For the Hawkes family, vegetables aren’t small potatoes. In fact, potatoes play a pivotal role in their Victorian farm and produce business located in Boneo on the picturesque Mornington Peninsula.
“Our business comprises three parts. We have the farm itself where we grow a variety of vegetables and sell wholesale to grocers and restaurants,” said co-owner Georgie Hawkes.
“Then we have our farmgate, including our online store, which is a direct-to-public retail shopfront and then we have what we call ‘Hawkes Produce’, which is the processing side of the business.
“We have a facility where we grade, wash and package up produce ready for market, the majority of which is potatoes. While some of this produce is our own, we also process potatoes for other growers who don’t have these facilities.”
It’s a diverse business model that has proven effective for the farming family.
According to Hawkes, the farm’s success and growth can be attributed to a combination of high yield farming practice and vertical business integration, the Hawkes’ grow, pack, and market their own product.
“My husband Richard is a six-generation vegetable farmer. His dad originally bought the farm here in the 1970s, but he comes from a long line of veggie growers,” said Hawkes.
“He understands what is required to ensure the soil conditions are optimal, such as crop rotation for high yields.”
Richard began growing potatoes in the early 2000s, originally trialling some on a small patch of the family farmland. Now, potatoes make up their largest line.
“This is followed by Dutch carrots, and we also grow spring onions, radishes, kale and parsley,” Hawkes continued.
“We recently had a contract for washing a large quantity of carrots, so we upgraded our equipment.”
The upgrade involved the purchase of new washer machines from overseas.
Although state-of-the-art, when the team at Hawkes assembled the machines at their facility, the bearings did not appear to fit correctly.
“It wasn’t quite right, so Richard contacted BSC, which is our go-to service provider, urgently about the parts needed,” said Hawkes.
“I don’t know the full details of the exchange, but I understand that the guys from BSC went above and beyond to help us out.”
Leon Stefanec, BSC’s national business development manager for food and beverage, was the one who took Richard’s call.
“Richard called our after-hours service line on a Saturday afternoon with an urgent enquiry about bearings. The new processing equipment he’d purchased from overseas had issues with the bearings – perhaps they didn’t fit correctly, and were of inferior quality,” said Stefanec.
“The washer was critical to Hawkes Vegetables being able to fulfill a large carrot washing contract they had. Richard was mindful of the importance of the contract. They had a strict timeline to adhere to and needed to process a large batch of carrots in a very short timeframe, otherwise the vegetables would spoil.”
As the Hawkes’ family needed a large quantity of high-quality bearings, and quickly, Leon immediately contacted NSK.
“They were up against it, and it was unusual for us to receive an order for such a high quantity of bearings and housings out of business hours, so I basically rang NSK straight away,” said Stefanec.
“NSK have a great after-hours process and service and their branch is not too far from BSC Frankston, which is the local branch to the Hawkes’ family. Richard was insistent that he needed a good quality bearing brand, so I elected to go with NSK knowing the importance of the contract to them and not wanting the produce to spoil.
“We were able to help them out, with myself and one of the Hawkes’ maintenance staff meeting at the NSK warehouse in Dandenong to fulfill the order.”
When Stefanec followed up on Monday, all was well on the Hawkes’ carrot processing front.
“When I followed up, they were delighted with the NSK bearings, everything had fit perfectly, they were happy with the quality, and they’d managed to commence production over the weekend,” Stefanec said.
“There was no loss of production or produce, and they were able to meet their deadline. A great result that we were glad to have helped achieve.”
Importantly, the NSK bearings that Leon recommended have special features that make them an appropriate choice for produce washing applications.
“This particular bearing is a triple lip with a wide inner ring. The triple lip seal is renowned for working well in food and beverage type applications where there is a lot of water, whether that’s in the processing such as vegetable washing at the Hawkes’ facility, or with high pressure washdowns in the hygiene process,” said Stefanec.
“The bearings are very suited to the Hawkes’ application, not just on the washer but potentially on their conveyors too, as the bearings will be exposed to a lot of water and cold conditions in the cool room.
“The triple lip seal works well to keep the grease in and contaminants out.”
For Georgie Hawkes, while the bearing quality is paramount, it’s BSC’s service that makes a key difference to the family business.
“Our family, and this goes back really to Richard’s family before me, have been working with BSC for decades now,” said Hawkes.
“We’ll continue to work with them because they provide great, reliable service and all the products they recommend perform well. In this recent example, I heard one of the guys helping out missed his kid’s soccer game.
“We don’t want anyone missing soccer games, so we definitely appreciate them helping us out to such an extent. It was an urgent situation, and they really came through for us.”
Stefanec said many farming families on the Mornington Peninsula rely on the BSC Frankston branch for equipment parts.
“We play an important role in servicing the peninsula, both for agriculture and food producers,” he said.
“The farming community in this part of Victoria is diverse and have diverse requirements, but they have one aspect in common, quality. And we provide quality brands and service above all else, which goes a long way in this part of the world.”