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Garry Kadwell planted his first batch of potatoes at around the age of 10, having collected the small tubers that had fallen through the grading equipment on his family’s farm, and planting them in an unused patch of dirt near a dam.
When he sold the potatoes, the burgeoning farmer – who this month was crowned Producer of the Year at the 2020 Delicious Produce Awards – cemented in his own mind what he had suspected since age five; that he wanted to be a potato farmer.
“I made a lot of money selling that first batch of potatoes,” the latest in a four-generation line of potato farmers explains, “which I thought was great. Of course, I didn’t realise dad also had bills to pay for things like fertiliser and seeds. But I’m one of those very fortunate people that’s known what they want to do from a very young age.”
On taking over the farm from his father, Kadwell implemented a program of regenerative agriculture techniques, including returning 32 per cent of the farm’s land (a number that’s still growing) back to native flora. The resulting improvement to the soil’s nutrient-packed composition, is what, along with the farm’s altitude and climate, Kadwell says produces not only a 30 per cent increase in overall yield, but a better tasting potato.
“We’d gone down a path with agriculture,” Kadwell says, “where everything had to look good and have a good shelf life, but it didn’t matter if it had no nutritional value or flavour to it. I was sick of seeing people eating inferior product.”
Switching the 1,730 acre farm’s environmental practices also saw Kadwell experimenting with a broad range of ancient potato varieties rarely seen in Australia, including the Produce Award-winning Andean Sunrise.
“It’s very closely related to a wild potato,” Kadwell says of the 8,000 year-old variety, more closely related to yams than modern potatoes. “Their origins go back into Peru, in the Andes. Nature always gives things good properties, and then we have this habit of trying to manipulate them.”
He believes the reason the golden-fleshed potatoes have gained such a following among chefs like Lennox Hastie, Neil Perry and Matt Moran (who has called them the best potatoes he has ever tasted) is simple.
“They actually have a unique flavour on their own. They’re not just a carrier for other flavours, where you have to cover them in butter or something else to get flavour into them. You could use them as the centrepiece of your dinner and just eat a bowl full of them.”
As for winning the Producer of the Year award, Kadwell says it’s affirmation that his passion and enthusiasm for his produce have been well-placed.
“I don’t ever do things in life for recognition or accolades, I do this because I believe in it and I love it. So to get an award like this is very humbling.”
Now in its 15th year, the Awards celebrate the country’s new, innovative, native and consistently outstanding Australian ingredients grown, caught, sourced or produced with dedication, passion, knowledge and regard for the environment.
This article originally appeared on www.delicious.com.au.
By Jason Dinsmore
View all articles by Jason Dinsmore
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