Fruit growers ‘cut out the middleman’, open on-farm cafe


A farm in West Australia’s south, fed up with having to make its fruit look “pretty” for supermarkets, has opened its own cafe to sell straight to consumers.

After years of battling market pricing and expectations, Pomegranate Hill, based in Napier, 40 kilometres north of Albany, has changed its business model to provide the niche product directly to buyers.

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

“We sent some to the market a few years ago … basically you have to polish them … wash them with some sort of disinfectant, and then they expect us to wax them to polish them to make them look pretty,” Mr Sutton said.

“All that labour, then you have to deliver it and get very little back for it.

“There’s a bit of money coming back in, and it’s always nice to have it coming in and not just going out, which it has been since 2017 when we first put the first trees in.

Ms Walker said the hope was they could “cut out the middleman”.

“Because the whole idea of us growing pomegranates was to provide the fresh, original fruit at a reasonable cost because of its high antioxidants and its health benefits,” she said.

Pomegranates are said to have health benefits due to their antioxidants.(ABC Great Southern: Sophie Johnson)

Easy access for local consumers

Pomegranates can be difficult to find in the supermarket, but the farm’s cafe is allowing an easy way for consumers to source the produce.

The cafe has been “inundated” since opening in the second week of August.

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

Mr Sutton says pomegranate is not a fruit that’s popular to grow, even though the demand is there.

“It’s nice to be the first — [to] be the trailblazers. And [growing] pomegranates — it’s a bit of a niche market,” he said.

LED lights reading 'Pomegranate Hill'
Since opening, Pomegranate Hill has been booked out every weekend.(ABC Great Southern: Sophie Johnson)

‘Dream come true’ after a long journey

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

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

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

“Neither of us knew anything about pomegranates at that stage.”

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

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

“I think it gave Robbie some sense of comfort and his way of caring for me was to research. The more he researched the more it got his curiosity,” Ms Walker said.

“So we planted a few tests [trees] … then he said, ‘Shall we get a couple of 100?’ And now we’re up to nearly 5,000.

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

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