"Harvest Moon" says it all | OPINION

Tasmania's "Harvest Moon" says it all | OPINION

OPINION
Opinion
YIELD: Harvest Moon workers harvesting a bumper lettuce crop in 2012.

YIELD: Harvest Moon workers harvesting a bumper lettuce crop in 2012.

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One of the Tasmanian vegetable industry powerhouses reckons there's room for growth.

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IT is July 1969.

The Americans and the Russians are in a race developing the best rockets as weapons, but there is another race - being the first to get to the moon.

The Americans win.

On July 9, Neil Armstrong became the first man to step onto that planet and he uttered that memorable line: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

I saw this on television in the staff club at UWA in Perth, as did about 20 per cent of the world's population (not at that club, obviously) - it was an incredibly exciting moment.

At about that time, 1971 to be precise, on the other side of Australia, another Neil Armstrong was starting work in the vegetable industry.

He also bought a small farm at Forth, in north west Tasmania.

FUTURE: Harvest Moon managing director and founder, Neil Armstrong, Forth, Tasmania says there is plenty of growth potential in the State's horticulture sector.

FUTURE: Harvest Moon managing director and founder, Neil Armstrong, Forth, Tasmania says there is plenty of growth potential in the State's horticulture sector.

It won't surprise you to hear that Australian Neil decided that Forth Farm Produce Pty Ltd should trade as "Harvest Moon", and this was registered in 1981.

I first met Neil soon after we'd arrived from Western Australia and were getting our herb growing enterprise going.

That was 1979, and the Forth Farm enterprise was expanding rapidly.

Fast forward to today and it embraces 600 hectares in Tasmania and a total of 1300 in Australia.

As to staff, there are now about 360, 50 of whom are in Melbourne.

It's the oldest fresh vegetable value-adding company in Tasmania, and also one of the five largest in Australia.

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As they say on their website: "Cold chain management is essential for preserving the harvested quality of fresh produce. It begins on the farm and ends in the refrigerator at home."

The gross production figures are impressive.

Harvest Moon handles in Tasmania about 50,000 tonnes of 20 different vegetables every year, ranging alphabetically from artichokes through to swedes (I could see no evidence of zucchinis).

Another 20,000 tonnes are handled in Victoria and Queensland, bringing the total to 70,000; 15,000 tonnes are exported.

A few examples give the context.

Snackable carrots are small at maturity, very chewable and there are 300 tonnes of them.

Surprisingly, baby spinach accounts for 800 tonnes.

Climate is significant in quality vegetable production.

Neil and I discussed this and agreed that Tasmania is ideally located for optimum conditions:

  • not too hot
  • not too cold
  • not too wet
  • not too dry
  • and with reliable irrigation structures in place, a reliable supplier.

It's also at the optimum latitude, 40 degrees south, for quality produce.

Look at 40 degrees north which takes in the Burgundy region of France (we don't talk too much about the South Island of New Zealand, the top of which is also at 40 degrees south).

The next development will be growing avocados in partnership with Mackay Banana Marketers, originating in Tully in Queensland in 2001.

They are the largest banana handlers in Australia.

Finally, let's get back to the phrase "Harvest Moon".

It's technically the full moon nearest the September equinox, which usually occurs around September 22 (the day after my birthday).

  • Dr Walker is a retired plant physiologist living on the family farm in North West Tasmania. He would welcome your feedback: wvipl@activ8.net.au

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