Lim­ited by shut­down

Shepparton News - Country News - - OPINION -

The Goul­burn Val­ley has the po­ten­tial to be the vegie bowl of Vic­to­ria but is be­ing held back by the three-month ir­ri­ga­tion sea­son shut­down, ac­cord­ing to one grower.

Vel­isha Farms’ Cather­ine Vel­isha, who comes from a long line of veg­etable grow­ers, said the good cli­mate and lower prices were driv­ers be­hind a move to a 48 ha Tatura farm more than two years ago.

But with the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem shutting down for three months dur­ing win­ter, Ms Vel­isha said it was dif­fi­cult to cap­i­talise on the grow­ing con­di­tions for their zuc­chi­nis.

‘‘Weather-wise, to grow veg­eta­bles, the days are still warmer than Mel­bourne . . . (but) if we plant in win­ter we need to rely on rain and we can’t re­ally risk that,’’ she said.

‘‘We can grow veg­eta­bles in the Goul­burn Val­ley, but we can’t do it on the scale that could make a real dif­fer­ence to the area without ac­cess to wa­ter all year round . . . I be­lieve there is the po­ten­tial to feed around 20 per cent of Mel­bourne’s pop­u­la­tion with veg­eta­bles.’’

With a changing cli­mate see­ing ris­ing tem­per­a­tures, Ms Vel­isha said the Goul­burn Val­ley re­gion was op­ti­mal for grow­ing veg­eta­bles year-round and la­belled it a huge op­por­tu­nity for the re­gion.

‘‘If the wa­ter rights were ex­panded to in­clude the three months across win­ter, many other veg­etable grow­ers would be at­tracted to the re­gion,’’ she said.

‘‘This would re­sult in in­creased in­vest­ment, job op­por­tu­ni­ties and sup­port for lo­cal busi­nesses, so ul­ti­mately ev­ery­one would ben­e­fit.’’

With veg­eta­bles able to be planted ev­ery eight to 12 weeks, she said there was only a short pe­riod of time to wait for the next crop if one wasn’t suc­cess­ful.

Vel­isha Farms is look­ing to ex­pand into other veg­eta­bles which will add an ex­pected 20 peo­ple to its full-time work­force and see ben­e­fits flow through to other lo­cal busi­nesses.

Goul­burn-Mur­ray Wa­ter’s in­terim wa­ter de­liv­ery gen­eral man­ager Peter Cly­des­dale said a re­view was be­ing con­ducted to see whether there was more op­por­tu­nity to de­liver sup­ply out­side of the cur­rent Au­gust 15 to May 15 ir­ri­ga­tion sea­son.

Al­though sub­ject to main­te­nance, cap­i­tal works pro­grams and win­ter works man­aged by the Con­nec­tions project, he said cus­tomers could ar­range for an out-of-sea­son sup­ply agree­ment.

‘‘Cus­tomers in­ter­ested in an out-of-sea­son sup­ply ar­range­ment can dis­cuss their needs with a G-MW cus­tomer re­la­tion­ship con­sul­tant on 1800 013 357, email: [email protected]­ or visit a G-MW cus­tomer ser­vice cen­tre,’’ Mr Cly­des­dale said.

‘‘Out­side of the GMID (Goul­burn Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict), it should be re­mem­bered that the win­ter pe­riod al­lows for the har­vest­ing and stor­age of catch­ment in­flows in ir­ri­ga­tion stor­ages man­aged by G-MW.

‘‘This pe­riod builds wa­ter re­serves for de­liv­ery dur­ing the typ­i­cally hot­ter and drier grow­ing sea­son.’’

Just add wa­ter . . . Greater ac­cess to wa­ter year-round would al­low north­ern Vic­to­ria to be­come a vegie bowl ac­cord­ing to grower Cather­ine Vel­isha.

Har­vest time . . . Zuc­chi­nis grown at Vel­isha Farms’ Tatura prop­erty are har­vested.

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