Prosperity prevails in Bordertown
As the thriving agricultural heart of the Tatiara region, Bordertown shows no signs of slowing its momentum. It proves it has what it takes to be a finalist for the 2023 Agricultural Town of the Year Awards.
Photo: Lara Pacillo
Located in the state’s east 20km from Victoria, Bordertown may be commonly known as a convenient pit stop for travellers journeying between Adelaide and Melbourne.
The Morning Loaf Bakery offers a perfect spot for lunch and a leg stretch, alongside a tranquil park and creek.
But beyond this, Bordertown is the thriving heart of the Tatiara region, boasting progressive and prosperous agricultural industries.
With adequate groundwater supplies from aquifers, complemented by the natural assets of fertile soils, ample rainfall and a temperate Mediterranean-style climate, Bordertown has flourished into a vibrant regional centre often referred to as “the good country”.
“You can have a look around at the crops – they’re blooming,” says Matt Halsall, manager of AWE Richards Butchers.
“It’s just a very plentiful country, and people really, really take good care of it.”
AWE Richards Butchers is located off the main street and contributes to the lively strip of retail and amenities in Bordertown.
With 80 per cent of the its products locally sourced, the butcher aligns with the “paddock to plate” ethos that circles the town.
Bordertown’s thriving industries have led to low unemployment; yet this success has also come with staff and housing shortages.
The town’s largest employer, the local abattoir JBS Bordertown, has taken steps to address these challenges.
It purchased a motel and converted it into staff accommodation with the capacity to house up to 70 people, including migrants from countries like Fiji and Tonga who are being welcomed into the community.
“Housing was always a potential crisis; without the purchase of this, we had nothing to do,” plant manager Trevor Schiller says.
“The buy was a win-win for us and a win-win for the team of people who came here.”
AWE Richards Butchers just off Bordertown’s main street. All photos: Lara Pacillo
The influx of newcomers into the community, particularly in agri-business, has contributed to an 11.5 per cent population increase over the last decade, with the current population now just below 3000.
Staff shortages result in big businesses in the area competing for employees, but this competition is viewed as a positive challenge that drives continual self-improvement, quality enhancement and exceptional service.
One such business, family-run Tatiara Truck & Trailers, began in 1983 and has grown to become the second-largest truck repair and maintenance business in South Australia.
Customers from across the state travel for its “old-fashioned” culture and service.
Family-run Tatiara Truck & Trailers is the second-largest truck repair and maintenance business in South Australia
“People drive to where they can get the job fixed,” says co-director John Jenkins.
“We do it right. We do it once. We charge the right amount. When you get trucks coming from Burra and Clare, they don’t come here just for fun.”
Grant Wise, dealer principal and director of Wise Farm Equipment, emphasises the interconnectedness of these businesses.
“We either compete or we support each other, but either way, the local customer wins and then we’re all stronger for it,” he says.
“We’ve found over the years that it just brings more and more people to the town, because we all have to be as good as we can be.”
Reflecting on the town’s resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, Grant notes that it was one of the most challenging periods in his business career.
Due to the close proximity of the Victorian state border, many customers were affected by border closures.
The team resorted to meeting customers at the border itself to exchange equipment and supplies across what had been, until the pandemic, a mere line on the map. The experience toughened the town but also made it more resilient.
The AgTown of the Year judging panel along with Blue Lake Milling staff member
In the plentiful country of Bordertown, businesses are expressing innovation.
Blue Lake Milling, a leading manufacturer of oat and grain products, has established the only anaerobic digester in South Australia to address electricity supply constraints and rising costs.
This digester significantly reduces organic waste going to landfill, redirecting it towards production of clean, green energy and biofertiliser to capture nutrients.
Husband and wife team Mick and Linda Andersen launched Good Country Hemp as the first and only hemp processing facility in the state, following the legalisation of the retail sale of hemp seed food in 2017.
Good Country Hemp contracts local growers to cultivate hemp between harvests, maximising revenue for the farms.
“That rotation works quite well with their current farming practices, and they’ve already got the machinery there as well for their crops,” Linda says.
The company processes the seed into hemp foods, selling in supermarkets and health food stores, and distributing them where Bordertown’s location between Adelaide and Melbourne makes it a great spot for transport.
Good Country Hemp has recently introduced a line of salad dressings to value add to the business and make its products more accessible to consumers.
Mick and Linda’s three children studied at Bordertown High School, which, in conjunction with the town’s healthcare services and lifestyle opportunities, makes this community very autonomous.
“It’s a self-sufficient, thriving, reliable area,” Mick says.
“All the farmers, they help each other out, and they all strive to do well. It’s a fair dinkum solid town that gets the job done.”