LOCAL vanilla bean farmers Russell and Mary Spanton are getting closer to the sweet taste of success after having completed sowing their latest crop last week.
The Port Douglas couple have spent the past 10 years establishing their crops and are now selling their vanilla essence - regarded as among the best in the country - into 200 outlets around Australia.
“With this latest planting of beans we are very happy because it will take the pressure off our other crop and go a long way to ensuring that we are able produce our essence year-round,” Mr Spanton said.
“We are also delighted to announce that the CSIRO has tested our beans and said that they are producing four times the purity and quality of most of the other vanilla beans in the world.”
Most of the vanilla bean export market is controlled by the US, Germany and France but the Spantons are making inroads.
“We are only a tiny family-run business but we do manage to sell our essence into Germany, France, Estonia, New Zealand, Denmark and America,” Mr Spanton said.
But most of their business is generated from the markets, chefs and home cooks who appreciate quality.
“It really has been a lot of hard work but it has been a joy starting something from nothing and watching it grow and we’re now getting recognition around town when people spot Russell and yell out, ‘Hey look, there’s the vanilla man’, which is really nice.”
With their latest week-old crop, the Spantons have planted 200 plants which can produce, depending on the season, anything from 100 to 500 vanilla beans each.
The biggest job occurs at harvest time when they have to hand-pick the beans before starting the curing process which can take more than 12 months.
The Spantons also pride themselves on the fact that they grow their crops without the use of any chemicals.
“We are not organic, or at least not certified organic, but we totally grow our crops to organic standards even down to the fact that we use steam to keep the weeds and bad bugs away,” Mr Spanton said.
The Spantons are now gearing up to crack the worldfamous Salamanca Market in Hobart, Tasmania.
“It’s a little way off yet but we hope to visit Hobart and see if we can get our essence into the Salamanca Market where we believe it will be a big hit and only add to Tasmania’s reputation as being one of the world’s cleanest and naturally grown food regions,” Mrs Spanton said.
Caring about quality: Sowing the seeds of success: vanilla bean farmers Russell and Mary Spanton