Fine food venture pays off for SA grain farmer

By: Melissa Keogh

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Sometimes all it takes is a bit of thinking outside the square. That's exactly what fifth generation Clare Valley farmer Jim Maitland did in 2011 when he value-added his family's durum wheat by launching a line of wholegrain pasta.


Fifth generation farmer Jim and wife Katherine Maitland on the Clare Valley property.

The Pangkarra Foods brand included a stone milled wholegrain flour and lavosh, giving the Clare Valley family a chance at a secondary income and launching them into the world of fine foods.

But the length of the boutique enterprise didn’t stop there. In 2016, Pangkarra released a paddock-to-plate range of ready-to-eat snacks that are now sold Australia-wide.

The line includes an Australian first in cooked and ready-to-eat chickpeas, as well as a trio of snack packs featuring roasted chickpeas, faba beans and broad beans.

Managing Pangkarra Foods is Katherine Maitland, Jim's wife, who also has a background in media, marketing and public relations.

She says the range of snack pulses now make up to 50-60 per cent of Pangkarra’s total sales, while a small portion of the range is exported to Asia.

The Pangkarra roasted pulses range has been a hit.

"Paddock to plate-style, healthy snack ranges are really growing in popularity, especially with the nut-free and gluten-free (movements)," Katherine says."With the snack range there is less competition and a growing market – it’s been very successful."

While Jim and Katherine are at the helm of Pangkarra Foods, Jim’s parents David and Margot head the family’s farm, Anama Park.

The farm, which also exports hay, has been in the Maitland family since 1866 and is the unit's core business.

"We’re only starting to break even and make a small profit (from Pangkarra Foods), but the idea is that we’re building something for future generations," Katherine says.

"It’s about not being a one-trick pony, having another means to the end and controlling the supply chain a bit more."

The name Pangkarra is an Aboriginal word which holds great significance to the Kaurna people and means a small piece of land that has been sustained for generations. Pangkarra products are now sold in 150 stores Australia-wide and online.

The Maitland’s Clare Valley farm has been in the family since the 1800s.

Jim's decision to branch out from a reliance on traditional farming has also benefited two other South Australian businesses.

Once harvested, the grain for the Pangkarra products are milled at longstanding establishment Laucke Flour Mills in Strathalbyn.

Laucke uses traditional stone milling methods to grind the grain into flour. The grain is crushed, not cut, which means that more than 80 per cent of the nutrients are kept, and which results in a stronger, nutty flavour and a more wholesome product.

The flour is then made into pasta by L’Abruzzese in Glynde in Adelaide’s north-east using traditional Italian methods.

While the Clare Valley is mostly recognised as the home of Australian riesling, Katherine says it’s also emerging as a valued food bowl.

"We’re very lucky to live here in Clare, which is very well known for food, wine and tourism and is emerging as food destination," she says. "We’re working with our cool climate … which is good for growing crops and wine grapes."

This story was originally published on Images supplied by Pangkarra.


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