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March 2012 – Supersprouts

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Have you had your serve of sprouts today?

A sprout is at the transition between seed and plant. It is, to put it simply, a baby plant. On a gram for gram basis, sprouts are richer in vitamin C than the older, more mature plants. They also make a fabulous addition to any salad.

Behind the Pearce Air Base in Bullsbrook, is Farmland Greens, this small farm produces all of Coles & Woolworths’ sprouts in WA. Arriving at Farmland Greens processing
centre I was confronted by the powerfully fresh and earthy smell of healthy greens.

Everything is spotlessly clean, a stainless steel world. The floor looks clean enough from!

This is the kind of passion and attention to detail that is essential to running an intensive farming business. Mirtula Hildebrand and her husband Charles, who emigrated from
Zimbabwe, purchased the business in April 2006. As business migrants they had to invest in a small business and with a farming background they chose Farmland Greens.

The business began supplying a wholesaler in O’Connor; sunflower and snow peas. A year later 2007, they bought the business, moved equipment to Bullsbrook, and extended
to a full range of sprouts.

The sprouts growing process varies from the relatively simple snow pea to the complex alfalfa, above all the process is efficient. Charles is the farmer and describes the
unique nature of the sprout, “Everything is grown on the principal that the seed provides the nutrients. Mostly growing by themselves with no medium. The sprouts take between 3-12 days to grow.”

Farmland Greens face the highest stringent health and quality regulations; the centre must be as clean as a commercial kitchen as they comply to the rigorous health demands of Coles & Wooolworths. The regulations are not only to ensure the supermarket quality is maintained but also stringent health requirements as sprouts can be vulnerable to pathogens such as ecoli which is why rigours testing and quality controls are implemented.

Like most intensive farming businesses, Mirtula highlights their commitment to improvement, “The whole time we are trying to make it more efficent, trying to
mechanise, investing a lot of money into the business. I’m not saying we are going to be millionaires, it is very difficult if you don’t do that you are stagnant.”

Mirtula also recognises the important role her business plays in the community. “We employ 11-12 people in the pack room, mostly local ladies, it is great as we can offer flexible working hours that work well with small children.”

Mirtula displays a wonderful can do attitude. As she escorted me through every aspect of the business I marveled at her level of organisation, to which she responded, “I have had to become organised”. A long way from her previous career as a ballet dancer and teacher.

I returned home with a box of these fresh sprouts and my family enjoyed the most healthiest of salads over the weekend. Even the children were eating their greens.