This fortnight, we are highlighting Amanda and Rob, owners of Margaret River Silk Road, located in Metricup.
Business Name: Margaret River Silk Road
Location: 307 Harmans Mill Road Metricup
How long have you been operating? We opened our showroom doors to visitors in the week before Easter 2012 after 6-8 years of research, planning, building and planting and have just celebrated three years of operation on the Easter weekend just gone.
Tell us about your business: Margaret River Silk Road (Silk Road) is an operating silk farm in the popular tourist region of the south-west capes in Western Australia. At the farm we grow mulberry trees and use the leaf to feed our silkworms and produce an Australian silk cocoon.We are the first and only Australian silk producer and there is no silk industry in this country, however we send our silk cocoons to Cambodia, where it is hand-reeled and woven, then made into our silk products. Our producers are not industrial factories, but groups of disadvantaged people, working mostly in their homes, village co-ops or training workshops. Our work with these groups contributes to the provision of skills, job opportunities and income for poor Cambodian people. In return, they blend their silk cocoons with ours to ensure sufficient silk products in our showroom.
We are growing and adding more Australian silk to the blend all the time – eventually our products will be 100% Margaret River Silk! We also use our “lucky by-product” (the mulberry fruit) for a range of products including jams, chutneys and syrups. Leaves and bark of the tree are used for our mulberry green and red teas. Visitors can taste our food products in the showroom.
What is your unique point of difference? As the first and only Australian silk farm, we are a unique tourist attraction and something very different in the Margaret River region. Tourists appreciate the rest from tasting wine and gourmet foods and enjoy the personalised tour of our production process.
Do you have any new updates to share? We continually add new mulberry and silk products to our range. Recent additions include our Silk Soaps, Body Wash, Shampoo & Conditioner made from the sericin (a protein) in the silk cocoon; and our Red Dog Mulberry Port – a magnificent drop soon to appear on our shelves.
We are also developing a much closer affiliation with artist community who use silk. We now permanently stock the work of local silk artists Michelle Miller and Jane Flower who are holding exhibitions and workshops at our showroom.
We are also about to change the way we run Mulberries, our small on-site café. It is currently advertised for lease with a view to the new tenants offering a much wider range of breakfast, lunch and maybe even dinner options for local visitors! Watch this space!
Favourite part of the job – what keeps you going? As farmers we are still excited about our silk production progress. We successfully met our early targets and are now working towards production of 1,000,000 cocoons per year and 100% Margaret River Silk products. On a day-to-day basis, we are encouraged by overwhelming support from our visitors and their real interest in our operation. We love running our tours and showing off our products.
What do you love about The Margaret River Region? Everything! The natural environment is spectacular and the coast, rivers and forests are on our doorstep. It is also a land of opportunity in which a hard-working small business can thrive. Of course we love our fellow tourism operators (especially our lovely neighbours around the Harmans Mill precinct!) and most of all we love our farm. We look forward to a long and happy time here.