“There are a thousand different types of eucalyptus varieties,” says Larry Turner, cofounder of the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil Distillery.
“But only 10 or so produce a good quality oil in sufficient quantity.”
“We did a lot of research into class selection. That was one of the important things which we did at the start,” Larry explains.
Bev and Larry settled upon the Kangaroo Island Narrow Leaf Mallee, a local fragrant variety, radically transforming the family farm almost 30 years ago.
“It’s native to the eastern side of the island and grows nowhere else in the world,” says Bev Turner.
EMU RIDGE: HOW IT ALL STARTED
“Where we are, used to be grazing land. We [Larry’s family] used to farm sheep and cattle and grow grain,” Larry explains.
But plummeting wool prices were forcing their hand. Thankfully, a broken machine inspired a new start.
The machine needed eucalyptus oil: rather than buy it, Larry and his mates made it themselves just as local industrialists had done, 50 years before.
The rest, says Larry, is history: “all we do now is concentrate on the oil and the shop.”
Today, the couple harvest, distil, bottle and sell their eucalyptus oil on-site, using century-old methods in a nod to Kangaroo Island’s past.
Larry and Bev Turner reviving the eucalyptus oil industry.
HANDS ON AT EMU RIDGE
“I built the still myself,” says Larry.
“It’s just basic but it’s made from good quality stainless steel.”
Through trial and error, Larry tweaked its design to get the oil just right, surpassing stringent standards laid out more than 100 years’ ago.
“It’s an international standard.
“The quality of Australian eucalyptus oil is very high,” says Larry.
Next was deciphering the regulations relating to insurance and labelling. There was a lot of research involved at the start.
A YOUNG HARVEST
The couple harvest the trees between one and years of age.
“You have to continually harvest them; younger trees produce more oil. And they’re easier to cut. You want to avoid the timber,” Larry explains.
“We use a forest harvester, which I adapted. I opened it up pulled out a few parts, new blades, just adapted it to suit our needs.
“When it brakes, I fix it—I fixed it better than it was originally,” Larry wryly laughs.
Bev and Larry waste little on their farm, using pressed leaves to fuel the distillery process, before returning them to the land.
Guests can inspect the property on guided tours, hosted thrice-daily; or wander the stills for a small fee.
SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESS
At the farm-gate shop, you’ll find unique formulations, sweets, local pottery and more.
Early on, the Turners manufactured and packaged everything on site-except for the hand cream base.
“Originally, I just bought the cream and we blended in the oil. They say it’s natural but I don’t believe it is as good. So I formulated my own recipe and changed it,” Bev explains.
“Today, we have a lovely lady on the mainland who manufactures it exclusively for us to our specification.”
Likewise, one of the farm-gate’s best sellers, the Eucalyptus and Honey Sweets made with pure Emu Ridge eucalyptus oil and Kangaroo Island honey are made in Adelaide.
Emu Ridge also paints and sells locally-made pots.
“As you grow, it’s lovely to support people who’ve supported you.”
For a short time, Emu Ridge distributed its products via a retail network, but demand outstripping supply keeps it at the farm-gate and online.
Emu Ridge’s native plantation provides the perfect site for recuperating animals.
“I’ve been a wildlife rescuer since we started,” says Bev, a member of the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Rescuers.
The network will ask Bev to take care of an animal that a tourist may have brought in but sometimes the 4WD tour groups will find them as well.
“They [the rescue animals] love the wild area we have here, where no one goes.
“If they want to, they’ll come and say hi in the shop. And they’ll quite often do when they’re very young. Up until two when their instincts kick in.”
Right now, she’s caring for an orphan joey and wallaby with burnt paws.
“A young animal can damage their paws jumping onto a hot area that’s been recently burnt.”
“Our animals are set free as soon as they’re able. Sometimes we’ll introduce an integration area for wallabies as they’re a bit more skittish than kangaroos,” says Bev.
Orphan joeys in 2017 seeking refuge at Emu Ridge. “I have been a wildlife since we started,” explains Bev, an active member of Kangaroo Island Wildlife Rescuers.