Sweet Gigs

Welcome to Torello Farm, a one-stop-shop on the Mornington Peninsula for everything grown, grazed and gathered

Welcome to Torello Farm, your go-to source for farm-fresh produce right in the heart of the Mornington Peninsula. 

Torello Farm pride themselves on providing everything grown, grazed, and gathered right here on their farm property and from cattle in a nearby farm. Their commitment to sustainable farming practices and the highest quality produce is evident in every bite, bringing the taste of the countryside directly to your table!

Today, we're lucky enough to chat with co-owner and director Sophie O'Neil about the family business and how it all began. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of sustainable farming practices, what’s in season for the cooler months and some of the other amazing work the team do here at Torello Farm.

Hi Sophie, it’s so lovely to meet you! We’ve heard such amazing things about Torello Farm and are so excited to finally visit. For those who haven’t heard of the farm, please tell us about it and what your role is here.

People often liken Torello Farm to a farmers’ market showcasing Mornington Peninsula produce, and I think that’s pretty spot on. Depending on the season, you might find one of our resident farmers dropping off heirloom tomatoes picked only metres away from the farm gate, alongside a Red Hill farmer unloading a few boxes of avocados, or perhaps a delivery of freshly milled flour and sourdough bread from Tuerong. It’s a family business and I have the pleasure of managing it alongside my husband, Mark Brancatisano.

Torello Farm co-owner and director Sophie O'Neil (left) and recipe developer Fiona Hammond (right)

Let’s go back to the beginning - how did this amazing idea of a one-stop-shop on the Mornington Peninsula for everything grown, grazed and gathered begin? 

Mark and I have a long history of working in the food industry. Mark’s family have always been involved in fruit and veg, and I have a food marketing background. We also owned a butchers shop in Gippsland at one point. We have our own farm just down the road in Tuerong where we have always grown Belted Galloway beef and Dorset Down lamb, and in 2016 the opportunity to purchase the land that is now Torello Farm came about and we decided to open a farm gate and sell produce grown on that land alongside our grass fed beef and lamb. We both really love connecting people with food and celebrating the people who grow it and I am proud to say we now, over a 12 month period, sell produce from approximately 80 different local farmers and producers.

The fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables are sourced both from the farm on the property, and from other growers in the local area. Can you shed light on the benefits of purchasing from a local farm gate for the economy, environment and our bellies? 

The Mornington Peninsula is made up of an eclectic patchwork of small farms growing an astounding array of produce. Depending on the season this might include Red Hill truffles, blueberries and feijoas, or Dromana persimmons and plums, lemons and limes from Flinders, Main Ridge free range eggs and flowers, quince and figs from Merricks, Boneo potatoes, Somerville chillies or Tuerong apples. There’s also a collection of innovative farmers in our neck of the woods transforming their primary produce into incredible products like olive oils, verjuice, apple juice, goats cheese, flour and sourdough breads. When people shop at Torello, the produce they’re purchasing has been grown close by, which means it hasn’t travelled crazy food miles and is super fresh and full of nutrition. We are supporting the local food economy, helping to keep local farmers viable and sustainable, and it’s important to note that most farms who supply us are too small to sell to supermarkets or even retailers in the city, so a business like ours helps make their farming enterprises sustainable.

As a pioneer in your community, you’ve launched the Mornington Peninsula Future Farmers Pathway Program to build the next generation of small-scale farmers on Mornington Peninsula land. Can you tell us how this idea came about and what the program offers? 

There are a growing number of young people who want to farm, but the obvious barrier is the cost of land. We also know there is a huge amount of productive land on the Mornington Peninsula that is literally not being used to grow anything. So the Future Farmers Pathway Program came about when myself and some other farmers and Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Agribusiness Officer put our heads together to develop a program where young people can learn how to grow food and then we help them find a pathway to go on to farm on other people’s land. We were lucky enough to source funding from Agriculture Victoria and Mornington Peninsula Shire and we now have four interns learning about organic market gardening at Torello, and at the end of their 12 months internship we are confident they will all have a pathway to start their different farming careers on Mornington Peninsula land. They are an amazing bunch of people being led by a passionate Market Garden Lead and I am so proud of what this program has delivered in such a short amount of time (it only started in October 2023).

You also graze your own cattle in a nearby farm, with the intention of zero waste. Can you explain this nose-to-tail concept? 

Our family lives just up the road in Tuerong where we grow free range, grass fed Belted Galloway cattle and Dorset Down lamb. We have specifically chosen to farm these heritage breeds because they are slow-growing with a gentle nature producing magnificent tasting meat. The whole animal, nose-to-tail, is sold through our farm gate. This is the most viable way for us to ethically produce meat on a small scale, however it takes a great deal of education to enable us to sell all the cuts each week. 

At Torello we also have a farmhouse kitchen where we transform our beef, lamb and seasonal produce into a selection of take home meals including lasagnes, ragus, curries and sausage rolls. We also work with an amazing local pie maker, Johnny Ripe, who produces different flavoured pies with our beef each week. To help educate customers about lesser known cuts, which are often the most affordable and flavoursome, we work with recipe developer and food stylist, Fiona Hammond, providing recipes to encourage people to try different cuts of beef and lamb. These recipes are available on our website. 

Last year we were the very proud recipient of the delicious National Produce Awards for our beef and lamb, with a particular acknowledgement to our nose to tail philosophy.

We LOVE your farm gate, where customers can purchase your hearty produce from farm to table! As we prepare for the cooler months, what variety of fruit and veggies can we expect to be in season? 

Despite the cooler weather settling in, the farm gate is bursting with so much beautiful produce. The Mornington Peninsula has a rich history of growing apples and pears and our Tuerong and Red Hill fruit is eating magnificently. We have plenty of citrus including tangelos, mandarins, lemons and limes alongside kiwi fruit and feijoas. Old fashioned fruit favourites like quince, medlars and crab apples are available - just waiting to be transformed into a delicious jelly or jam. On the vegetable front, we have magnificent leafy greens including kale, silver beet, rainbow chard, spinach and rapini. Wild pine mushrooms, carefully foraged by local experts, are available along with Tyabb-grown shiitakes and oyster mushrooms. Cabbages, brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower all thrive in the cooler months, along with beautiful radishes and salad greens. And I just have to say that our heirloom pumpkins, beetroot, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, fennel and potatoes all make delicious accompaniments to slow cooked grass fed beef or free range lamb.