Frosty lettuce at CERES Joe's Market Garden

You know it’s cold at the Fair Food warehouse when produce buyer Joshua stacks boxes of bananas in Robin, our logistics manager’s office (it’s the one with the split system).  This time of year Joshua has to resort to novel methods to ripen his fruit in time to go into people’s orders.

Yesterday, the ABC announced that it was the coldest start to a winter in ten years. I’m not sure how this squares with Channel Seven’s announcement of the coldest start to a winter in 100 years back in 2022 – I’ve emailed Jane Bunn hoping to get some clarification.

Anyway, the bottom line is that it’s cold, very cold and when it’s cold our thoughts at Fair Food go out to our farmers. And while we’re inside sitting on top of our heaters with several microwaved wheatbags strategically placed about our bodies searching online to see if battery powered socks are actually a thing – they are – our farmers, no matter what the weather, are outside doing what needs to be done to keep us all fed.

Up in the Cathedral Ranges Fair Food berry grower Noleen reported -5C and frozen pipes this week.  Noleen is busy pruning – it’s cold and prickly work – she shares that different varieties of berry respond to differing degrees of pruning. Her raspberry canes do best slashed to the ground, trial and error has revealed her blueberries respond to losing a third of their foliage each year, meanwhile for her blackberries, which only bear fruit on two-year-old wood, no cane will ever live to see three.

At Hazeldean Forest Farm pruning is also in full swing – orchardist Jason Alexandra says you can actually prune anytime but winter’s about the only time when there is time. On a sideways Southerly rainy day Jason says pruning does not bring him a lot of joy.  Something that has brought him a lot of joy this winter is the first sighting of a white goshawk in their thirty eight years on the farm. White Goshawks make their nests in tall trees, of which Jason and Marg have proudly planted many.

Dairy cows at Schulz Organic Dairy

Over at Schulz Organic Dairy in Timboon the cold means Simon Schulz will be pouring jugs of hot water over his frozen taps so he can wash down his yards after morning milking.  Next up is spreading his steaming compost across the paddocks to feed up the dormant soil life just waiting for that spring and summer sun to get the grasses growing again.

Meanwhile at Joe’s Garden in Coburg down on the banks of the Merri Creek , where it’s always a couple of degrees colder than the surrounding suburbs, farmer Rachel and her team have been competing to take the best picture of a frosty lettuce (that’s the winner up top).

Even though lettuce picker’s hands get very cold the crew are a bit excited about the frosts we’ve had this week. “Frosts are like a sugar coating”, explains Rachel, “In the cold some plants are able to convert their starch stores into sugar, which means the frost actually makes winter veggies sweeter!”

And lastly at this time of year my heart always goes out to the farmhand at Foothills Organic Farm in Colac who gets the Wim-Hof-like job of washing beetroot under cold running water. And then it goes out to them again at the end of the day when they try to bring their numb hands back to life under hot running water.

Stay warm and have a great week



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