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Chilli farming is heating up

A small scale farm along the Wondai-Chincillia Rd has value-added it's produce to make the most it the tight space.
A small scale farm along the Wondai-Chincillia Rd has value-added it's produce to make the most it the tight space.

THE conventional rule of farming in Queensland is that you need a lot of land to make a little money.

But like the chilli he farms Glen White has packed a lot of punch in to a small package.

After saying goodbye to a banking desk job Mr White moved to a parcel of land on the Wondai-Chincilla Road and started thinking big.

"The challenge was how do you make a small 40 acre farm viable," Mr White said.

"I have always had an interest in micro-farming I had an interest in in chilli.

"But I was mostly growing chillies in the backyard and thought we'd upscale."

That is when things really started to heat up.

The plan was simple, use water sparingly, grow a theap of chillies and value-add them as sauces and jams.

"With the chillies we grow we can supply about 80% of the chilli we need," Mr White said.

He supplemented this by purchasing some of the cheaper varieties like Habanero.

This also helps spread the risk in dry years.

"Generally what happens here is our picking season is from November to July and we manufacture while we pick it and keep supplies on store for the odd varieties," Mr White said.

"If we run out I can source other supplies."

Mr White tried more than 500 varieties with varying degrees of success before before he figured out what grew well in the South Burnett.

"Some of the very hot chillies grow very well, like Birdseye and Goatsweed," he said.

"Goatsweed is the national chilli of Valenzuela, it's really hardy and they call it that because it survives goats eating it."

He carts the chillies to factory he built on the north side of Brisbane, where they are processed, packaged and distributed.

All of the chillies are grown on a 2500sqm block.

A conventional chilli farm would need more space but Mr White makes his money through value-adding.

"You get a tonnee of chilli from 400sqkm worth about $3000-$4000/tone, you can get that tonne up to $100000 by value-adding," he said.

But it takes hard work and a lot of marketing.

"If you're a small primary producer you've got to know who your customer is," Mr White said.

"You have to prove that, for example, your cattle are so much better than what you by from Woolworths because you do this and this and this.

"Food is like women's fashion, what people are eating this year will be different than what they're eating next year and in this day in age, you've got to have the person who eats your food in mind."

After six years the Chinchilli range has grown.

"These days we sell 11 varieties of chilli sauces from a very, very hot we call it Ghost," Mr White said.

"It's a blend of Carolina Reaper and Trinidad Scorpion chillies

"On the cool end we make a smoked Habanero chilli sauce.

"We also do jams and preserves, we have Harrissa paste which is a North African type of chilli product.

"Over there it either comes in tube of paste or dry blend of dried spices but how we make ours, we use dry spice, chilli and roasted capsicum."

They have range of chilli salt and a pumpkin chilli jam that was originally made for the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival.

When Mr White and his wife started out they worked the farmer's market circuit and slowly built their brand.

Once they knew there was a market for the product the teamed up with the more conventional food distributors.

"About 90% of production goes through food distributors Queensland and New South Wales and we use Fino who deal with artisan products," he said.

The rest is sold through the Chinchilli website.

South Burnett

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