Money for jam

Lauren CelenzaCountryman
The West logo

Tonnes of fruit and vegies rotting on the ground is a sad sight, but a reality for growers who have no use for unmarketable produce.

But it was a desire of one Carnarvon woman to change all that waste product into valuable by-product that started a food revolution.

It all started in December, 2000, when excess mangoes caused a glut in Carnarvon.

Local Jo Bumbak decided to open a roadside stall to sell them to tourists.

“I didn’t think we would get many customers, but we were really busy. I guess people love mango, it sells itself, ” she said.

But it wasn’t until 2002, when Jo made her first batch of mango jam, that she knew she was really on to something.

“I had never had mango jam, but because we have so much wastage, so much unmarketable product, I decided to start making something different, ” she said.

“There is so much waste because the market place wants perfect fruit and we don’t grow in perfect conditions. Anywhere from 40 to 60 per cent of a crop can go to waste if fruit looks damaged or small.”

? Jo said that as market regulations continued to tighten and demand for perfection intensified, growers would continue to throw out perfectly edible produce.

After 2002, her love of cooking continued and she joined the Gascoyne Growers Market to sell more.

“I just used to think of anyway that I could value add. I even made mango rocky road, ” Jo said. “It just expanded across to whatever my family was growing.”

Jo said the strangest thing she ever tried was in 2005 when she made banana jam.

“No-one knew what it was, so people would not buy it, ” she said. “Then we started selling scones with banana jam, and now banana jam is the most popular.”

Her first taste of prestige was in 2005 when she won several of the top awards in the Perth Royal Show cooking division.

In 2007, Jo won the small business award at the Show’s cooking division and has won it every year since.

“After I won in 2007, IGA wanted to supply my product, ” she said.

? Jo said supplying Perth stores was good, but ordering was inconsistent. Sometimes she couldn’t keep up and with orders for as many as 500 jars at a time. She said being the only person cooking was tough so, in 2008, she stopped distributing out of Carnarvon.

“I still work seven days a week in this business because I love it so much. Even when I’m not here, I’m looking for new ideas, ” she said.

Bumbak’s produces 95 different lines of jams, chutney, relishes, pickles, sauces and butters, incorporating everything that grows in Carnarvon.

Jo now purchases non saleable fruit and vegetables from other local growers to minimise the wastage in the region.

??For the love of it

?Competing at the Royal Show every year isn’t just about winning for Jo, it’s about showcasing Carnarvon and testing the product meets market standards.

“I love Carnarvon and I love what we do, and I want to showcase it, ” she said.

“This kind of product would sell for double in Perth or Margaret River, but we like to make it affordable for everyone at around $6.50 a jar.

“I get up every day knowing I will be doing what I love. It’s making money for me and for tourism in Carnarvon. It’s great for horticulture and it’s so good for the no-waste initiative.”

Jo’s grandfather bought the North River road property in 1956.

Her father took over and since her brothers finished school they have been a part of it. Mark and David now run the 85 acres of table grapes, mangoes and broadacre water melons and pumpkins.

“I also grow specific products to value add, like chillies, tomatoes, onions, beetroot and herbs, ” Jo said.

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