Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pick Your Own Fruit and Support Local Farmers


Now is the season of abundance as many fruits ripen up for the summer season. Stone fruits and berries are some of my scrumptious favourites but both of these can be quite expensive to buy organic.  Many urban dwellers only have a limited amount of produce we can grow in our own neighbourhoods (although it could be a lot more).  One solution I've found is to go to a  ‘pick your own’ farm. This way you can still play a part in where your food is coming from and develop an direct relationship with local farms.
The wider environmental implications are that fruit is local, seasonal and fresh. By buying direct from farmers and shortening the supply chain, farmers also get more return for their produce.  Make sure you take your own containers- choose multiple small ones so as the produce doesn’t get squashed under its own weight. Covered shoes and sun protection are also recommended.
If you pick more than you can eat berries freeze well as does stewed stone fruit.  Home made jams and chutneys are easy to make and if you fill up recycled jars it also means no packaging.  Last year our family picked and made a years supply of jam and it was well worth the effort but beware- once you’ve tasted homemade conserves you’ll never be able to eat bought ones again!
We have started a tradition of a yearly trek to Sunny Creek Organic Berry Farm out past Warragul in Victoria, Australia. It is an interesting farm to visit, not just for the diversity of produce, but to see a commercially operating farm that has been designed using permaculture principles.  Phil Rowe explains that they use techniques like  "Inter-cropping with berries amongst trees and multiple varieties in rows. Extending harvest period through crop choices and tolerance of weeds which are relatively benign to crops, like violets".  Chestnut trees, apples and hazelnuts form the tree layer which shelter and add diversity to the main berry crops. Birds and frogs are encouraged as natural pest controllers- but kept away from the berries during the harvest period with nets. Envisage vines dripping with raspberries, giant blackberries, red currents, juicy boysenberries and rarities such as the delicate velvet of white raspberries… Yum!
Sunny Creek also has an aptly named ‘gobblers pass’ for $5 so you can eat as much as you want on farm.  
While you are there you might also pick up some tips on how to grow your own.
Check out these websites for other ‘Pick Your Own’ farm listings- not all are organic but many are. It’s also a good idea to call first to confim what’s in season as it can vary year to year.

A years supply of jam from organic handpicked fruit.

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