Meet our Fruit and Vegetable Growers
We would like to introduce you to some of the growers adding delicious fresh local produce to our Seasonal Fruit and Vegetable Boxes each week through Southern Forrest Produce Delivered.
Southern Forrest Produce Delivered
We are very excited to introduce Anthony and Natasha East of Southern Forest Produce Delivered and their family run business based in Manjimup, in the heart of the Southern Forests region of South Western Australia.
Anthony (pictured) has worked in Agriculture and Horticulture all his life. He grew up as one of 4 boys on the family farm in Manjimup, where they were growing cauliflower for the export market. More recently he was the Produce Liaison Coordinator for Genuinely Southern Forests, the food brand of the Southern Forests Food Council. Working in both the local and export markets, he observed both sides, and noticed when comparing volume of produce and quality of produce, that quality always sells!
Natasha (behind the camera) has previously worked in administration for a wholesale distribution business and has a good handle on logistics. Together they decided to combine their skillsets and work with local farmers to curate a seasonal produce box that would fill a gap in the market. Their focus is on fresh, local and seasonal, with all produce sourced farmer direct.
Anthony and Natasha are most passionate about supporting smaller local farmers and providing the best fresh produce to their customers. Living in an area growing an abundance of products, their relationships with local growers allows them to source from over 55 different farmers throughout the season. By sourcing from the local area, they provide a viable alternative pathway to market for smaller farmers, when the open market is often not an option.
David's father began farming in the 70's when David and his brothers were away at school. David left school and grew export cauliflowers through the late 80's and 90's. When the market changed and they needed to find an alternative product to grow, a Perth company approached them about growing lettuce during summer, as Perth's summers are too hot for lettuce production. Now the Easts produce the best lettuce in town!
Ryan, Courtney and Brettney have been the drivers behind transitioning into regenerative farming practises. David was already thinking outside of the box, using a mustard cover crop that they grow through the winter months and turn back into the soil, acting as a natural fumigant. Ryan and Brettney are pictured with last year's mustard crop - stay tuned for a video of how they incorporate the mustard into the soil!
Ryan and his wife Danika are also raising their little girl Charlie on the farm. Danika is studying nutrition, and both Ryan and Danika have become increasingly aware of the links between chemical usage and human disease. They want to be farming and growing healthy food for themselves and their daughter.
Some other regenerative practises that they have also been experimenting with are multi species cover crops, and trialling different compost mixes. In one of their trials they have cut back base fertiliser use by 50% with the incorporation of compost. They are looking into reduced tillage systems, and grew a no till pumpkin crop last year. The pumpkins were seeded into a multi-species cover crop that had been roller crimped to act as a mulch. The crop yielded 80 tonnes per hectare, which is comparable to a conventional system.
The Easts look forward to sharing both their farming practices and their lettuce with us in the weeks to come!
Tracey Miller and Justin Crumplin are the proud growers behind Wayside Berries in Manjimup, where they grow 6 varieties of beautiful blueberries.
Justin spent a couple of years researching growing systems and varieties before they sourced their first 600 plants from the eastern states and set to work planting them in some gravelly soil on their 50 acres. Today they have 1200 blueberry plants in, and 3 more varieties on trial, whilst single handedly packing about 5 tonnes, or 40 000 punnets of blueberries per year!
The blueberry orchard is under permanent netting which is essential for protection against damage and predation by birds. The netting also protects the plants and berries from hail, which is a common occurrence in the high rainfall zone around Manjimup. The blueberries are planted on mounds in rows as the farm is quite low lying, so this ensures perfect drainage.
The berries are mulched with pine bark mulch, which has an acidic ph that the blueberries love. Weeds are suppressed by the mulch, and the mounds are weeded by hand to ensure that the berries aren’t competing for water and nutrients.
They have very few pests with just the occasional caterpillar popping up, which is picked off by hand, so the berries are completely spray free. They did trial geese to control grass and insects, however this plan changed when the geese developed a taste for the blueberries!
There are 2 wild beehives, one at either end of the property, which provide free pollination services for the blueberries in return for their sweet nectar. The surrounding jarrah forest also offers pollinator habitat, as well as maintaining the microclimate for the berries and providing good windbreaks and shelter. It is also a beautiful place to walk, and numbats can be seen amongst the undergrowth.
Sweeter Banana Co-op
The bananas included in our our Seasonal Fruit and Vegetable boxes come from the Sweeter Banana Co-op, a co-operative of 16 banana growers in Carnarvon in WA's Gascoyne region, including the Otway family (pictured). They are passionate about creating a healthy on-farm ecosystem and have evolved their farming practises to be proudly spray free - they don't use any pesticides, insecticides or fungicides. They firmly believe that by not using any sprays, they have achieved a natural balance within their agroecological systems.
In Carnarvon's warmer and drier climate, the banana plants take 14-18 months to grow and fruit. Once the plants are established they form a natural canopy, shading the ground and outcompeting weeds which eliminates the need for herbicide for weed control. The old leaves and trunks are mulched back onto the ground, creating a haven for insects and bugs in the mulch and soil.
The Sweeter Banana Co-op have used integrated pest management in the past. For example, they used to buy in and release predatory wasps to control insects in the bananas. Their agroecological system has now evolved to provide habitat for predatory insects, who in turn control banana pests. Nematodes are also kept at bay as the good biology in the soil outcompetes them.
In Carnarvon they grow the bananas closer together than the tropical bananas, as they need to create a humid microclimate - Carnarvon is hotter and dryer, with drying sea breeze and easterly winds, compared to Far North Queensland where most bananas are grown in Australia. As a result they end up with more marks on their bananas - if a leaf falls on a bunch they get external skin markings. This doesn’t affect the internal banana, just causes some blemishes on the skin.
Another interesting fact about Carnarvon bananas is that the sub-tropical climate means it takes almost twice the amount of time to grow a banana. The longer growing time and lower humidity means the bananas are more of a mustard yellow, rather than the bright electric yellow of Tropical bananas. However this is how they achieve their sweeter flavour – think twice the sunshine and ripening time!
Neil is a qualified horticulturist with over 18 years of experience and a deep understanding of agronomy, farm support practices and business development. Together with wife Suz, they produce premium quality, nutrient dense, flavoursome produce to the highest standard under their Planted Passion Produce brand in Manjimup in the Southern Forests Region of WA.
Incorporating sustainable farm design, regenerative and natural farming practises, permaculture aspects, intensive market-farming crop planning and a chemical free approach, Planted Passion has refined their growing practices to precision.
Plant health and nutrition is the key to crop quality and yield at Planted Passion. The focus is on encouraging photosynthesis, increasing cell structure, building brix levels (sweetness), embracing bio-stimulants, utilising beneficial biology and providing high levels of macro and micro nutrition.
The result – great tasting produce that represents real value for money, Neil and Suz’s produce is enjoyed in restaurants and homes throughout Perth & the South West.
Neil is also an advocate of regenerative agriculture, local supply chains, WA farming businesses and encouraging those agricultural businesses to strengthen their position against interstate and international competitors.