Gourmet Garden grower Richard Fairley says people are surprised the product comes from Biloela.
Gourmet Garden grower Richard Fairley says people are surprised the product comes from Biloela. Contributed

Gourmet Garden herbs come from our region's farmers

BEING surrounded by strong agricultural industries, it isn't surprising there are a lot of growers in the area.

But some people may be surprised to know Biloela is home to six of the best herb growers in Australia.

The local growers produce herbs for Gourmet Garden, which exports to more than 15 countries.

Growers co-ordinator Paul Stringer said most of the growers had gotten into the industry during a water shortage.

"We were growing small crops before, mainly lucerne, and the other growers were cotton and a couple of other different things," Mr Stringer said.

"Everyone's water supply was getting a bit low at one point so we were looking at alternatives and this came up.

"We started out originally with 10 or 12 growers who started the trial work, but it is down to six now who have been with it for a while."

He said when they began, there were no commercial buyers and Gourmet Garden had not been established.

"There were lots of trials and things going on, then Gourmet Garden just happened to get the business up so we were lucky enough to grow with them," Mr Stringer said.

"So, in about 1997, we started to supply them and have been with them since."

Grower Richard Fairley said producing herbs organically was challenging and the quality control was very strict.

"With grain crops or cotton you have got a lot of leeway; you can still sell it if quality isn't at the highest," he said.

"But with the herbs we don't send it unless it is the best quality."

Everyone tries to grow about 20% more than they need so they can cover supply in case anyone has a disaster.

Mr Stringer said the farmers also grew other produce.

"We still grow hay and Richard still grows grain crops so we are still in other areas," he said.

"But the herbs are on a steady increase."

This year the group will supply more than 450 tonnes of basil, more than 400 tonnes of coriander, 200 tonnes of parsley and 50 tonnes of chives.

"All of that gets distributed between the six growers, so everybody gets an even chunk of it," Mr Stringer said.

"We spread the growing around for the bigger crops.

"Everyone grows the bigger crops and the smaller ones, depending on the quantity. If they're not big enough for every grower to be doing them, we have a couple do one kind and a couple do another.

"That is mainly so we can spread the risk; we are fairly spread out (geographically) so that makes it possible.

"Everyone tries to grow about 20% more than they need so they can cover supply in case anyone has a disaster."

There are only three foods in the Gourmet Garden range not supplied by the group of growers - garlic, chilli and ginger.

"We are their main suppliers," Mr Stringer said.



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