Farm­ing fam­ily’s suc­cess through the gen­er­a­tions

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - FRONT PAGE -

THE Moni­gatti fam­ily are a true ex­am­ple of suc­cess­ful farm di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion.

Dairy farm­ers for three gen­er­a­tions, the fam­ily bought a 600 acre dry block at Strathal­lan, out of Echuca, in the 1980s.

At the time, the Moni­gat­tis were open to ideas; keen to start a new chap­ter in their farm­ing his­tory.

“Dad knew noth­ing about grow­ing toma­toes at the time, but the soil type was per­fect for it,” Paul Moni­gatti re­called.

“But he knew he wanted to break away from dairy farm­ing and try some­thing new.

“At the time, we had neigh­bours com­ing in to ask if they could lease the land to grow toma­toes, and Dad said yes - as long as he could learn from them.”

Fast for­ward al­most 40 years and the Moni­gat­tis are pro­duc­ing 7500 tonnes of pro­cess­ing toma­toes each year.

They have also just suc­cess­fully canned the first cherry toma­toes for SPC Ard­mona.

“We have a long re­la­tion­ship with SPC, and they came to us last year and said they wanted to run a trial on can­ning cherry toma­toes, be­cause there were none pro­duced in Aus­tralia,” Paul said.

“So, we made a few mod­i­fi­ca­tions – and that’s what we planted.”

Grow­ing 500 tonnes of cherry toma­toes does not come with­out chal­lenges.

The Moni­gat­tis had to ad­just their har­vest­ing ma­chine, which is de­signed to deal with plump pro­cess­ing toma­toes – not the mar­ble sized cherry va­ri­ety.

There were also ad­just­ments made to the way the crop was planted – with a more in­ten­sive style em­ployed across eight hectares.

“The end re­sult is that we now have a lo­cally grown, lo­cally owned and lo­cally pro­duced canned cherry tomato avail­able on the su­per­mar­ket shelves,” Paul said.

Fred Har­ri­son is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer for Ritchie’s Supa IGA.

He thinks the in­tro­duc­tion of Ard­mona Cherry Toma­toes marks a bold new step for the Aus­tralian food in­dus­try.

“Canned cherry toma­toes from Aus­tralia have been miss­ing from shelves un­til now - we can fi­nally give Aus­tralians the op­tion to buy a home-grown prod­uct that tastes great and sup­ports lo­cal grow­ers,” Mr Har­ri­son said.

“It’s a great sign of SPC’s com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing the Aus­tralian food in­dus­try – in­clud­ing grow­ers and re­tail­ers.”

Although farm­ing cherry toma­toes is new for the Moni­gat­tis, it is not the first time the fam­ily has di­ver­si­fied their prod­uct.

Not long af­ter they started tomato pro­duc­tion, the fami- ly planted out hay crops – run on an ir­ri­ga­tion bore sys­tem.

For years, the fam­ily grew hay for their own use, and also to on-sell to chaff mills in the area.

“Back in 2000, an op­por­tu­nity came up for us to buy a chaff mill out of De­niliquin,” Paul said.

“We wanted to cre­ate a mar­ket for our own prod­uct.”

Look­ing for­ward, they could see it made sense to grow hay to sup­ply their own chaff mill, rather than send­ing it off-site.

Rich River Chaff and Grain now sells 150,000 bags a year to feed-stores across the coun­try.

“It has been a great busi- ness off-shoot for us,” Paul said.

“In toma­toes, you get an in­come for a few months of the year – but the chaff al­lows us to have an in­come all year round.

“We have 500 acres un­der lucerne pro­duc­tion.”

Some­times, get­ting the right mix in farm­ing can take years of trial and er­ror.

For the Moni­gat­tis, smart busi­ness ideas, cou­pled with fam­ily sup­port, have al­lowed the com­pany to grow far be­yond what was first en­vi­sioned.

“Dad would never have sus­pected, back in the ‘80s, just how far the place would grow,” Paul said.

IN THE FAM­ILY: The Moni­gatti fam­ily are the first in Aus­tralia to grow a cherry tomato for can­ning. They have also di­ver­si­fied their farm into an all year round suc­cess story. Pic­tured (from left) are Bryan, John and Paul Moni­gatti.

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