Ku­nunurra grow­ers get fresh

Countryman - - COUNTRY LIFE - Cally Dupe

Pump­kins and mel­ons grown in Ku­nunurra will no longer make a 7000km re­turn jour­ney to Perth be­fore hit­ting the town’s su­per­mar­ket shelves.

Four farm­ing fam­i­lies from the Ord Val­ley have joined forces to sup­ply water­melon, rock­melon, hon­ey­dew, but­ter­nut and Kent pump­kins to Coles Ku­nunurra.

Pre­vi­ously, pro­duce from the Ord was trucked to Coles’ Perth dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre and back again be­fore it was sold at Coles Ku­nunurra.

It was an ar­range­ment which puz­zled Ceres Farms owner Me­lanie Gray, who, with Ceres of­fice man­ager Chelsea McNeil, set about try­ing to change it.

“We felt it was im­por­tant to be able to sup­ply lo­cally in or­der to sup­ply our com­mu­nity with fresh qual­ity pro­duce,” Ms Gray said.

“It also brings a sense of pride to be able to see our pro­duce lo­cally in store.

“We feel more value if other farm­ers in the re­gion can also sup­ply, so we have set it up that dif­fer­ent grow­ers sup­ply four dif­fer­ent prod­ucts.”

Four farms took part in a sixweek trial this year, pick­ing and pack­ing fresh pro­duce and de­liv­er­ing di­rect to Coles Ku­nunurra once or twice a week.

Kent pump­kins were de­liv­ered by Ceres Farm, but­ter­nut pump­kins by Bar­radale Farms, rock­mel­ons and hon­ey­dew mel­ons by Bothkamp Aus­tralia Farms, and water­melon by Aca­dia Farms.

While the set-up would not be pos­si­ble all year around, be­cause the ma­jor­ity of Ord pro­duce is avail­able be­tween May and Novem­ber, Coles Ku­nunurra store man­ager Gra­ham Ban­nis­ter said the “unique ar­range­ment” could pave the way for other lo­cal pro­duce to be sold di­rect to store.

“This part­ner­ship be­tween Coles Ku­nunurra and lo­cal farm­ers means cus­tomers have the choice of in-sea­son, fresh lo­cal pro­duce,” he said. “Pro­duce is usu­ally picked from the lo­cal farms in the morn­ing, packed at lunchtime and de­liv­ered to the su­per­mar­ket by 5pm on the same day.

“There are plans for Kim­ber­ley Pro­duce to sup­ply man­goes to Coles Ku­nunurra this sea­son from Oc­to­ber to Jan­uary.”

Ms Gray said the four farms planned to con­tinue the pro­gram next year.

“We’ve had a fan­tas­tic re­sponse, very pos­i­tive and with a lot of sup­port from lo­cals,” she said.

“We en­joy see­ing them (cus­tomers) with a fresher prod­uct. I would love to see more lo­cally-grown pro­duce in our store.”

It is not the first time pro­duce has been sold to Coles Ku­nunurra di­rectly from farms at the Ord Val­ley. Kim­ber­ley Pro­duce has sold its ba­nanas di­rect to Coles since the start of 2016.

Kim­ber­ley Pro­duce owner Craig Dob­son said the agree­ment came about af­ter he raised con­cerns about the ap­pear­ance of his farm’s fruit.

“The con­di­tion of the fruit hav­ing done that 7000km round trip was not up to stan­dard and we were ac­tu­ally quite em­bar­rassed,” he said.

“We were al­ready a sup­plier of Coles and we agreed to ripen and con­di­tion the fruit here and de­liver it to the store daily.

In­stalling a ripen­ing cham­ber at the Valen­tines Es­tate prop­erty meant the farm­ers could ripen and de­liver their pro­duce lo­cally.

Mr Dob­son said the busi­ness’ sales to Coles rep­re­sented just one per cent of its mar­ket share but was “well worth it”.

“Re­ally, the only rea­son we do it is for the lo­cal con­sumers,” he said.

“It adds a bit of ex­tra work for us, but we were em­bar­rassed by the qual­ity of fruit hav­ing done that 7000km round trip and we wanted to im­prove that, and so did Coles.

“The in­ter­nal qual­ity of the fruit was never com­pro­mised, but the shelf life and ap­pear­ance has now im­proved.”

IGA Ku­nunurra has pur­chased lo­cal pro­duce from the Ord Ir­ri­ga­tion Scheme for sev­eral years.

Pic­tures: Ben Broad­with

Ceres Farm farm­hand Andy Siemens, busi­ness owner Me­lanie Gray, farm­hand Chris Bell, of­fice man­ager Chelsea McNeil and busi­ness owner Matt Gray in a pad­dock of sorghum.

Ka­t­rina and Chris Jowett with their chil­dren Annabelle, 1, and So­phie, 3, in a Ku­nunurra water­melon crop.

Me­lanie and Matt Gray with their three chil­dren Blake, 3, Oliver, 1, and Lu­cas, 5.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.