FOR Australian Pumpkin Seed Company owners Sharan and Jay Rivett, education is something they’ve always thought of as a key component to any business. As the first and only business in Australia to produce pumpkin seeds for eating and a wide range of artisan oils, their unique products are not widely known, although that is fast changing.
“One of my pet hates is when people treat farm gates like supermarkets,” Jay said.
“Sharan being a third generation farmer and myself coming from a chef/artisan baking and cheese and wine-making background, food and where it comes from has always been something we’ve had an appreciation for. That’s not the case with everyone, so that’s why we want to help educate people and give them the opportunity to learn and ask questions about what we do.”
Jay said Sharan’s vision to appeal to tourism, open up to other farmers and to create a learning centre was one of the reasons for relocating the business to North East Victoria.
Sharan’s family first started growing Styrian pumpkins - a genetic mutation that produces large seeds with no husks, in 1988 and in 2002 they established Australia’s first pumpkin seed industry. Pepo Farms, as the business was originally known, was first based in Chinchilla in the Western Downs region of Queensland. Five years ago a decision to move south saw the business find a new home in an old nursey in Ovens, just outside of Myrtleford. The change allowed for an educational space within their shop, and with Jay joining the team through his relationship with Sharan, the business and interest in pumpkin seeds has taken off.
Their range of products includes raw or gently roasted and flavoured pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seed flour/meals. Some of Australia’s top restaurants like Melbourne’s Attica are using and endorsing their pumpkin seed oil and now health food stores around the country are quickly jumping on-board.
The Rivetts also operate a social enterprise business and have worked collaboratively with 25 family-run farms to press and bottle hazelnut, apricot and walnut oils as well as other products. One of the reasons Jay and Sharan want to educate and inform customers is because of the many benefits of pumpkin seeds. The dark green pumpkin seeds are well known for their high oil content but are also known as a superfood packed full of nutrients.
“We’re becoming very trendy in the health food scene in Sydney and Melbourne and we’re now just sending bulk bins of raw seeds to shops,” Jay said.
“They’re a healthy alternative and we’re even seeing people that are giving up chocolate and confectionary and are turning to pumpkin seeds to snack on. We’re selling more and more pumpkin seed oil, which is proven to benefit men with prostate issues while demand for pumpkin seed meal is also increasing at a rapid rate. Sports bar and sport drink manufacturers are starting to discover the high levels of protein in pumpkin seeds, so that’s driving the interest in the pumpkin seed meal.”
Jay and Sharan have plans to one day export overseas but for now they’re busy trying to keep up with supply to customers and clients.
“At the moment products are going off the shelf faster than we can pack them,” Jay said.
“When we go down that next path in terms of exporting we want to make sure everything we do is ethical, sustainable and we’re investing in Australian farms rather than just for profit driven purposes.”