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#ThankAFarmer: Connecting with consumers through organic produce

As a grower of organic asparagus and mangoes, there’s one thing that Andrew Dalglish can’t put a price on, and that’s knowing first-hand how much consumers are enjoying his top quality produce.

The owner of Foxalicious Fruit Pty Ltd, Andrew grows his produce on his 96-hectare family farm near Katherine in the Northern Territory.

“I always put our phone number and contact details on our packaging so consumers can reach out. And it’s really heart-warming when consumers ring you up to tell you how much they like your produce and ask if they can visit your farm,” Andrew said.

All of his healthy and tasty produce is packed on-farm and sold through the Organic Growers Group in Melbourne. The mangoes are distributed across the east coast mostly through Woolworths, while the asparagus is sold through markets in many of Australia’s capital cities.

And with asparagus season running from May through to the end of August, the last three months have been hectic for Andrew and his team of workers.

“There is no other crop around that I know of that is more labour intensive. We have to cut it in the morning and then again at night, seven days a week. That’s because asparagus grows 20 centimetres in day,” he said.

“If you listen carefully, you can almost hear it grow!”

This year, Andrew has grown about 20 tonnes of asparagus in the 10 hectare crop, which he hopes will lift to about 50 tonnes next year.

“At the moment, we are selling three to four pallets of asparagus a week into Melbourne. It arrives in the Melbourne markets on Sunday and Wednesday nights and by Monday morning and Thursday morning it’s all sold out,” he said.

“We also sell about half pallet in Brisbane and half a pallet in Adelaide, as well as a bit in Sydney.”

The end of the asparagus season, simply means that Andrew’s 26-hectare mango crop is getting closer to hitting the market.

“Our mango season is from mid-October through to the beginning of December.  We pack the mangoes here according to the branding the customer wants and then we send them off in refrigerated trucks on a daily basis,” he said.

Regardless of the crop, Andrew gets immense satisfaction out of growing high quality, organic produce.

“The whole farm is certified organic and I’ve been interested in the biological/organic side of farming for a very long time,” he said.

“To me, it puts the fun back into farming. There is no recipe book to go by. You have to learn how to grow your crops using only the inputs that are allowed."

A big part of that for Andrew has been working hard on his soil health.

“I’m always working on my soil health – that’s the foundation of my business,” he said.

“There are billions of living organisms underneath our feet and they work away for us 24 hours a day seven days a week. If you get that right, the rewards are outstanding.”

This year, another positive for Andrew was that he was able to continue with business as usual despite COVID-19.

“We were fortunate enough to get our staff into Australia before COVID-19 fully took hold, and up here, we wouldn’t even know it existed,” he said.

While he feels for other businesses who have been impacted, Andrew believes that Australians at least don’t need to be worried about food availability.

“In Australia, an incredible amount of our product is exported, so we are never going to run out of food,” he said.

“Possibly one benefit to come out of COVID-19 is that it has focused consumers on purchasing locally. I think that’s a fantastic thing because we need to support local and buy local.”

 

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