Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Shane Ni­chols

ONCE a month Oz Har­vesters at Julatten hold a spe­cial ses­sion when they split 500 co­conuts.

De­mand for their co­conut chips has grown so much in 3½ years that the only way to keep up is to hold these mam­moth ses­sions when they pre­pare another grand batch of co­conuts, the first step in a process of whit­tling down the co­conut flesh into chips headed for the de­hu­mid­i­fiers, and even­tu­ally into pack­ets sold in var­i­ous out­lets around the na­tion.

It can be a strange busi­ness, as co-founder Casey Wil­letts ex­plained.

“A lot of co­conut prod­uct mak­ers over­seas use mon­keys,” she said. “So we ac­tu­ally get inquiries from ve­gans ask­ing how we har­vest, to make sure we don’t use mon­keys.

“We couldn’t be­lieve it at first.”

Hap­pily, Ms Wil­letts is able to say that her fam­ily helps gather fallen co­conuts off lo­cal beaches and if there’s tree climb­ing in­volved then her hus­band Jesse has the skills for that.

As a young mum, Ms Wil­letts stum­bled upon the health ben­e­fits of co­conuts. The fam­ily was liv­ing at Cooya at the time and col­lected a few co­conuts to try out for them­selves. But get­ting the chil­dren to eat co­conut had its chal­lenges.

“We’d seen co­conut chips at the shop and de­cided to do our own. We bor­rowed some of the gear and ex­per­i­mented and even­tu­ally got it right,” Ms Wil­letts said.

Her kids loved them, and then oth­ers at the play group be­came fans, and so they started to of­fer them from a stall at the mar­kets.

In­ter­est from vis­i­tors led to the cre­ation of Oz Har­vesters and a web­site to sat­isfy inquiries from peo­ple in­ter­state want­ing to or­der packs of co­conut chips.

“Then we started get­ting whole­sale inquiries, and that’s how it’s grown. We get con­tacted all the time by shops around the coun­try, be­cause peo­ple have tried our chips on hol­i­day and re­turned home and are ask­ing their lo­cal shops if they have some.”

They have nearly 50 out­lets around Aus­tralia but Ms Wil­letts still prizes her loyal lo­cal fol­low­ing.

The chips are still sold at the mar­kets.

We ac­tu­ally get inquiries from ve­gans ask­ing how we har­vest, to make sure we don’t use mon­keys

Casey Wil­letts

Left to right: Jesse and Casey Wil­letts and Noa, Cate and Eli­jah

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