Jodie Newell’s family didn’t really set out to be farmers. They purchased their Wallaroo property in 2006 to have space for horses, but found themselves with much more than they bargained for.
“There were 400 olive trees, 80 fig trees and a small vineyard: all in disrepair,” Jodie told Region.
“There was a lot of time and effort and learning as we took it on, but we couldn’t bear the thought of those trees going to waste!”
Jodie, along with parents Paul and Carolyn, decided to try and do something with the glut of figs, and made a few connections with Canberra restaurants.
Local produce champion Janet Jeffs was an early customer and, as the trees grew and produced more figs, the family started delivering to more and more restaurants.
“It’s really rewarding when you walk into these amazing kitchens with incredibly talented chefs and they just get so excited about the figs,” Jodie said.
The family had just installed (a very expensive!) cool room to store the bumper 2020 harvest when COVID-19 restrictions hit.
“We had sold 200 kg of figs in the first week of harvest and then the restaurants closed,” Jodie recalled.
“We just thought what are we going to do with all these figs?”
Jodie explained that they had already been selling Hundred Acres olive oil from their homegrown olive grove. They realised that the only way to move the excess figs was to preserve them, and try to sell these bottles and jars alongside their oil.
Teaming up with local jam makers Walsh’s Country Kitchen, they collaborated on a range of Hundred Acres Produce branded preserves, including a very special fig and Sangiovese paste that is a great alternative to quince paste on a cheeseboard. The Sangiovese grapes are also grown by the Newell family, so it’s a hyper local product.
The preserves have been a great addition to the family businesses, and they’ve enjoyed teaming up with other local businesses like Murrumbateman Chocolate Company, Bodalla Dairy, Big River Distilling Co and Gifts by Karen hampers. They also supplied fresh figs to the produce box scheme run by Southern Harvest Association in 2023.
“Southern Harvest Association were actually lifesavers for us last season. They took so many kilos of figs for their produce boxes. It was a new way to get our products out to people, it was just invaluable.”
These days the restaurant trade is flourishing again, but there’s still plenty of fig jam, syrup, figgy balsamic vinegar and fig paste to be had.
Hundred Acres is located quite close to several Hall region wineries and they often make it onto the menu at the cellar door. As a result, they pick up some passing trade from those on a winery tour, and their farm gate stall is a great place to pick up a few jars of preserves, and fresh figs when they’re in season.
The horses are happily at home in the paddocks at Hundred Acres, but the property is now so much more than just a horse paddock. The Newell family are feeding customers all over the region with delicious, sweet, figs.
Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.