Billabong Organics – linked with nature

Published on 21 May 2018

Billabong Organics’ owners Sue Bennett and husband Brian Smith believe families should be able to enjoy the bounty that nature provides with minimal interference.

Founded from a desire to produce quality organic apples and apple products, the Yarrawalla business has since found success in the organic fruit market. 

Ms Bennett said the couple decided to grow apples in 1997 after trialling different produce to value add to their grain farm.

“We started off growing onions for three years and decided we didn’t like what it was doing to our soils, and that our soils would be better placed growing something else,” Ms Bennett said.

“In 1995 we decided to trial olives. We planted 45 to 50 trees to see if they would grow, [and] they took off.

“Though we were going down the path of growing olives, the type of olive we wanted to grow was Israeli olives, which were difficult to source.

“Since olives could be mechanically harvested, this would involve continually increasing our farm size to remain viable, which was the same issue we had with grain farming.  We didn’t want to get onto this merry-go-round.”

In 1996 the couple trialled timber trees, which, according to Ms Bennett, was never going to be a viable enterprise as the trees were planted during the millennium drought and required irrigation to grow economically.” 

After looking at different varieties of fruit trees, Ms Bennett and Mr Smith decided to grow apples.

“We went into organics after encountering a major black spot issue on our apples in about 2000,” Ms Bennett said.

“We had a lot of chemicals that were needed to treat the problem. After speaking with a consultant we found that we needed the “Rolls Royce” of chemicals to eliminate the problem.

“Instead, we found research from China where growers were using lime for black spot prevention. So we tried that and haven’t had black spot since, even during the year of flooding.

“In fact, I’m not sure we’d recognise it if we had black spot now.”

Billabong Organics’ apples are grown according to organic principles; this includes what products are allowed to be put on the apples.

“We are NASAA Organic Certified [The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia] and are audited every year. We also keep a record of all inputs we put on our orchard – all have to be approved by NASAA as safe for our products,” Ms Bennett explained.

“A lot of people do spray sulphur because that is a very good killing machine. But we have never used sulphur because it kills indiscriminately and that goes against our ethos.”

Billabong Organics grows Pink Lady, Sundowner and Royal Gala apple varieties. Its apple products include dried organic apple, chewy apple leather, cooked apple puree and cooked sliced apples.

Ms Bennett said their products have received positive feedback, and there are plans to possibly expand their range.

“We keep coming up with new products, and we’re only just really getting started, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. I think our products are very good quality.”

The business has started selling their apples and products at markets and shops in Melbourne. Billabong Organics apples and apple products are also available locally at the Pyramid Hill Butchery and Boort IGA, as well as direct from the Billabong Organics’ farm at 125 Smiths Road Yarrawalla.

To find out more about Billabong Organics visit www.organicapples.com.au, call 5455 1275 or 0428 551 275.

Loddon businesses can add their details to Council’s website business directory at www.loddon.vic.gov.au/Invest/Business-directory.