A HUSBAND and wife team who did not even have a kitchen garden until 2011 has won a national award for food growing.
Simone and Dave Jelley won a gold medal at the prestigious National Delicious Produce Awards held in Sydney.
The accidental farmers live on Lamb Island in southern Moreton Bay, an area with a history of growing fine produce.
Their business, Pretty Produce, grows edible flowers, weeds and leaves, with its goods gracing the plates of premiere restaurants.
Simone Jelley from Pretty Produce said she had always lived in suburbia but after moving to nearby Macleay Island in 2011, asked husband Dave to get a kitchen garden going in which she could grow produce like tomatoes and corn.
“I soon got bored growing tomatoes and corn and moved on to what was rare and unusual,’’ she said. “It all grew from there. It’s now all about what is edible, looks gorgeous and tastes fantastic.’’
Ms Jelley said the business started when she began posting information about what she was growing on Instagram.
As the business developed, the Jelley’s learnt about the power of niche markets, organic principles and the need to meet market demand and put out a packaged product that had tremendous eye appeal.
“I discovered that I’d been ripping out weeds for years that were powerful, aromatic ayurvedic herbs,’’ she said.
Her kitchen garden kept getting bigger and in the end the pair moved to a 1.3ha block on Lamb Island.
“We were pretty much discovered on Instagram and we get loads and loads of calls from agents around Brisbane wholesale markets because we are right on target with edible weeds and flowers, foraging and wild foods,’’ she said. “Chefs are really interested in this.’’
Ms Jelley said all products were seasonal and this week her edible flower mix consisted of borage, pot marigolds, viola, nastercians and alysseum.
Her leaf mix had 18 different plants and she also offered products like mustard and bitter mixes as well as succulents like warrigal and purslane.
"Pretty Produce has become an artisan product that's in high demand. We are racing to meet this demand from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane chefs,’’ she said.
"Any curious folk can book in for tasting tours and see what all the fuss is about. We really do push the boundaries of what is edible.
“...The marketing looks after itself really, with sun, sparkling sea, dolphins, dugongs and the famous Redlands volcanic soils."
Redland City Council acting Mayor Wendy Boglary said Pretty Produce had earned its place among the nation's best producers.
"This local business has taken a great idea and run with it,’’ she said. “It is wonderful to see their hard work recognised at an elite level.’’
Southern Moreton Bay Islands Cr Mark Edwards said it showed that it was possible to run successful businesses from the islands.
"Pretty Produce is based on Lamb Island and is an ideal case study for industry on the islands", he said. "Simone has grown her business from humble beginnings to the thriving enterprise it is today.
Her gold medal in Sydney followed a win in the same category at the Queensland 2016 Delicious Produce Awards.
For details on Pretty Produce visit www.prettyproduce.com.au<http://www.prettyproduce.com.au> or Instagram @prettyproduce_australia