4 July 2023

Taralga farmer sniffs sweet whiffs of success with national awards

| Sally Hopman
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Woman with laundry crystal product range

April Dumbleton runs her award-winning Rubywood Laundry Whiffs business from her farm kitchen at Taralga, near Goulburn. Photo: Supplied.

When her husband Tom suffered a heart attack in 2020, April Dumbleton knew it was a life-changing moment for both of them.

The idea of someone else caring for him, away from home, was never going to happen in this proud Darug family walking on Gundungdurra Country.

So April had to find a way to care for Tom, raise their five children – and survive on their 12-hectare farm at Taralga, near Goulburn.

Back in 2014, a friend had given April a recipe for laundry crystals that replaced fabric softener in washing machines. She started using them on the tons of washing that only come with a family of seven.

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“The original recipe had some things in it that weren’t too good for the farm, so I changed the recipe around a bit and then came up with the recipe we use today,” she said.

This recipe, and the subsequent products April makes in her farm kitchen, have just won her the Indigenous Business of the Year and the Overcoming the Odds awards in the 2023 Australian Rural Business Awards for her on-farm business, Rubywood Laundry Whiffs.

“It was quite a shock to hear we’d won,” April said. “We got an email saying we had made the finals – and then they had the awards ceremony via Skype when we heard we won.

“I couldn’t believe it.”

For April and her family, the past three years have been some of the most challenging.

“In 2020, I left my full-time job and moved back into the family home to be a full-time carer for my children’s father as, due to illness, he could no longer care for himself,” she said.

Dog relaxing in the bath

It’s a dog’s life, but when it comes to research and development at Rubywood, Lucy the dog just lies back and thinks of … sweet-smelling bones. Photo: Supplied.

“If I had to go out to work, his health would have deteriorated and he would probably have had to go to a nursing home. But that was never going to happen.

“People say that’s amazing. It’s not. It’s just what you do.”

April considers herself to be a very lucky woman.

“We walk on Gundungurra land here, it’s very peaceful,” she said. ”I am just very grateful that we can do what we do on this land and that I can stay at home and work.

“I’m also very grateful that our ancestors allow us to live and work on this Country without bother.

“In the beginning, I only made the whiffs for myself and my family. Each time I would make a new fragrance and give it to my family, their friends would comment on how beautiful their clothing smelled, and everyone started asking where they could buy them.”

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After she ensured that all the ingredients were safe for personal use, pets and septic systems, she realised it could be the business she was looking for. She could earn a living on the farm while caring for her husband.

“I do everything in the farm kitchen. Our house isn’t very big – all the bedrooms have business stuff in them. Just as well all the kids have left home now,” April joked.

“But in the school holidays when the grandkids come to stay, I try to get them on the payroll to work, but they prefer to play with their friends.”

Rubywood products are sold locally in Taralga, Goulburn and Canberra and via the website.

Other regional winners in the 2023 Australian Rural Business Awards include: Nine Circles Distillery at Pambula (Disability Business Owners Excellence Award 2023 and Rural Business to Watch); Bermagui Veterinary Clinic (Professions and Services Business of the Year); and Lindner Quality Socks, Crookwell (Excellence in e-Commerce Award).

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