On a wintry June day Women on Farms members visited Gembrook to hear the history of Mountain Harvest Foods. This business is managed and run by the Failla family, led by brother and sister, Anthony Failla and Christina de Sousa. The family is passionate about growing potatoes at Gembrook, and more recently, sweet potatoes at Bundaberg. They have also developed a facility for ‘value adding’ by raw product processing at Gembrook.
Christina is now the CEO of the production business, with Anthony managing the operations. He continues to run the Gembrook potato property, while their parents remain active in the farming business.
Their mother’s parents, originally from Italy, began the Gembrook farm. Their father also came out from Italy to work and he stayed. Christina reported that her parents worked hard to grow the best potatoes, in time, expanding both farm and family. Christina’s mother’s better English meant she was always an integral to the business for contacts, working with politicians and agricultural people for improvements to the potato industry, especially in promotion of health and benefits for local farmers.
A passion to achieve the best in production was passed on to all the children who pursued off-farm careers, but the farm eventually drew them back.
At the outset, most of the farm produce was sold to supermarkets, now only a small amount is so sold. Due to increasingly tight quality specifications for potatoes in the retail scene, processed product was developed. Now Mountain Harvest Foods has a processing facility to make potato cakes and sweet potato chips. Today, much of the produce is value-added, with the factory also processing other food lines when space is available.
Relationships with customers and supplying a quality product to meets consumer needs have been at the forefront of the business from the beginning. When Christina talks about the family business, their families, workers, suppliers and customers, a passion for doing a job properly comes through. Her talents as a former practising psychologist and Anthony’s engineering background, combined with vision and courage, collectively ensure the ultimate outcome – wholesome Australian food!