A seventh-generation farmer makes the most of the rich, free-draining soil at the south end of the Mornington Peninsula to grow outstanding root vegetables and leafy greens, discovers Richard Cornish.

What is it?
Hawkes Farm is known as much for its freshly harvested fruit and vegetables as the triple-cooked chips they sell at the farm gate. The rich, sandy loam is perfect for growing root vegetables such as bunching carrots, beetroot, and especially potatoes. Over summer, the farm produces strawberries, sweet corn, parsley and spring onions. Much of the produce is sold direct to public through the farm gate, which also sells the produce of another 40 local farmers. The secret to farming in the sandy soil is green manure crops – crops grown specifically to be dug back into the soil to add nutrients – such as sorghum and lucerne.

Who’s producing it?
The Hawkes family moved to the Mornington Peninsula in 1969 when their market garden in Mordialloc was consumed by suburbia. In 2017, seventh-generation farmer Richard Hawkes and his wife Georgie took over the farm. French couple Arthur and Valerie Roullier run the Hawkes Farm Kitchen and cook the chips, made from Sebago potatoes grown on the farm. They also make an exceptional croque monsieur.

Where is it?
Hawkes Farm is nestled between the sand dunes at Boneo, which sits between Bass Strait and Port Phillip at the southern end of the Mornington Peninsula. “We have a maritime climate here, protected from extremes of heat and cold by the influence of the bays and Bass Strait,” says Richard. “So we don’t get frosts. The sandy soil also warms earlier in spring than clay-based soils so ground temperatures rise faster,” he says. “We can plant earlier than growers in other areas, meaning we get produce to market earlier in the season.”

Why it’s different
Hawkes Farm is one of a few market gardens which focuses on direct-to-public sales and developing a brand based on consistent quality. Hawkes’ regenerative farming efforts have enriched the soil, producing deeply flavourful vegetables.

Who’s a fan?
“Although the team here grow most of our own veg, I love Hawkes’ kipfler potatoes,” says Matt Wilkinson, culinary director at Montalto, Red Hill. Wilkinson takes the long, little potatoes and cuts them into thin slices,  blanches them, then puts them in a salad of bitter greens with a lemon, shallot and tarragon dressing. This is served with beef rump roasted in a wood-fired oven. “They’re also gorgeous finely diced and cooked in mussel juice to make a sauce for Flinders mussels,” he says.

Just up the road at Max’s Restaurant at Red Hill Estate, restaurateur Max Paganoni has been using Hawkes’ Sebago potatoes for hand-cut chips and Paris mash for years. “In summer we make the most of their berries, carrots and spring onions. We use whatever produce they grow,” he says. “I like the people, I like the seasonality, I like that is a stone’s throw from Max’s and that they use sustainable farming principles.”

Where can I get it?
Buy direct from Hawkes Farm’s farmgate at 661 Boneo Road, Boneo. Elsewhere on the Peninsula, try Red Hill Cellar and Pantry in Red Hill South and Torello Farm in Dromana. In Melbourne, go to Toscano’s in Kew, Richmond and Hawksburn; Boccacio Cellars in Balwyn; Biviano & Sons in Fairfield and Georgie’s Harvest at the South Melbourne Market.

By Richard Cornish