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.

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - BUSINESS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

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

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