How one customer’s fondness for organics made Garden Organics what it is today
Before the crack of dawn, at precisely 3.15am, Karen Birthisel and Fahna Ammett are awake and hunting down the best produce at their regular wholesale market for their Garden Organics stall at Queen Victoria Market (QVM).
As the business owner, Karen has been adamant about having fresh, premium quality, certified organic produce within her stall since she took over the business in 2002.
And, it was actually the previous owner’s commitment to providing this same service that originally drew Karen into Garden Organics in the first place.
“The business was created and founded by a woman called Di Fyson in 1996, and I was one of Di’s shoppers as I had a young family and decided to feed the children certified organics,” she said.
I was a bookkeeper at the time and ended up doing Di’s bookkeeping, then in 2002 when she decided she wanted to sell the business I was at a point in my life where I was ready for a change.
While it would appear to be a drastic change, it was in fact a natural progression for Karen who spent her childhood growing vegetables and being “quite fond” of cooking with fresh produce.
Since taking over Garden Organics, she has not looked back.
“It’s a lovely business to have and the interactions you have with customers has a real community feel to it, and everyone looks after each other and is helpful,” she said.
“You see people that are expecting a child and decide to go organic, and then you see the children grow up and they also start shopping at the stall, it’s quite a nice feeling and it’s a good community to be in.”
Reflecting on the gratitude she felt for the market, Fahna, who has been working at the Garden Organics with Karen since 2007, assists with filling up the truck three times a week with produce from certified organic growers and wholesale agents before bringing it back to QVM to set up the stall.
Time spent doing this over the years has meant both Karen and Fahna have become quite knowledgeable about everything they sell, and they are more than willing to pass on everything they know to their customers.
“Someone asked me today where my red onions were from and I could tell them the farm that grew them, because we have knowledge about everything we sell and their background,” Karen said.
“If customers come into the shop and ask for help, we also have enough knowledge to assist them with what they need. We can recommend the best cooking apples or potatoes depending on what they are cooking, and what is exceptional that week.”
The ability to have these conversations is what sets Garden Organics apart from your everyday conventional supermarkets, and it is something Karen is proud of.
As the weather cools, customers can expect delicious plums and a wide range of heritage apples; including Cox’s Orange Pippin apples, Elstar apples, Spartan apples, and Snow apples, to name a few.
“We carry a lot of apples you can’t get from the supermarket, and they have a lot more of a complex flavour than what your normal Fuji or Pink Lady apple has,” Karen said.
The cooler, wintry months also means good quality root vegetables are on offer, before spring brings broad beans and asparagus, and summer brings the crowd favourite stone fruits and berries.
“Each season will bring something new,” Karen said. “And my focus, through each season, is on fresh premium quality certified organics.” •
For more information: gardenorganics.com.au