milks, breads, fruits and vegetables.

“I’ve seen first hand that freight costs can destroy a business on KI before it really gets going, but I also know that if we work together, we can solve a lot of the problems,” says Tiff.

“That’s why I decided to pitch in. I really want to see the island get ahead.”

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