Drought-stricken 100-year-old Riverland orchard saved by Instagram business

What started as a method to save the drought-stricken Hewerd Orchard, Singing Magpie has turned into a flourishing dried fruit business highlighting the Riverland.

Sue Hewerd is using her families 100-year-old orchard to spread the importance of community and supporting local businesses in SA through her online business Singing Magpie.

Leaving behind the bustling city life in Melbourne, Sue and her husband Mark and daughter Frankie returned to her roots to the family Hewerd’s Orchard in Monash when it faced serious drought. Wanting to do more, Sue began to dry the delicious fruit and share the product on her Instagram account, Singing Magpie.

The account took off when it was featured in the Buy from the Bush campaign, the initiative shining a light on the importance of sourcing locally since Covid-19 as communities needed to come together to support each other. Since then the dry fruit business has gone from strength to strength, with Singing Magpie in such high-demand Sue bought 5-tonnes of Hewerd fruit and hired three extra staff to help her.

Sue started the business producing semi-dried figs and quinces from her family’s orchard, now expanding the multi-award-winning gourmet food to sun-dried Smyrna quince and other sun-dried produce and fruit covered in glorious dark chocolate couverture which is perfect for grazing boards or gifts.

On the Singing Magpies Instagram Sue shares her creative outlook on local food, farming and recipes using the farm produce, from a fig and pecan hummingbird cake to chicken braised with figs, honey, and vinegar syrup. Telling stories and creating an online community is what generates Singing Magpie customers and keeps them coming back for more.

“I would highly recommend local and small businesses to create an online presence where they can create value on their produce or products through their stories and community,” said Sue.

Their rainbow gift box tells a story of the Riverland as it contains fruit from every town and weighing in at 2.2kg as one of their most popular boxes.

“It’s not just about sales, it’s about the community and letting customers learn about where their produce is coming from,” she says.

Singing Magpie has a strong focus on community, customer service and producing high-quality products to customers who choose local. The family have been providing produce to businesses such as Maggie Beer, Beerenberg, and the Adelaide Wholesale Fruit & Vegetable market for over 40 years!

Sue is truly passionate about Australian produce, especially figs, as the season to grow is short and it can be difficult to transport. This is where the market for Australian dried figs is perfect as they keep the best qualities without getting squished from international travel. Their home-grown figs are hand-picked, dried in the Riverland sun and then sent to you with no additives.

The business also likes to keep things simple whilst caring about their ecological footprint by using low impact farming methods and providing customers access to seasonal Australian produce where they can.

The family orchard began in 1920’s when Amos Hewerd planted the first orchard and today the family harvests 1000 fig, 200 quince, 50 pecan trees and approximately 100 tonnes of wine grapes.

For more information or to purchase from Singing Magpies visit their website here

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