Our Stories

Magic in the kitchen

Located on-farm in the Western Australian Wheatbelt, Marlu Farm Preserves owner, Sandra Hunter, has for many years grown, nurtured and harvested the fruit and vegetables which form the key ingredients to her exquisite and delicious products.  We were lucky enough to have a chat to Sandra and gain some insight into how she creates her highly sought-after produce…

Marlu Farm Preserves owner, Sandra Hunter

Sandra, what motivated your business “Marlu Farms” and where does all the magic in creating your gorgeous products happen?

When I came home to the farm in 2014 I wasn’t really looking to start a business, as I was still working as an Environmental Advisor for the mining industry.  But being back where I grew up, helping look after and grow all our own food as we always had, I quickly realised we produced more than we needed ourselves.  I decided to start making recipes I knew and loved, like jams, relishes and pickles, and gifting them to friends and family.  Then I started to get asked, “do you sell your products?” and “where can I find your products?”  I had never considered it, but this is how it all started.  Firstly, through word of mouth and private sales, then market days, ladies days, fundraisers, gift boxes, the local butcher and now I stock my products in some amazing local cafes and businesses, which I am so grateful for.

And as for the magic, it all happens in my own kitchen.  But really the magic starts in the garden where we spend hours, days, months looking after the orchard, the olive grove, planting, watering, weeding the vegetable garden and producing all the amazing ingredients that make my products unique to Marlu Farms.

What is your favourite product to make and can you tell us why?

I enjoy making all my products because they are all so very different.  The smells, colours, techniques all differ so much.  These days, the products that take the least time are probably my favourite for obvious reasons.  But I can’t go past my Dukkah, Nut & Seed Salad Mix, and Granola – I make these constantly, use them daily, and could not live without them. I am particularly proud of my Dukkah recipe, as it is complex, fragrant, delicious, healthy, versatile and you would be hard pressed to try and replicate it.

What are your most popular products?  And what inspires your products – how do you decide on new products to bring into your range?

My most popular products are the core products I started with – jams, relishes and pickles.  Zucchini Pickles seems to just walk out the door!

Over summer, anything that can be added to a grazing board, like Quince Paste, Onion & Thyme Jam, Dukkah and EVOO.

Over the winter months, its comfort products that everyone goes for, like jams, marmalade, lemon butter and chutneys.

What inspires my products are the ingredients, I try to showcase the key ingredient as best I can, complimenting them with herbs/species that make the perfect match.  And I always try to keep things simple, taking recipes I already use in my own kitchen, perfecting and refining them, so they are ready to share with everyone. As for new products to bring to the range, I think I’m done now! With over 30 different products I now produce, I have my hands full.  But I have always listened to my customers and taken on any suggestions they have had over the years – products like Onion & Thyme Jam, Spice Mix for Seasoning, Pickled Dill Cucumbers, Chilli Jam and Candied Jalapenos have all come from friend requests.

How do you balance your time between your business, your family and farm life?

I think this is the question all rural women ask themselves and never have the answer for. We try our best, that’s all we can do. 

I can’t say I’m very good at it at the moment and constantly feel like there are far too many balls in the air at once.  But I am routine based, I write lists, I am very organised, I prioritise, then reprioritise and cross my fingers it all goes to plan!  And if it doesn’t happen today, there’s always tomorrow.

But most importantly, I try to put my family first.  We are all heavily involved in the garden/orchard, we spend a lot of time outside together in and around the garden and it’s a huge part of our lives.  But if I can, I will leave the bulk of the ‘work’ to when the kids are at school and try to preserve/cook during this time.

What are your fondest memories of meal times with your family when you were growing up? 

Growing up in an Italian family, we shared all our meals together. Grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins……everyone! Whether it was the garden, preparing food, cooking or serving, it was all done together.  And yes, it was very busy, chaotic and load.

It was only when I was in my later years of primary school that my immediate family ate together around a small round table in the kitchen.  This is where we were able to get more hands on, help mum and learn how to cook. I loved being in the kitchen with her and this is where my passion grew.

What can’t you live without in the kitchen? 

A sharp knife, salt and EVOO.

Do you have a favourite cookbook by a person who has inspired your cooking?

I started, like most country people, with the Women’s Weekly Cookbooks.  I pretty much made every recipe in the ‘Beautiful Biscuits’ book, which I still have today. As a young adult, I made sure I wrote down every recipe I had ever made with my mum, calling her on the phone constantly to note down the exact ingredients and cooking family favourites as much as I could.  Later, I was really drawn to healthy cooking, whole foods and understanding what was in the products we ate.  I was inspired by Teresa Cutter and the idea of keeping it as simple as possible and eating clean, which is basically what Mediterranean cooking is about.  This is why all my recipes do not contain additives and thickeners, I reduce sugar quantities where I can, and I try to highlight the key ingredient I am cooking with.

What does the future hold for Marlu Farms? And do you have any special plans for the business? 

At this point, I hope to keep the business ticking along and keep the shelves filled with my amazing products.  Life is only getting busier, so unfortunately there are no plans to expand. But my hope is to continue making my products so they can be enjoyed by all my loyal customers😊

Contact point: 0417 289 964

Sandra’s products can be bought locally along the Pathways to Wave Rock. Make sure you visit our our Local Producers page for more details on where you can purchase Marlu Farms Preserves.

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