Paul Milano is a farmer based in Swan Hill in Victoria that has built quite an audience on social media. His key product is his vegetable spaghetti: vegetables that can be baked and then “pulled” using a fork in such a way that the result looks and has the texture of spaghetti.
With thousands of followers on social media, vegetable spaghetti has become a truly quirky and fun hit!
Paul and his farm also supply produce for the Good & Fugly boxes. He’s actually one of our favourite suppliers, and it’s been a joy to be able to support his business.
“In the past, we really struggled to shift a lot of our produce, and we risked throwing so much of it out as waste,” he says to us. “At times it can feel like the produce needs to be the Rolls Royce and virtually painted to perfection to get even close to the right amount of money for it. Anything that wasn't of that standard was basically worthless and not worth sending. That – along with finding labour for the farm – are traditionally our two big challenges.
“Good & Fugly have been such a good opportunity for us to be able to ship that produce and make it part of our business.”
One of the challenges that Australian farmers have always faced is the monopoly held by the two major supermarkets. That has been the main driver behind the difficulty in moving produce that those two don’t see as premium. Even outside of the two big chains, independent supermarkets and grocers feel the need to directly compete, and so are pushed into being just as choosy with the produce that they stock.
Services such as Good & Fugly have the potential to break that stranglehold and help to reduce waste across the entire nation, Paul tells us.
“The two big supermarkets dominate because of their convenience. But if services like Good & Fugly can continue to deliver right to the door, that changes things,” he says.
Why Spaghetti Squash?
Of all the products that Paul and his team grow, it’s the spaghetti squash that remains the “hero” item and their pride and joy.
We asked Paul to explain what got them into growing spaghetti squash in the first place. He says that it has always been the family farm tradition, but there was an opportunity to do something unique with spaghetti squash.
“We’ve always grown cucurbits,” he says. “They grow very well where we are. But there was also a point where we said to ourselves ‘You know what, I reckon I can really do something out of this.' We started to get the word out about spaghetti squash over social media.
“So we started giving people ideas, whether it's cooking instructions, recipes, storage ideas, and places to buy the vegetables from, and it really started to take off. People before didn’t really know what to do with it, and the market for it wasn’t great. So to push it we first needed to first educate people about such a niche product. Since then it has really taken off.
Speaking of education, helping people better understand what to do with food remains important in Australia, and Good & Fugly has been helping here, too. Not only do people get fruit and vegetables in their boxes that they might not have tried before, but each box comes with a recipe, and the team maintain a blog (which you’re reading now!) that also helps to inform about all food matters.
“People need to understand that most fruit and vegetables don’t grow in a controlled environment,” Paul tells us. “We can’t just flick a light switch to say ‘Yes, I want this type of sugar level in that fruit. Or ‘We want this size, or ‘We don't want any marks’. Awareness needs to continue to be improved so we can cut down on the amount of food waste in this country, because so much of the food that gets rejected is so good to eat."