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Southern Forests Food Council members Tracey Miller and Justin Crumplin holding blueberries at their Wayside Farm in Manjimup

Meet Tracey Miller and Justin Crumplin, the heart and soul behind Wayside Farm. These two have become synonymous with the Southern Forests community, embodying the spirit of resilience, innovation, and unwavering commitment to their craft.

Tracey's journey began when her family moved from Geraldton to the Southern Forests when she was 16. Growing up on a farm, she developed a distaste for city life and found solace in the small-town charm of Manjimup. Justin, originally from Boyup Brook, shares a similar story, having moved to Manjimup for high school. Both rooted themselves in the community and have been engaged for an impressive 25 years.

Tracey's initial foray into the agricultural industry led her to the old cannery in Manjimup, where Granny Smith apple juice was a specialty. It was at Simplot Australia's potato processing factory in Manjimup where fate brought Tracey and Justin together, sparking a partnership that would extend beyond the factory's closure.

Their agricultural journey began at Olea Nurseries, where they spent 14 years in horticulture. Drawn to do something unique, the couple purchased their Manjimup property in 2001, later establishing their blueberry orchard in 2006. Despite naysayers questioning the viability of blueberries in the region due to frost concerns, Tracey and Justin's four years of research paid off.

Currently, Wayside Farm hosts 1,200 blueberry plants across one acre, strategically covered by red netting for bird and hail protection. The netting not only shields the berries but also boosts UV and temperature by 30%, enhancing growth.

In their pursuit of diversity, Tracey and Justin cultivate a range of blueberry varieties, including Legacy, Delight, Brigatta, Blue Rose, Bright Well, and Sunshine Blue. Each variety is carefully chosen to thrive in the Mediterranean-style climate unique to the region.

Despite being a two-person operation, Tracey and Justin manage to produce approximately 4.5 tonnes of blueberries annually. The distinctive red netting, aside from protection, facilitates a rapid growth rate. Harvest season, running from November to April, involves meticulous planning to ensure the berries are picked dry and cooled effectively, preserving their natural coating.

Wayside Farm primarily supplies SJ Fresh wholesale markets, contributing 2,000 punnets twice a week to independent greengrocers throughout Western Australia. However, navigating market dynamics presents challenges, with imported fruits often fetching higher returns despite potential quality disparities.

Blueberries aren’t the only produce line grown at Wayside Farm. Tracey and Justin have also branched out into persimmon, quince and feijoa production. As with many other produce lines their season is running 3-4 weeks ahead of schedule. Usually, they don’t pick their quinces until late March, but harvest has already concluded for the year.

As members of the Southern Forests Food Council, Tracey and Justin appreciate the network's support in packaging and information access. Despite their busy schedules, their commitment to local produce and community is evident.

Challenges such as weather uncertainties, packaging sourcing difficulties, and changing supply dynamics have become integral parts of their journey. Yet, the couple embraces the lifestyle, finding solace in being their own bosses and relishing the peacefulness of farm life.

Innovation is a constant at Wayside Farm. The red netting, a bold gamble, paid off with a remarkable 33% growth boost. Looking ahead, the couple is exploring new packaging options for their blueberries, including clear plastic tubes with cardboard ends, to stand out in the market.

Future goals include cultivating their own blueberry plants, leveraging their horticultural expertise, and establishing a wholesale nursery element within their farming operations.

Beyond the farm, Tracey and Justin savour their favourite blueberry cheesecake and appreciate the unique taste of tree-ripened persimmons. The couple may even venture into drying persimmon seconds this season, showcasing their dedication to exploring new possibilities.

Tracey Miller and Justin Crumplin, through Wayside Farm, epitomise the Southern Forests agricultural spirit. Their story is one of resilience, innovation, and an enduring commitment to producing quality, locally grown produce for the community they call home.

Look for the co-branded Wayside Farm and Genuinely Southern Forests blueberry punnet at your greengrocer and you know you will be supporting these genuine down-earth locals.


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