Meeniyan Garlic Festival organisers are both celebrating and gearing up for this month’s gourmet foodie event, after winning South Gippsland Shire’s Australia Day 2018 event of the year.
Festival organisers and Mirboo Farms garlic producers David and Kirsten Jones were thrilled the event took out the title.
“We wanted to give city people a relaxed experience and showcase south Gippsland local produce. The garlic festival is unique – there is no other in Victoria,” Ms Jones said.
“Gippsland is the standout region for garlic growing.”
Last year’s festival generated more than $600,000 into the local economy, engaging 200 volunteers, local community groups and international foodie chefs, experts and special guests.
Around 8000 visitors – nearly half of whom came from south Gippsland – learnt about the 300 different varieties of garlic which were showcased amongst other local produce.
The Jones are helping other Gippsland farmers jump on board the bourgeoning industry by encouraging them to diversify and incorporate garlic on their properties.
Currently, 75 per cent of the garlic that Australians consume is imported – mainly from China, much of which is bleached white.
They said there was a market shortage and consumer demand for locally-grown garlic.
“We want to focus on encouraging Australian grown table-quality garlic, which is distinct from cheap garlic for processing food,” Mr Jones said.
“Australian garlic has more flavour and we have sophisticated and healthier farming practices and soil management practices, which means better seed stock.”
He said that with the right soil management it’s a high return crop yielding output.
The couple made a treechange to Mirboo seven years ago, and now harvest 4.5 tonnes of garlic from just one acre using organic principals.
They plan to produce 12 tonnes this year.
They are setting up a warehouse and investing in harvesting and processing equipment that they plan to lend to other start-up growers.
“It’s a great rotational crop and cattle can be grazed over the top in-between seasons. Farmers can use their existing infrastructure and soil managing expertise,” said Mr Jones.
“There is a lot of underutilised, high quality farming land and this can provide a great secondary income for a product that is in high demand.”
Mr Jones said they have had interest from broadacre farmers looking to produce significant quantities through to boutique producers looking to scale-up.
The Meeniyan Garlic Festival was held on Saturday, February 17.