L & L Pepperfarms
Grown, harvested and dried in Silkwood, about 25km South of Innisfail in North Queensland, our pepper is grown by Donna Campagnolo, who bought the farm from her parents Levi and Myra in 2005 after her father and uncle retired.
L & L Pepperfarms was started by brothers Levi and Louis Campagnolo and was born out of a search for crop alternatives after a downturn in the sugar industry. After researching crops, Levi and Louis decided on pepper after seeing it grow while working on sugar plantations in the Phillippines.
Aussie Pepper has about 5000 pepper plants on 3 hectares, with another 50 hectares under sugar cane.
The pepper plant hits peak production around 6-8 years old, but the Campagnolas still have 30 year old plants that bear fruit.
The plants require a good downpour of about 100mm of rain to bring about flowering, with fruiting occurring about 7-8 months later.
Harvesting pepper is labour intensive, season dictated operation that constricts growers down to a two week picking window, with 12 locals turning up to pick each year.
To harvest, mats are placed under the trees so no fruit falls onto the ground. The fruit is picked down onto the mats, then loaded into the shed where the pepper ‘spikes’ are stripped from the twigs and leaves in a threshing machine. The peppercorns are then put through a large tumbler with blowers to eliminate more of the unwanted leaf matter before spending three to six days, depending on the humidity levels, drying in the sun.
Next, the peppercorns are taken to a seed company at Walkamin to remove any remaining sticks, stones or leaves before being dried down to 10% and going into storage in 200 litre drums as whole black.
Despite its spicy flavour, it has a number of predators including feral pigs and several insects which the Campagnolas control with parasitic (Anastasus) wasps all year round. Further complications arise with cyclones, with two major events happening in 2006 and 2011, each of which wiping out around 30-40% of the crop.
With so few Australian growers to call on, and L & L only producing on average about 2 tonnes annually, the pepper is often sold out before the next harvest begins. This ensures that if you are buying pepper from L & L you will be getting the freshest pepper on the market.
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