In part two in this series on supporting local farmers, here is another way you can support growers in your area. For more check out part one on buying local.
2. VISIT A LOCAL FARM
One small town, with a population of less than a thousand, on the Hawkesbury Harvest Farm Gate Trails is Bilpin in the Blue Mountains. Bilpin is nearly over nine hundred metres above sea-level which brings the area good sunshine and low winter temperatures – the perfect conditions for ripening fruit. Bilpin has a few farms offering ‘Pick Your Own’ days and inviting people to visit and walk around the property, hand-picking fresh produce to buy.
A family owned and operated farm with regular ‘Pick Your Own’ days is Pine Crest Orchard; its main attraction is the fruit hanging from the trees with apple varieties including Gala, Jonathon, Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith and Pink Lady, different types of plums, white and yellow-fleshed peaches, a variety of Asian pears and Nashi Pears. Owner John Galbraith has been farming for over 40 years and teaches horticulture and farming to budding growers. John explains why it’s important to know more about what we eat.
“When people understand where their food comes from they can better appreciate the effort involved in producing the food and that we are all dependent on soil, sunshine and water (rain) for our existence.”
On ‘Pick Your Own’ days at Pine Crest Orchard, visitors are offered a guided tour where they are shown how to correctly pick from the tree, so as not to damage the fruit. While walking around the orchard with John, with a tantalising sweet scent wafting on the breeze, he explains the difference in varieties of pears as some can be eaten straight from the tree while others are best a few days after being picked.
As we approach the apple trees, John’s passion for fruit becomes contagious as he beckons a group of visitors to watch him snap an apple in half with a loud, juice-squirting thwack. The quality of the fruit in its natural state, imperfect and unwaxed, is often better than produce bought in a supermarket as it’s been allowed to stay on the tree right up until it’s ready to be eaten.
“Because the fruit is picked when it’s ripe, visitors often comment on how much better fruit tastes straight from the tree” says John.
Running a farm has many overheads and the costs associated with transporting produce can be enough to run a farmer out of business. According to John, “From a business perspective, ‘Pick Your Own’ makes the orchard financially viable which would not be the case if we sold through the wholesale market.”
Not only is it good to get to know your local farmer and find out more about the produce, it’s better for your dollar to go straight to the grower, without a chunk going to a middleman.
For more ideas check out the other posts in this series with other ways you can support your local growers.