Red for Love at Noosa Reds
There are plenty of producers on the coast who have built their brand on quality, consistency and service but, as Matt Golinski discovers, few who have reached a cult following to the degree that what they’re selling doesn’t need to be mentioned in the name to be recognised.
First timers to town might assume ‘Noosa Reds’ is the local footy team, but locals and regular visitors all know it’s the tomatoes you’d happily get in the car and make a special trip to get hold of; just to be sure that Caprese or Greek salad is memorable for all the right reasons.
On restaurant menu descriptions all over South-East Queensland, their mention is a guarantee that you’ll be receiving a dish that has the flavour and texture that would make even the proudest Italian farmer swoon.
Legendary status doesn’t happen overnight though – Peter Segher’s love for growing tomatoes started back in 1993 in Belgium when he discovered
an emerging trend in agriculture called hydroponics, and started his own business growing and selling his fruit
to the local market.
Three years later, on a quest for adventure, he left his home with $2,000 and a return ticket (which he never used!) and headed to New Zealand.
Hard work saw his six-month work visa turned into a permanent one, and on a visit to the South Island from Auckland, he fell in love with Blenheim – and a girl called Dory.
Peter’s experience with hydroponics was invaluable to producers who were just beginning to invest in setups to supply the local restaurants with herbs, lettuces and tomatoes, and his advice quickly became sought-after as an expert in the industry.
When a new venture in Bundaberg was having shade houses built by a New Zealand company and asked if they knew someone who could help set them up.
This time, a three-day visit to Australia turned into a 20-year adventure for Peter and Dory, establishing and running farms in Queensland and South Australia.
In 2012, they bought the already established Noosa Reds in Doonan, and have spent the past 10 years working tirelessly to bring it up to the formidable level it is now.
A walk through the rows of winding plants is a tomato lover’s dream.
Six different cherry tomato varieties of all shapes and colours hang alongside gnarly heirloom varieties, bright pink Romas, and burstingly-ripe large red tomatoes.
In summer, baby cucumbers join the offering, and an invitation to come and see the fruit in full flight is like a test to try to resist stuffing your face as you walk around (which I always fail).
Like any type of farming, this is a tough business and there’s plenty that can go wrong. Too hot, too humid, too cold, sudden unexplainable diseases in the plants, and then recently, far too much rain.
In the recent floods the entire farm went under, and there was nothing to do but clean up and start again. With a little help from the community that adores them, and a whole lot of patience and passion for what they do, they’re back in production again, albeit with slightly reduced volumes at this stage.
After many years spending all week growing, picking, packing and delivering tomatoes, then hitting the markets on weekends, Peter has decided it’s time something has to give, so rather than seeing them in person at Yandina Markets, or Noosa and Kawana Farmers Markets, he’s started supplying a number of shops across the coast so you can still get your fix.
Tewantin Market Garden in Tewantin, Organika and Awesome Little Fruit Shop in Noosa, Dragan Farms in Peregian, Silo Wholefoods in Yandina and Grub Organic in Mudjimba all stock Noosa Reds which are delivered straight from the farm twice a week.
You can also collect your coins and drop into the farm on Beddington Rd in Doonan and pick up a bag or two whenever you like. Chances are you’ll see Peter behind the sliding glass doors of the packing shed lovingly hand polishing each tomato and placing it into a tray once he’s given it his personal quality check.