Marilyn and Ian are producers of an artisanal pickled green tomato, ‘Simply Green Tomatoes’ which has been enjoyed by diners all around the world, including guests at the Danish wedding of Crown Prince Frederick and Princess Mary.
“Marilyn and Ian are a true example of the resilience of Australia’s farming families, and just what can happen when you think outside the box.
The property the pair live and work on adjoins Ian’s family farm. In the 1970’s it was owned by an Italian family who, after testing the fertile soil, decided it was perfect for growing tomatoes – an unusual decision for a region that was only familiar with farming sheep, wheat and lucerne. The business grew quickly, along with the demand for tomatoes, as they were soon growing over 200 acres of tomatoes for Heinz.
In 1980, Marilyn and Ian purchased the farm, and the established business. By the mid 1980’s there were over 400 tomato growers in Australia and around 20 in north central Victoria, all supplying 12 processors with their produce. Today, there are just 12 growers and only one processor.
“At it’s peak, in the 1980’s, we had built the business up to 400 acres and at one stage we were the largest tomato grower in Australia and sending out 20 semi-loads a day”, Ian says. “At that time, we negotiated with the processors as a group of growers and that worked well. The government decided to deregulate the industry though. That meant we had to negotiate personally rather than as a groups and the industry just fell apart.
The processors were dealing with the supermarkets and if the price wasn’t right, the supermarkets just imported them. So we all suffered – the growers and the processors.
Then, in 2000, the drought started.”
An exert from the recently published book, ‘A Sense of Place’, written by Sonia Anthony and Amy Doak. To read Marilyn and Ian’s complete journey and the story behind Simply Green Tomatoes, purchase the book online here: https://oftheworldbooks.com/product/asenseofplace/