Fam­ily ahead of the curve on gourmet food

Fam­ily beats rush for foodie ingredients

South Burnett Times - - RURAL WEEKLY - ME­GAN MASTERS me­gan.masters@thechron­i­cle.com.au .

THERE is no deny­ing gourmet cui­sine at home has be­come the norm, and one fam­ily got in well ahead of the curve.

Back in 1999 Paul and Deb­bie Aitch­er­son de­cided to buy a small farm near Min­den with a view to pro­duc­ing chill­ies.

It was a big change for Mrs Aitch­er­son, who worked in the po­lice force as a hu­man re­sources spe­cial­ist, but for Mr Aitch­er­son it was out of the fry­ing pan and into the fire from his day job at Gar­den­way Nurs­ery.

The cou­ple was set to start a fam­ily and wanted to tai­lor their lifestyle to cre­ate the per­fect fam­ily-life bal­ance.

Mrs Aitch­er­son had al­ways loved gar­den­ing, re­call­ing long and en­joy­able days out in the patch with her dad as she grew up.

She threw in her full-time job and picked up the spade, while Mr Aitch­er­son started a home-main­te­nance busi­ness to keep the grow­ing farm busi­ness afloat.

Since then, Mrs Aitch­er­son said they had slowly worked their way to the point where the farm could sup­port the fam­ily with no ad­di­tional in­come streams needed.

Luck­ily for the cou­ple, along the way the home gourmet move­ment ex­ploded and peo­ple ev­ery­where were on the hunt for ingredients to use in their meal cre­ations.

Mrs Aitch­er­son said they branched out into herbs on top of their al­ready-suc­cess­ful chilli lines and th­ese days it makes up most of the busi­ness.

“We mar­ket all week­end and we also have a herb run in Brisbane ev­ery Thurs­day,” she said.

“We have our ute packed full of plants and we sell them in shops on con­sign­ment.

“That en­ables us to go in and change the stock and keep them all fresh.”

All plants were grown from seed and quickly trans­planted to grow­ing ta­bles where they come out sun hard­ened and ready to sell, a point of pride for Mrs Aitch­er­son.

“We’ve got a 10mx6m hot house where we es­tab­lish the seeds, then they’re pot­ted and go out onto steel benches.

“We used to grow on mats on the ground but it was a lot of bending and the stock would burn.”

She said the busi­ness was a true labour of love for the whole fam­ily, with sons Bai­ley and Cooper grow­ing up at the week­end mar­kets and help­ing on the farm.

She said they were get­ting to the point where school work kept them home for the odd week­end but, most of the time, they ac­tu­ally loved help­ing the fam­ily busi­ness grow.

The mar­kets also of­fered an­other ac­ci­den­tal, but solid, in­come stream when Mr Aitch­er­son de­cided to start mak­ing sim­ple bird houses to sell.

Soon peo­ple were ask­ing him to make all kinds of things, en­abling him to build yet an­other bit of se­cu­rity.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

LABOUR OF LOVE: Paul Aitch­er­son, along with wife Deb­bie and sons Bai­ley (cen­tre) and Cooper, started The Chilli Patch, a herb and chilli sup­ply busi­ness.

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