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Irish trip puts farm on path to commercial success

For Tasmanian apple growers, Mark and Christine Duggan, a trip to Ireland several years ago put their business on the road to commercial success.

"We were struggling as every apple picked on the farm had to be graded, packed, stored and sold by someone else," said Mark. "We were always hoping we were fortunate to get something back at the end of each season."

The struggle saw the Duggans head to Europe about eight years ago to look at cider as value adding potential. However a diversion to Ireland set them on a completely new path.

"The Duggans originally came from Ireland so we took a detour over there to trace family. While staying at a local bed and breakfast we tasted the best apple juice ever."

Mark and Christine tracked down the farm which produced the juice.
"The owners took us around the farm and showed us how they made the juice and we decided that was the way to develop for our farm rather than cider. Our juice production began five years ago and became a farm saviour. The juice recipes, including a cloudy juice, are from Ireland but others are passed down from my grand-mother."

The demand for the Huon Valley Juice brand remains high across Southern Tasmania in smaller retailers and markets.

Mark Duggan said an additional part of the success was re-planting 17 heritage varieties of apples.

"People remember the distinct taste of an older variety of apple from their child-hood and are amazed to find the variety still exists."

The Duggan's season starts with the harvest of Gravensteins followed by Cox's Orange Pippin, Lady In The Snow, Sturmer Pippins, Jonagolds and ends with a Tasmanian apple variety called Crofton.

"A lot of English people love the Cox's Orange which are still well known back there. They come to us to buy these," Mark said.

"The Lady In The Snow is still a very sought after apple with the beautiful white flesh and the Sturmer Pippin remains fantastic for pies with many local cooks seeking them."

Mark Duggan (centre) with manager Joe Tullo (left) and Christine (right)

In more recent years the Duggans' have also moved to organic which has not just increased the demand for the heritage apples - it has also taken them into the export path.

"We are registered with NASSAA (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia) and last year we were able to send fruit into Asia because of that registration," Mark said.

"We were able to send Fuji and Jonagold but down the track we hope to do the same thing with Envy."

Mark and Christine also hold a weekly stand at Hobart's Salamanca Market where many of their heritage varieties and juices are purchased by tourists.

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