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A little over two years ago they purchased their first property – a local Manjimup nursery – and in December 2020 bought their second property – a 100-acre farm in the Perup region, east of Manjimup. This husband-and-wife duo are innovative, ambitious and have big plans to scale their operations. They are methodical in their decision making and choose strategic moves to benefit their dreams and goals. You may know Neil and Suz by their produce brand, Planted Passion. A name that is so rightly suited to them. They are passionate about everything they do and grow.

These two may not have a street sign named after them in Manjimup, but that doesn’t mean they’re not quiet achievers. On both sides of Neil’s family tree are multi-generational farming families (early settlers) from dairy, beef, sheep and cropping industries. This could be why he knows a thing or two about farming and maximising yields.

On their 10-acre nursery and farm in Manjimup, they produce vegetable seedlings and grow herbs and vegetables in tunnel greenhouses (called protected cropping) that enable year-round production. Over the next six months Planted Passion will be growing and harvesting an extensive range of produce including tomatoes, capsicum, cucumber, eggplants, herbs (basil, sage), root vegetables (beetroot, turnip, radish), greens (kale, silverbeet, lettuce, pak choi), zucchini, squash, beans, asparagus and spring onions.

Neil and Suz are passionate about growing quality and consistent produce, maintaining chemical free and natural farming practises. With the ultimate combination of great soil, climate and water ticking their boxes - they both firmly believe the Southern Forests is the best growing region in Western Australia.

The pair place a huge emphasis on establishing direct connections with consumers and retailers, challenging traditional supply chains and systems. And they are big advocates for supporting the local community. You can find their vegetables resold by Southern Forest Produce Delivered Direct (Manjimup) and Get Fresh Merchants (Perth) and used by restaurants including Wild at Heart (Pemberton) and Park (Manjimup/Donnybrook).

Neil believes that social media and agri-tourism give an opportunity for farmers to tell their origin story and report on real-time achievements. “Farmers work so hard because they love what they do. Understanding who produces our food is critical to creating a connection. We’ve found our social followers want a deeper appreciation of where their food comes. As a producer we then hope this leads to better personal health and greater dollars kept within the WA/local economy,” commented Neil.

Planted Passion are investing in protected cropping and creating systems to grow volume and a variety of produce. They are also utilising the reduced labour, because of current COVID climate, as an opportunity to invest into machinery and automation to reduce the dependency on labour.

Good things take time and building up a business doesn’t happen overnight. All this hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed, with Neil a 2020 WA Business News 40 under 40 awardee and co-opted as a Board Member for Protected Cropping Australia and a Committee Member for the Southern Forests Food Council. The business is also a 2020 Regional Economic Development Scheme recipient with grant funds directed towards automation and greenhouse footprint expansion.

Stay up to date with all that Neil and Suz are achieving in the world of farming and agriculture in the Southern Forests by heading over to their website or following them on Instagram @plantedpassion.

Photography by Craig Kinder Photography for Genuinely Southern Forests.

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