JULATTEN’S OZ HARVESTERS
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
Left to right: Jesse and Casey Willetts and Noa, Cate and Elijah