Thorpe Farm Produce
Thorpe Farm is a highly diversified broad acre, niche and boutique farming operation that has been run by seven generations of the Bignell family.
We are large scale commodity producers of wool and prime lambs running approximately 12,000 sheep on 2600ha and this is the financial base of our business. There is a nucleus flock of 150 milking ewes for a sheep milking and cheese making operation which also contribute maternal genetics to the crossbred meat flock.
The business runs a 140ha overhead irrigation scheme with the primary focus on growing poppies, lamb fodder crops and cereals for dairy farmers in the region. We also have 85ha of flood irrigation growing summer pasture which allows us to produce lambs for the premium mid-winter market. The business has heavily diversified over the last 40 years and been a key player in developing new industries for Tasmanian and Australian agriculture. John was a pioneer in developing deer farming techniques and the venison industry in Australia and was one of the first 4 people granted a deer farming permit.
In the late 80s we diversified again and moved into crossbred sheep breeds for meat and milk production. John built Tasmanians first sheep dairy and a farmhouse cheesery on the property and using his chef contacts and his experiences in France developed the very successful and award winning Tasmanian Highland Cheeses range of sheep and goat milk cheeses and yoghurts. The business also diversified into intensive horticulture and grew certified strawberry runners with our peak output being 2 million runners a year. Due to certification requirements the crop has to be rotated annually and to control weeds alternative crops were investigated post strawberry growing. We decided to focus on root vegetables and capitalize on our environmental advantages. European Horseradish, White Salsify, Schorzonera and Jerusalem Artichokes for the fresh veg market were chosen.
Thorpe Farm was also a pioneer in aquatic wasabi growing and helped promote a culture of sharing knowledge, growing techniques and collaboration to import superior genetics amongst interested growers. In the last five years some intensive research and evaluation of garlic varieties has been undertaken and we are now one of the state’s largest growers with an expected harvest of 12 tons this year.
Thorpe Farm is home to Australia’s oldest working watermill and we run the mill for tour groups and also have a second 180 year old stone mill used to grind flour for local bakers and wholefood stores around Hobart. As part of this business we also grow and mentor other growers to produce specialty grains for the milling sector with a focus on Spelt and Ryecorn.
Thorpe Farm has also been active in the food services sector running Paddock to Plate catering events, gastronomic tours and attending many food festivals across the state.