Crunch clinches prize

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - News - Karolin Macgre­gor news@ru­ral­weekly.com

A COM­BI­NA­TION of flavour and crunch has helped Tas­ma­nian hazel­nut grow­ers Mick and Chris­tine Del­phin win a na­tional food award.

The cou­ple, who run Hazel­brae Hazel­nuts near Ha­gley, were up against food pro­duc­ers from around the coun­try and took home the Cham­pion Aus­tralian Prod­uct award at this year’s Aus­tralian Food Awards.

Their roasted hazel­nuts, which also won cham­pion in the pro­duce sec­tion, beat more than 1290 en­tries na­tion­wide.

Mrs Del­phin said they were shocked but thrilled to have won such a ma­jor com­pe­ti­tion.

“We ac­tu­ally couldn’t be­lieve it to start with,” she said.

“We were thrilled when we won the cham­pion pro­duce award but then to go on and win what they called the big­gest one was fan­tas­tic.”

Judg­ing was through a blind tast­ing and it was su­pe­rior flavour that earned Hazel­brae Hazel­nuts the award.

“One of the main rea­sons we bought the farm in the first place was be­cause we could taste how good the nuts were,” Mrs Del­phin said.

“To have that recog­ni­tion, from peo­ple who don’t love the farm like we do and who tasted the nuts in a blind tast­ing, it’s fan­tas­tic.”

The Hazel­brae raw nuts also earned a gold medal in the awards.

This year the Del­phins pro­duced about 15 tonnes of hazel­nuts on the farm and about 19 tonnes all up, in­clud­ing their part­ner grow­ers.

Over the next few years, as the trees on the farm reach full pro­duc­tion, they could be pro­duc­ing about 50 tonnes a year.

“At the mo­ment we’re sell­ing ev­ery­thing that we’re grow­ing and knock­ing back cus­tomers,” Mrs Del­phin said.

“We have quite a few smaller cus­tomers and there are some quite large ones that would like our nuts but we just can’t sup­ply them at the mo­ment.”

Each week the cou­ple also sell their prod­ucts at the Launce­s­ton Har­vest Mar­ket and every se­cond week at the Far­m­gate Mar­ket in Ho­bart.

“If we ever miss a mar­ket in Launce­s­ton we have peo­ple com­ing up say­ing they were pan­ick­ing be­cause they thought they were go­ing to run out,” Mrs Del­phin said.

“A lot of peo­ple that taste our nuts say they can never go back to buy­ing su­per­mar­ket ones.

“The loy­alty of our cus­tomers is amaz­ing.”

The cou­ple also es­tab­lished an on-farm cafe a few years ago, which is now leased and run by chef Nathan John­ston.

Mrs Del­phin said this gave them more time to con­cen­trate on the nut-grow­ing side of the op­er­a­tion.

Cur­rently about 80 per cent of their nuts are sold in Tas­ma­nia and the rest in­ter­state.

As their pro­duc­tion in­creases, Mrs Del­phin said there was the po­ten­tial to sell into some ex­port mar­kets, in­clud­ing China.

“We’ll need to be care­ful which mar­kets we go into be­cause we want to keep it as a pre­mium prod­uct,’ she said.

“There’s no way we can com­pete on price with the im­ported nuts but re­ally, it’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent prod­uct and that’s what a lot of our cus­tomers have found.”

Mrs Del­phin said most peo­ple en­joyed the nuts ei­ther roasted or coated in choco­late.

❝ There’s no way we can com­pete on price with the im­ported nuts but re­ally, it’s a dif­fer­ent prod­uct ... — Chris­tine Del­phin

PHOTO: CHRIS KIDD

CRACK­ING TEAM: Award-win­ning hazel­nut grow­ers Mark and Christie Del­phin, of Hazel­brae farm at Ha­gley.

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