Grower eyes vegie hotspot

Shepparton News - Country News - - OPINION -

Ac­cess to wa­ter through­out the en­tire year has seen a third-gen­er­a­tion vegetable grower cap­i­talise on the cooler months at her Tatura farm, and she says there’s a real mar­ket for vegetable grow­ers in the Goul­burn Val­ley.

Wer­ribee South’s Vel­isha Farms leader Cather­ine Vel­isha re­cently pur­chased 49 ha in Tatura with the goal to pro­duce veg­eta­bles year-round and at­tract oth­ers in the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try to move into the re­gion.

How­ever, to meet the growing de­mand of the in­dus­try and grow on the scale she needed, Ms Vel­isha needed ac­cess to wa­ter year-round.

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, but re­ly­ing on rain in win­ter was too risky.

So Ms Vel­isha ap­proached Goul­burnMur­ray Wa­ter to see if she could re­ceive an out-of-sea­son ir­ri­ga­tion sup­ply to ex­tend growing into the win­ter months, which G-MW agreed to.

‘‘We have a much broader vi­sion to use this op­por­tu­nity to de­mon­strate the cur­rently un­ex­plored op­por­tu­ni­ties to oth­ers in the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try to at­tract them to the re­gion,’’ she said.

‘‘We be­lieve there is huge po­ten­tial to up­scale the in­dus­try in the re­gion which will have ma­jor em­ploy­ment and eco­nomic ben­e­fits. In fact, I be­lieve there is the po­ten­tial to feed around 20 per cent of Mel­bourne’s pop­u­la­tion with veg­eta­bles.’’

A chang­ing cli­mate had re­sulted in ris­ing tem­per­a­tures, mak­ing it about five to six de­grees warmer than Mel­bourne and that made the area ideal for growing veg­eta­bles year-round, Ms Vel­isha said.

‘‘It’s just 90 min­utes from Ep­ping Mar­ket and five hours from Sydney Mar­ket, which makes it well po­si­tioned for trans­port­ing the pro­duce,’’ she said.

Ms Vel­isha plans to es­tab­lish a per­ma­nent work­force on the farm, with 20 full­time roles ex­pected to be cre­ated, and forge part­ner­ships with the re­gion’s other grow­ers.

‘‘Our gen­er­a­tion of young farm­ers and busi­ness own­ers see the value in col­lab­o­ra­tion and work­ing as a whole to cre­ate bet­ter out­comes for ev­ery­one,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s more about the next gen­er­a­tion work­ing as a group to grow the whole and im­prove the in­dus­try.’’

The ir­ri­ga­tion sea­son in the Goul­burn Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion District ended on May 15 and restarts on Au­gust 15, with the three­month win­ter shut­down al­low­ing G-MW and the Con­nec­tions pro­ject to per­form es­sen­tial main­te­nance and im­por­tant cap­i­tal up­grades to the ir­ri­ga­tion de­liv­ery net­work.

G-MW in­terim wa­ter de­liv­ery gen­eral man­ager Peter Cly­des­dale said only spe­cific ar­eas were se­lected to be worked on each win­ter, which was why some ar­eas could be given ac­cess to wa­ter dur­ing this shut­down pe­riod.

‘‘In some cases, where there are no im­pacts on other cus­tomers or our sched­uled main­te­nance pro­grams, such as in Ms Vel­isha’s case, we may be able to ne­go­ti­ate an out-of-sea­son pay­ment and de­liv­ery ar­range­ment,’’ he said.

‘‘In this case we’re pleased our cus­tomer ser­vice staff were able to as­sist Vel­isha Farms with their growth plans, both for this sea­son and the longer-term ben­e­fit of the GMID.’’ Big plans . . . Af­ter pur­chas­ing a 49 ha farm at Tatura, Wer­ribee South vegetable grower Cather­ine Vel­isha has se­cured wa­ter all year round and said there was real po­ten­tial for the Goul­burn Val­ley to be­come a vegetable growing hotspot.

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