VEGETABLE grower Darren Corrigan has made it on to the top-rating My Kitchen Rules
A 5th generation farmer, Mr Corrigan and his sister, Deborah, operate Corrigan's Produce Farms, on Tuckers Rd.
He appears as one of six Coles vegetable suppliers Australia-wide, selected for outstanding products and commitment to quality.
Mr Corrigan's Clyde segment was recorded while he was working on a leek crop.
"It was a humbling thing to be selected and I really enjoyed getting together with the other growers who were chosen for the TV program," he said. "I generally keep a low profile, so this was something different. I'm looking forward to seeing how I went."
The Corrigan's farming roots can be traced back to 1854.
The business now sells 2.4 million baby cos lettuces alone to Coles each year.
Corrigans Produce on MKR
VICTORIAN vegetable grower Darren Corrigan has gone from the farm to prime time, appearing in My Kitchen Rules on Channel 7 this week.
The fifth-generation Clyde farmer was approached to appear on behalf of Coles supermarket, which Darren supplies and which sponsors the cooking competition.
Darren was one of six Coles suppliers from across Australia selected to appear in the series.
"I really enjoyed the experience," Darren said.
"I also particularly enjoyed meeting the other growers who were selected across Australia.
"I tend to like to do my work and have a low profile so this was something different."
Darren's farming roots can be traced back to 1854 when Corrigan's Produce Farms began operating in Keysborough, growing vegetables and transporting them by horse and cart to the Melbourne markets.
The business is now managed by Darren and his sister Deborah.
Deborah was recognised for her work with the prestigious AusVeg Women in Horticulture Award in 2011.
Last year the farm won the Casey Business Award for Agriculture.
The business produces 2.4 million baby cos lettuces a year, and also celery, celeriac, silverbeet, cabbage, onions, pak choy and leeks.
Reference: Alex Sampson | February 27, 2013
Deborah Corrigan Wins AusVeg Award
DESPITE Deborah Corrigan's success in the vegetable industry, she recalls a time when she wasn't allowed near the family farm.
Third-generation vegetable grower Deborah might have been born into farming, but she has had to fight tooth and nail to forge a career in the industry.
The former beauty therapist decided she wanted to work part-time for her father, Geoff, after having the first of her three children.
"But being a girl I wasn't allowed to go near the farm," she said.
"There were no women allowed on the farm."
While her brothers Darren and Stephen worked alongside their father, Deb's first job was to help with office work on the Clyde property and answer the phone.
Her first office was typical of the times - a corrugated iron shed full of cobwebs and spiders, with one toilet.
Deb bought her own electric kettle, graduated to a caravan and found herself becoming more involved with agronomic and production issues.
This, she recalls, sent her brothers loopy because they didn't approve of her speaking to the all-male staff.
"I had huge fights with my brothers and they'd run to Dad, but that all settled down and I made myself more and more useful," she said.
"As farming has become more like a business and we had quality assurance come in and all sorts of rules and regulations, I was looking after all that.
"I did a whole lot of courses.
"I learnt from listening to Dad all the time and from Darren.
"I read every magazine, every book. The internet was fantastic and I taught myself a lot of things.
"I did chemical courses, quality assurance, soil quality, insects and pest and diseases.
"If I don't know how to fix something I'll just keep going until I work it out, or I'll find someone who can help me and I'll get an answer."
Deb said the farm had changed dramatically over the years as it expanded and women were employed in more roles.
She estimates the workforce is now 100, with about a 50-50 split between genders.
The purpose-built office has been extended twice and now houses an office manager and the office girls.
The business also employs a team of accountants, a sales manager and an assistant sales manager.
Deb and Darren run the business together, deciding which crops to grow, what varieties to plant, how much of each crop to plant and which blocks to spell.
"We find we complement each other with our strengths and weaknesses,'' she said.
"We work really well together, like a married couple really.''
Darren is often on the motorbike checking crops, water, installing new irrigation systems or having equipment made and Stephen is responsible for field preparation.
The 240ha farm produces eight crops: celery, baby cos lettuce, leek, celeriac, silverbeet, tuscan cabbage, pak choy and salad onions.
The lettuce is washed and packaged under strict quality controls and sold in a twin-pack, while the onions are sold singly or in small bunches.
The family is well known for the white salad onions, branded "Sweeties'', developed over many years of research, seed selection and testing by Geoff and Darren.
Hand-planted and hand-harvested, the onion has been one of the farm's most valuable crops.
"They're going well, everyone loves them,'' Deborah said.
"We've been growing them for so long now.
"Dad developed all the varieties. I think he's got about 35 selections, so we plant all the time.
"We tend to lean towards high-value low-volume crops, things that other people find difficult to do.
"We've probably got too many lines but we always like to have a project and when something gets up and it's successful, it's quite exciting really.''
A former member of the Vegetable Growers Association of Victoria's executive - which she had to leave because of the demands of farming and raising three children on her own - Deb's work for the industry was acknowledged earlier this year when she won the women in horticulture award from AusVeg.
She said she was pleased to be recognised for her involvement in the VGA's research and development advisory committee, the industry development officer management committee and the EnviroVeg management committee.
The Corrigans' was among the first farms to embrace quality assurance and the EnviroVeg environmental program.
Deb said she would like to see more farming women step forward and take on a role within the industry, but the industry needed to do more to encourage women.
"I suppose because I was born into it, that might make a difference,'' she said. "The industry should pick up on the value of what women can contribute.
"Don't think women can't do it, because they can. We have women out there who can cut for 12 hours alongside men.''
Deb said horticulture was never boring, but it could be stressful.
And her response to stress?
"Simple, all it takes is a cuppa and cake to make everyone feel better. I suppose that's a girl thing,'' she said.
ABC - Landline story on Kale - featuring Deborah Corrigan