Yallamurrup's berry sustainable


An enviable berry and vegetable patch jam-packed with produce of all shapes and sizes means there is no time for Beth and John Shorthouse to twiddle their green thumbs.

It also ensures the retired school teachers constantly have their thinking caps on, dreaming up new and exciting combinations for Beth's range of Yallamurrup jams and sauces, created using their very own fresh produce, as well as the seasonal fruit and vegetables grown in abundance by neighbouring producers.

Fortunately for the Shorthouses, the 17ha picturesque property they have called home since 1987 is nestled amongst the hills at Middlesex Valley, about 8km south of Manjimup, in the hub of what is fast becoming foodie heaven.

In recent years, the region known as Southern Forests has become as well renowned for its gourmet local produce as it once was for its enduring timber industry.

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What initially started as a hobby for John, growing some raspberries and boysenberries in a modest vegetable patch, has bloomed impressively and now boasts everything from garlic to onions, broad beans, corn and a wide range of berries.

The couple even keep a bee hive to ensure the berry blossoms are pollinated.

Seven varieties are grown and handpicked by John and Beth, including raspberries, loganberries, boysenberries and English gooseberries which are harvested in December, silvanberries and blueberries picked in January and blackberries picked in February and March.

The lengthy rows harbouring berries in the Shorthouses' garden measure more than 700m in total.

To make sure the berries last for year-round jam-making, they are frozen on trays and then packed into 1kg bags for later use.

When in season, the berries are sold fresh or frozen locally while their jams are sold throughout the year to cafes in jars able to hold as much as 2kg.

"The raspberry is the most popular, but it is good because it keeps going and going all year," Beth said. "John spends a lot of time in the garden."

The Manjimup Farmers Market, of which Beth is the co-ordinator, also provides a great outlet for the couple to sell their wares.

While jam and sauces are Yallamurrup's mainstay, John and Beth harvest garlic in December, which is available only at the Manjimup Farmers Market, along with a special corn variety which is harvested when small and sold as popping corn around Christmas time.

"We still haven't mastered the art of storing garlic but garlic, as we've discovered, is a good cash crop, " Beth said.

Several years ago, a strong demand for fresh local garlic emerged and John took to planting it.

The cottage business has evolved significantly since the local heritage park's Timber Park Gallery first offered to sell Beth's popular jam 17 years ago.

While she made a lot of mostly berry jams in the early days, Beth has branched out significantly since then and has taken to creating some deliciously different types of jam, including tipsy strawberry, ginger marmalade, and even a plum and lavender jam using lavender from Lavender Fields of Bridgetown.

Classics such as fig jam, however, remain among the most popular.

"I am constantly thinking of new ideas and combinations, " Beth said.

"We take advantage of the local fruit that is around, the apricots and plums are seconds from Newton Bros' cool stores. The fruit is all here, so we make the most of it."

Beth has produced about 3000, 190ml jars of jam in the past year alone on top of hundreds of bigger-sized jars. She holds a special licence that allows her to cook up jam in the kitchen at home, a three-hour process she now has down to a fine art.

Not only does the garden provide hours of enjoyment for the couple at Yallamurrup, which means 'hill with a view' in an Indigenous dialect, the business also allows the couple to enjoy life on the land in their retirement.

"It was a way to create an income for us to afford to be able to live here and now we're retired, it is the berry and jam business that has allowed us to be sustainable on 42 acres, " Beth said.

"We don't want to get any bigger because if we do we would have to employ other people, so while we are still capable of picking we will just continue as we are."

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