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Supersprouts

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Have you had your serve of sprouts today?

A sprout is at the transitional stage 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.

Just behind Pearce Air Base in Bullsbrook, is Farmland Greens. This small farm produces all of Coles & Woolworths’ sprouts in WA.

On arrival at Farmland Greens processing centre I was confronted by this powerful fresh earthly smell of healthy greens. Everything is spotlessly clean, a stainless steel world. As owner, Mirtula Hildebrand says, “You should be able to eat off the floor.”

This is the kind of passion and precision attitude that is essential to running a farming business like this. Mirtula Hildebrand and her husband Charles, who immigrated 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 with sunflowers and snow peas. A year later 2007, they bought them out, moved the 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.”

They 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 efficient, and we are trying to mechanise we are putting 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. There is always something that needs fixing, ideas to make it more efficient.”

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 that wonderful can do attitude, as she escorted me through every aspect of the business I marvelled 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!