Exhibiting their value-added products at the Variety Showcase at Hort Connections 2018 was the Mock family with their freeze-dried fruits marketed under their Totally Pure Fruits® brand.
The Mock family has been growing fruit at their picturesque Red Hill orchard in Victoria since 1960. They converted to organic in 1974 and owner Neville Mock says if they didn’t go organic, or biodynamic, they would have likely gone out of business years ago.
“In the ’80s it got really tough so we started to look at additional ways to add value,” Neville said.
And so, 20 years ago they started playing with freeze-drying methods.
“Our first attempt was to use an old beer keg; then we moved to a proper design; then introduced computers; and as the process became bigger we kept evolving,” he said.
Each week they process 10 tonnes of fresh fruit to produce 1 tonne of finished freeze dried product, which weighs just 10 per cent of its fresh counterpart. This is then sold under their brand Totally Pure Fruits and includes freeze dried apples, pears, strawberries, bananas and ‘bush food’.
Freeze-drying is an expensive process that involves washing and cutting the fruit, then freezing it within five minutes to change all moisture to a solid and ensure the nutrients and colour are preserved. The fruit then goes into a vacuum chamber where the pressure is reduced and the moisture vaporises. On average the process takes 100 hours per batch.
“Because the moisture level is so low, the fruit slices have a long shelf life – once packaged in foil they will keep for two years without preservatives,” Neville said.
There are currently four generations of Mocks living on the 20-hectare property. Neville’s daughter Sheryn Mock notes that every year the business is getting stronger.
“Our farm is located on a good spot on the main road and we have had our farm gate shop since 1995,” Sheryn said. The shop has seen some peaks and troughs and is about to undergo a revamp, but the Mock family feel they are heading in the right direction.
The local district has been successful in registering Mornington Peninsula Produce (MPP) as a provenance brand, similar to the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) provenance in Italy. Sheryn has been invited to sit on the MPP committee and says this is an exciting opportunity for the business as it will hopefully mean MPP members can sell each other’s produce. “No one’s big enough to have their own stand-alone shop but if we can work together and sell our produce under one ‘registration’ there are some great opportunities,” she said.
The Mock Red Hill value added offering also includes an organic apple cider vinegar, a range of cider and sparkling juice. They currently grow organic apples, pears, cherries and have recently made the move into growing avocadoes.
Many thanks to Neville and Sheryn Mock for sharing their journey and experience with us.