Zest for veg leads Chloe to dream job

Zest for veg leads Chloe to her dream job

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SOWING: Chloe Fox holds a tray of pumpkin seedlings at Somerset Heritage Produce, Seymour, Victoria.

SOWING: Chloe Fox holds a tray of pumpkin seedlings at Somerset Heritage Produce, Seymour, Victoria.

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Chloe Fox liked helping grow vegetables so much, she bought the farm.

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CHLOE Fox runs Somerset Heritage Produce in Seymour, supplying organic vegetables to 40 of Melbourne's top restaurants, multiple regional farmers' markets and the local community through the Open Food Network.

On the river loam banks of the Goulburn River in north-east Victoria, she is living her dream job.

"It's absolutely gorgeous out here, better than working in an office," Ms Fox said.

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"It's a life choice not a job. Each day is different - the seasons change, the crops change, it is constant renewal - I love that."

Ms Fox began working at Somerset after a fortuitous meeting with then-owner, Robbie Keck in 2016 when she volunteered at a farm in Keilor through the Farmer Incubator (FI) program.

Just 18 months later she bought the burgeoning business.

FRESH: A green romesco growing at Somerset Heritage Produce.

FRESH: A green romesco growing at Somerset Heritage Produce.

"Through the FI program, I made connections within the farming and food community and worked with amazing and inspiring people with a passion for food and growing," she said.

"Organic farmers are very giving. We love talking to each other - there are no trade secrets - the more we collaborate and grow the less of a novelty our industry becomes."

Somerset operates from two leased properties, 1.8 hectares at Somerset Crossing, a winery/restaurant in Seymour and 0.8ha in Keilor on Melbourne's fringe.

It employs a small workforce of full and part-time staff that varies seasonally. Although not certified organic, Ms Fox said growing is on organic principles.

The business produces a string of crops from asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, onions, rhubarb, silverbeet, peas and beans, to kale, Japanese baby turnips and heirloom tomatoes.

Brussel sprouts are Ms Fox's nemesis.

"Every year I promise not to grow them and yet every year I grow them. It's like a form of amnesia," she said.

At Somerset, three different crops are grown annually on a rotational basis to spread the business's risks and to facilitate healthy soil.

Ms Fox said Somerset's client list of 'high end' restaurants has grown considerably since 2016.

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