Antonia O’Brien, Wellington Apiary & Sprout Board member
What do you do and what is your background?
I own and run Wellington Apiary with my husband Robin – so I am a beekeeper and all around boring paper person (as Robin puts it). We produce pure, raw Tasmanian honey, beeswax and honeycomb. Together we manage every aspect of running a small business and around 80 beehives. It is rewarding and satisfying, and allows me to spend more time with our young sons as well as manage work hours, a perfect balance. Prior to this I have been a practicing lawyer, child protection worker and senior policy analyst.
How did you first become involved with Sprout?
I was aware of Sprout Tasmania and the work of Alice and Tony a few years back. Such an important area of supporting Tasmanian producers to grow great food, and one that I feel has previously been neglected. I was interested and keen to be able to contribute from my experiences and provide ongoing support.
What is your vision for Tasmania's agricultural future?
We are truly lucky to live in a beautiful and accessible place like Tasmania. We have an abundance of the clearest water, fertile soil, amazing views, the cleanest air and importantly we are GMO free. Consumers are increasingly knowledgeable and interested in the provenance of their food.
My vision for Tasmania’s agriculture sector would be to not focus all our efforts on one quick money making area, but to incorporate the natural beauty of the state with the products grown and produced here. A mix of agri-tourism, eco tourism, niche and specialty products that often have a high-end value.
Small producers are being overlooked for larger influential ones, and the smaller ones are left behind. It is these people that are the tapestry and I believe the foundation to really ensuing value-adding by being Tasmanian is kept.
Who is your food hero: your greatest inspiration as a cook/grower?
As much as I love to read cooking books and follow various cooks, growers and food writers on social media - my greatest inspiration comes from my friend Wilhelmina Rea who has a kitchen garden to rival any small scale operation; complete with an orchard, chickens and every flower & plant she can grow right here in central Hobart. No area of her garden or walls have gone to waste - she cooks with seasonal produce, makes her own relish, sauces and preserves as well as cooking like a qualified chef and she’s only in her early 30s! An inspiration not just only for her seasonal produce and delicious & varied cooking but imagine the small footprint we’d all put on the earth if we followed such philosophy.
What ingredients are you most excited about right now?
Seasonal produce always features in our meals. Robin runs the kitchen garden and cooking areas, and we both like to experiment with new seeds and unusual produce and involve the boys in the process. Romanesco broccoli is a current family favourite.