By Kerrie Lush
Sue Heward is on a ‘gap year’ – she’s left the hustle and bustle of Melbourne to return to the family fruit block at Monash in South Australia.
It’s been 28 years since she last called the Riverland home and now she’s brought her partner Mark, three year-old daughter Frankie and Mollie the dog back to experience the life she knew as a child.
Mark may just have wondered what he agreed to though – when they arrived the temperatures were in the mid-40s and the fig harvest was in full swing – the busiest time on the block for the Heward’s Fig and Orchard business.
It’s been a complete lifestyle change for Sue who has spent the past 15 years in Victoria’s capital and 13 years previously travelling the world.
“We wanted to get out of the rat race,” Sue says, “Melbourne is a wonderful city, we left a pretty nice lifestyle and great friends there but we just wanted to slow down.
“I worked full-time for the Cancer Council and I’d spend one to two hours driving on the freeway to work each day to and from work.
“Frankie was in child care every day and we weren’t getting a lot of family time.”
Being back in South Australia has also provided an opportunity for Sue to take a Commercial Cookery Course at Berri’s TAFE SA – something she has “always wanted to do”.
When she’s not cooking up a storm and studying at TAFE, she’s on the block, helping out her Dad, Frank and Mum, Ros.
Figs have been in the family for years. Sue’s grandfather Jack planted the first trees on their soldier settlement block near Monash after returning from World War I.
Their fresh produce is sold to the likes of well-known South Australian brands, Maggie Beer and Beerenberg.
“Dad’s a bit of an innovator – he just found a niche market,” says Sue.
“I’d really like to expand our dried fig production – it’s pretty hard to find Australian dried figs these days.”
Wine grapes, quinces and pecans are also grown on the block. The quinces and pecans are sold at the Adelaide wholesale market and in a few weeks, after they have dried, the Heward’s may sell some pecans online.
“The climate is perfect here for growing produce – obviously as long as you have the water,” Sue adds.
“I think the Riverland is the quiet achiever- there’s so much amazing produce here, it’s just unbelievable.
“I’m looking at all avenues and what we can create. We want to build something small and sustainable that will support our family. I’m super grateful to be back here and living in the Riverland. There are plenty of opportunities here – you just have to get out there and find them.”
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