A plan to improve soils leads to franchising opportunities
23 Feb 2016
When Theresa and Craig Robinson first began unleashing free-range chickens on their Mt. Dixon property back in 2013, they never envisioned a day when complete strangers would be calling to ask when they could get their hands on a carton of fresh ‘bum nuts.’
Nor did they think their plans to diversify their farming operation would lead to plans for franchising the BumNut brand across Australia.
“Basically, the land had been used for years with nothing done to improve the pasture,” says Theresa.
“The chickens were a way to put something back into the soil. We considered fertilizers and turkey manure but they were prohibitively expensive at the time and we really wanted to use a holistic approach by practicing organic and biodynamic principles.”
Craig, a skilled handyman, began work on an old caravan to house 50 or so chooks on their depleted paddocks. Shortly after completion, that caravan became home for approximately 500 birds.
The chickens took their place in a rotation system amongst the Robinson’s Merino sheep and White Suffolk fat lambs, and expanding Black Angus herd.
“The chickens play an important role in building up the vitality and nutrients in the soil profile. They scratch and dig up the surface fertilizing as they go, we then move the chooks onto fresh pasture and let the paddock rest and with a bit of rain, everything comes back to life!”
The next problem for the Robinsons to solve was working out what to do with the all the eggs.
Initially, Theresa had a difficult time convincing customers that their eggs were a world apart from those found in supermarkets.
“We were giving samples away in the beginning, to cafes and restaurants and educating our potential clients about the difference between free range and pasture-raised free range. No one really understood what we were talking about.”
A bold marketing decision helped nudge things in the right direction.
“Craig’s family had always referred to eggs as “bum nuts” and we thought ‘no, surely we can’t do that,’ says Theresa.
However the more they thought about it, the more they liked it.
“At the end of the day, customers either have a sense of humour or they don’t, so we secured the rights and trademark.”
Gunning Bum Nuts was born.
“It didn’t take long after that as word of mouth got around and a simple ‘poaching of the egg’ set us miles apart from anyone else.”
The Robinsons now have 6,000 chickens and expect to have 9,000 by March. Even with the extra ‘bums’, they will still fall short of meeting the demand for their eggs.
“People are really starting to care about ethical, sustainable produce and there are a lot of small producers out there working hard to educate their customers.”
Theresa and Craig are working on the next phase of their business plan - franchising. Bundy [Bundaberg] Bum Nuts is already up and running, with more to come in the near future.
“We have set up the company (BumNuts Australia) and have more potential franchisees waiting, however we have asked them to hold off while we further develop the proper contracts and formalise the environmental management and food safety plans. “
For other producers who are considering trying something new and diversifying on their farms, Theresa has this advice.
“If you are looking for some ideas to help you start something new, you can have a look at RIRDC’s [Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation] farmdiversity.com.au.”
“Start small and you’ll learn as you go. We read lots of books, looked online, received lots of information from the Department of Primary Industries (thanks Byron Stein), and attended conferences, but at the end of the day, you’ve just got to get in there and give it a go!”