There are not many things more delicious than crushing a fresh blueberry between your teeth and getting that sweet and tangy burst of flavour – it’s something you never get tired of. Even while visiting Natalie Bell on her farm in Lindendale, we were chatting and Natalie, who has pretty much grown up on blueberries, was plucking the perfectly ripe fruit from the shrub on which it grows and snacking – we both were! This fruit is irresistible.
I am visiting Tallogum, a blueberry farm owned and run by Natalie and her husband Paul Lloyd. This is a huge operation that grows several varieties of berries and employs more than 50 people.
‘Paul and I both come from horticulture backgrounds,’ says Natalie. ‘Paul has been working in the industry for the past 30 years, including running farms and managing the supply chain for produce into Australian supermarkets.
‘My background is in all things blueberries – my father, Ridley Bell, is considered a pioneer in the blueberry industry.’
Ridley Bell is recognised for his involvement in introducing blueberries into Australia, but more recently his work in blueberry breeding and the licensing of blueberry varieties globally.
‘I spent ten years working for my family business, learning every part of the business; from farming to marketing and accounting. And in 2014 Paul and I purchased a run down blueberry farm next to my family’s blueberry farm in Lindendale. The farm was growing old, poorly producing blueberries. Our goal was to establish a sustainable farm that focused on supplying a premium product locally. We turned a portion of the farm into protected cropping raspberries, which we still grow today. We also began replacing the orchard with new blueberry varieties under more sustainable practices, including protected cropping and growing in substrate bags. Today we are one third through the redevelopment of the farm.
Natalie says she loves providing customers in the region with an amazing local blueberry. Her customers are happy to support a local family farm supplying locals with premium blueberries.
Natalie says, in recent months, health restrictions have made them even more aware of their local customers. ‘We have always been involved in local farmers’ markets, but we have become more aware of the importance of our local customers and thinking outside the square on how we can reach these customers.’
Natalie says she and Paul plan to continue rejuvenating the orchard to grow new improved blueberries with an aim to supply blueberries locally for as many months of year as possible.
You can find Tallowgum blueberries across the region in stores, at local farmers’ markets and at the Byron Bay pop-up, every Friday from 2–6pm at the corner of Butler and Lawson streets.