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    Niche varieties and customer service are the keys to making a profit.

    That's according to Mornington Peninsula vegetable grower Richard Hawkes.

    Richard recently left his part-time job as technical manager for Apple and Pear Australia Ltd to devote himself to the family farm, which he operates with his sister, Andrea, and their father, Barry.

    After a nine-year hiatus from growing carrots - the last crop in 1998 was abandoned after a run of bad seasons - the Hawkes family started growing potatoes on their 56ha property at Boneo.

    "We slowly built a small market of offbeat types of potatoes: king edward, kipfler, toolangi delight.

    "Anything that's hard to grow, we try and have a go at - those that other people don't consider commercial varieties."