Pomegranate growers open cafe on site with labor-intensive fruit preparation for supermarkets

A farm in South Western Australia, fed up with having to make its fruit look “pretty” for supermarkets, has opened its own cafeteria to sell it direct to consumers.

After years of battling market expectations and prices, Napier-based Pomegranate Hill, 25 miles north of Albany, has changed its business model to provide the niche product directly to buyers.

Co-owners Deb Walker and Robert Sutton said the change came after years of struggling to make a profit by selling to supermarkets.

“We shipped some to market a few years ago… basically you have to polish them… wash them with some kind of disinfectant, and then they expect us to wax them to polish them up and make them look nice,” Sutton said.

“All that work, then you have to hand it over and get very little in return.

“A little bit of money is coming in, and it’s always good that it’s coming in and not just going out, which it has been since 2017 when we put in the first trees.

Walker said the hope was that they could “cut out the middle man.”

“Because the idea behind us growing pomegranates was to provide the original, fresh fruit at a reasonable cost due to its high antioxidant content and health benefits,” he said.

three grenades in a row
Pomegranates are said to have health benefits due to their antioxidants.(ABC Big South: Sophie Johnson)

Easy access for local consumers.

Pomegranates can be hard to find in the supermarket, but the farm cafe offers an easy way for consumers to get the product.

The cafe has been “flooded” since it opened in the second week of August.

“I would have to say we are the first pomegranate farm in Australia to have a café on the farm where we grow the trees…so it’s wonderful to be able to provide that,” said Ms Walker.

Mr Sutton says the pomegranate is not a popular fruit to grow, even though there is a demand for it.

“It’s good to be the first – [to] be the pioneers. Y [growing] pomegranates, it’s a niche market,” he said.

LED lights that say 'Pomegranate Hill'
Since its opening, Pomegranate Hill has been booked out every weekend.(ABC Big South: Sophie Johnson)

‘Dream come true’ after long journey

Opening the cafe is a dream come true for the duo, who have shared a long road to get to where they are with the business today.

Ms. Walker was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and underwent chemotherapy and a radiation lumpectomy.

“While I was doing all that, my niece came over and visited us and said, ‘You should get [pomegranates] in your Deb diet,'” he said.

“None of us knew anything about pomegranates at the time.”

Woman with dog next to pomegranate tree
Deb Walker is passionate about educating others and sharing her passion for fruit.(ABC Big South: Sophie Johnson)

The couple started the pomegranate farm from scratch after researching the qualities of the fruit and its antioxidants.

“I think it gave Robbie a sense of comfort and his way of taking care of me was to investigate. The more he investigated, the more he was curious,” Walker said.

“So we planted some evidence [trees] … then he said, ‘Shall we get a pair of 100?’ And now we reach almost 5,000.

“Here we are, eight years later… I’m in remission and [it] It fills my heart to see what Robbie and I have created.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.