Tasse's north-west carrots are as sweet as it gets

NW Tasmania proves a sweet spot for carrots

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Carrot King: Harvest Moon agricultural director, Mark Kable, plucks carrots from the red dirt at Forth, Tasmania. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

Carrot King: Harvest Moon agricultural director, Mark Kable, plucks carrots from the red dirt at Forth, Tasmania. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

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Carrots from Tasmania's north west have gathered a sweet reputation.

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THE humble carrot is no baby kale.

And that's sweet to know because carrots grown in North-West Tasmania taste a whole lot better than last year's hipster food fad does.

Next, to the spud, the carrot is like the unsung hero on a lot of dinner plates.

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However, when it comes to the crunch, the carrot plays a vital part in the North-West Coast's rich vegetable growing industry, where it flourishes in the region's fertile red volcanic soils.

And another thing.

Carrots grown in that fecund NW dirt do have a more sweet flavour but more about that later.

A great place to see carrots grown and what goes into processing and packing the vegetable for the market is the aptly named Harvest Moon at Forth.

One of the State's leading fresh vegetable companies is owned by managing director, Neil Armstrong, and agricultural director, Mark Kable.

Decades ago, Mr Armstrong was among the first of our ag-leaders to recognise the importance of the Tasmanian brand when it comes to the food produced on this island.

That remains as true as ever at Harvest Moon, and this year it was Mr Kable's idea to bring the community into the busy factory and onto the farm to celebrate the orange root vegetable at the inaugural Harvest Moon Carrot Festival.

Harvest Moon opened its doors to the public on Saturday, April 6 to coincide with World Carrot Day on April 4.

Mr Kable said carrots were a huge crop worldwide and it was only right to celebrate the fact with their day and where better than in NW Tassie.

"Fresh carrots out of Tasmania are a big industry and carrots grown on the NW Coast are a big thing," Mr Kable said.

"Within five kilometres of here, there are 60,000 tonnes of carrots grown, and you've got three major Australian producers of carrots."

He was talking about Harvest Moon, Premium Fresh, and Sumich.

Harvest Moon produces 60,000 tonnes of vegetables a year including broccoli, beans, spinach, cauliflowers, cabbages, pumpkin, beetroot, and swedes.

By far the most prominent line is carrots, and they grow 20,000 tonnes of carrots a year.

Two-thirds are for Australia with the rest exported to Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and a few that go to Japan.

One of the strengths Tasmania has is its temperate climate, long growing season and access to water.

Capitalising on all that Harvest Moon, founded in 1981, has grown from a potato trading business into a veggie powerhouse.

Inside: Carrot Festival patrons can do factory tours to see how the crop is processed and packed for market. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

Inside: Carrot Festival patrons can do factory tours to see how the crop is processed and packed for market. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

Mr Kable's introduction to the land came from visits to his grandfather's farm in NSW and later he studied agriculture at university.

His father, Geoff, worked in Sydney's produce markets before investing in Harvest Moon.

His son came to work for the summer, and 29-years-later still loves the place and what he does.

"I sure do," Mr Kable said.

"It's satisfying to grow the food to feed the nation, and this is the place to grow vegetables.

"With the drought on the mainland and with what the government has done here over the past 10 years with the water schemes is outstanding; we are the envy of every other state and country in the world.

"We have taps on all our farms and down every road, and we just have to turn the tap on, and water flows and that is gold."

Sometimes far too much water can create a problem when you're on the river at Forth, and the 2016 floods devastated the business.

Next Big Thing: Mr Kable with Harvest Moon's popular new Snackables packaged carrots which are smaller carrots with higher sugar content. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

Next Big Thing: Mr Kable with Harvest Moon's popular new Snackables packaged carrots which are smaller carrots with higher sugar content. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

However, Mr Kable said they're well and truly over it.

Farmers and vegetable growers are resilient by nature.

"You have got to lick your wounds and get on with it pretty quickly, but that's all water under the bridge, and I think we got off pretty lightly compared to some others like the dairy farmers," Mr Kable said.

He might gloss over it, but Harvest Moon was walloped and left without offices for 10 weeks but was still able to be back trading within days.

People worked from makeshift offices, from their cars, and from home.

Carrots Galore: Harvest Moon has been growing and processing carrots in the North-West since 1991. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

Carrots Galore: Harvest Moon has been growing and processing carrots in the North-West since 1991. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

Today the office is buzzing with activity because it's harvest time and the paddocks are lush with young carrots, which is the topic he wants to focus on.

"The statistics show only seven per cent of adults and five per cent of kids eat sufficient serves of vegetables, and we need to increase that," Mr Kable said.

"That's the crux of our carrot festival, which is all about trying to increase the consumption of carrots Australia-wide.

"A carrot festival is a fun way of trying to educate consumers, kids and mums and dads on how great our Tassie carrots are."

Mr Kable, a father of four, saw how successful open days at vegetable companies in Queensland were and on the back of it decided to hold their carrot festival and offer factory tours to show people how it all happens.

Harvest Moon showed off the best of carrot culture, including its Snackables in punnets, carrot scones and carrot cakes all washed down with a fresh carrot juice.

Mr Kable said Harvest Moon had wanted to do factory tours for years to show people how fresh food is processed and the effort put into it.

He said during peak times it was logistically too difficult to do tours but having a day set aside made it possible.

"We want to show people what it takes to grow carrots and to get a carrot into a bag ready for the consumer," Mr Kable said.

Visitors also got to go inside the factory to see the washing, grading, packing, and cooling process.

"It's a very costly process," he said.

Harvest Moon employs 100 people 52 weeks-of-the-year which swells to 300 in the harvest period from Christmas until May.

One of their fastest-growing areas is the new Snackable carrots line grown and packaged for the snacking market.

"One of the trends in fresh fruit and veg is the snacking category which is something we are investing in with our new Snackables carrots sold to independent stores," Mr Kable said.

Carrot Heaven: Harvest Moon will conduct guided tours of its Forth vegetable processing factory during their first Carrot Festival on April 6. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

Carrot Heaven: Harvest Moon will conduct guided tours of its Forth vegetable processing factory during their first Carrot Festival on April 6. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

He said it was a struggle to keep up with the demand for the snack packages of small carrots grown explicitly to the size of a finger with higher sugar content.

"They are not baby carrots they are mature at the size they are," he said.

Harvest Moon is also looking at some other snackable vegetable options like beans.

Finally, why do carrots from NW Tassie taste so sweet and yummy?

"It's our soils and our gentle climate...without a doubt, it's the red ferrous soils of the NW Coast that year-in-and-year-out grow us our best carrot."

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