A quiet cropping revolution has been taking place on Kangaroo Island and its success is spreading around the digital world. From the breathtaking beauty of the island’s Vivonne Bay to a brightly packaged product that can claim, without fear of contradiction, that it really is good for you.
Never heard of it?
Beta-glucan is made up of a group of β-D-glucose polysaccharides, naturally occurring in the cell walls of cereals — especially oats and barley — and some bacteria and fungi.
Our new best pal, beta-glucan, decreases blood levels of LDL cholesterol and might reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. As well as helping the heart, beta-Gs can be texturing agents in various nutraceutical and cosmetic products — and as a soluble fibre supplement.
Now let’s turn our attention to the South Australian Research and Development Institute and its world-class grain breeding program, from which emerged Kowari.
Not the kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei) you might also know by its Diyari name, kariri. That kowari is a small carnivorous marsupial, native to the gibber deserts of central Australia.
No, our Kowari is the exciting new oat variety, specifically developed for human consumption.
It’s also the cornerstone of Kangaroo Island Oats, an innovative boutique business run by Kangaroo Island farmers Steve and Lucy Morgan, which markets rolled and quick oats in 450g and 900g pack sizes.
The oats are 100 per cent grown on the island continent’s biggest island, at the Morgans’ 600-hectare property near Vivonne Bay, a second 160ha block near Kingscote (the island’s unofficial capital) and a planting on a third property to spread the geographical and seasonal risk.
Kowari is not the only oat grown for human consumption — but it is probably the healthiest. It has been developed with taste and your health as priorities — and it’s available in-store or online now from Kangaroo Island Oats.
“The wildly stunning and world-famous remote location of Kangaroo Island infuses the very essence of our products as well as our philosophy,” Steve said.
“There is a vitality to all we do, born from a unique environment.
“The unspoilt land of Kangaroo Island can be experienced in every mouthful of our premium products, that grow with the best of everything — fresh coastal air, clean water and a pristine natural environment.
“Kangaroo Island has an international reputation for producing some of the world’s finest gourmet foods and is home to a passionate community of food lovers living in a region known for its artisan products.
“Kangaroo Island Oats are no exception.”
Provenance is the other word to complete the package.
“After harvest the oats are shipped to a mill at Bordertown and when they know we are coming, they shut down production and clean the mill from end to end — it’s called a provenance run — so we can guarantee you are only buying our Kowari oats,” Steve explained.
“From there the oats are trucked to Melrose Park for packaging, and then, to complete the cycle, some go back to the island while others are distributed to our growing list of customers.”
A list that targets boutique operators and a network of South Australia’s independent supermarkets such as Drake’s, Romeo’s, Foodland, IGA and Tony and Marks.
Steve also does fruit and vegie shops, motels and, after the island’s crippling bushfires, dabbled in farmers’ markets. That has stopped for now, but is still an option in the not-too-distant future.
“The proven health benefits of this oat attract a certain kind of buyer, the increasing numbers who really do want to know what they are putting in their bodies, and they also want to know where the food came from, how it was grown — the whole story,” Steve said.
“That includes the unparalleled remote, coastal landscape of KI, which we believe enhances the exceptional quality, creating a delicious and nourishing addition to your day.”
Steve said because of Kangaroo Island’s reliable temperate climate they had faced few challenges with their Kowari — they rotate crops, and it is three to four years before any paddock gets its next oats.
“That’s why we have the sheep, they complement the cropping and between oats the paddocks grow pasture, although we may look at introducing peas the season before the oats go back in to fix some nitrogen in the soil.”
Steve’s family history on the island stretches back to his grandfather who, like so many others, arrived as a soldier settler, and Steve’s father grew up on that property.
“Dad bought a scrub block back in the 1960s and that’s where I grew up. Like many young people on farms I left to see the world and was away for 15 years,” Steve said.
“But marriage and kids brought me back in 2005 and we have been working the farm since then.
“While KI Oats is far from the major cashflow for the business, we absolutely love doing it. We believe in the product, and we see genuine growth in the business, and we enjoy that it also gets us off the farm, which is good for all of us and has real health benefits for us as well.”
Steve said all too often these days, we are overwhelmed with unhealthy choices and hidden nasties.
“There are so many breakfast options available, but we want our discerning customers to truly feel like they have a trustworthy and dependable choice when they start their day with Kangaroo Island Oats.”
Steve said it didn’t stop with the end consumer.
“Already we’ve been approached by long-standing generational farmers and locals who can’t help but share their own dedication and support back.
“That’s when we know we’re on the right path and it gives us the confidence to succeed.
“In short, we believe in giving back to people, to the land and to our community. Kangaroo Island Oats is ethically conscious, and our company exists to be a positive influence on the world.
“Furthermore, we’re privately owned and 100 per cent Australian. To demonstrate our commitment to sustainability, we’re running paperless where possible, plus incorporating low-impact, sustainable farming and production practices.
“We’re a tight-knit community and together we pour our love for food, health and a clean environment into our ethical approach.”