There must be something in those carrots, because it usually takes a bit to raise two teenagers from their beds on a Sunday morning!
I had asked my girls if they wanted to come with me to the Kalfresh’s Carrot Field Day at Kalbar, about an hour west of Brisbane. To my utter surprise, I received a positive ‘yes’ and a ‘I want to see where they grow them!’
Kalfresh was begun by Robert Hinrichsen nearly twenty years ago as an attempt to combine similar vegetable farmers in the Fassifern Valley to increase their impact in growing, selling and marketing under one brand. Their large packing, processing and distribution facility is a testament to their innovating thinking. It houses a very impressive cleaning and cooling system for carrots that turns out the product to an accredited standard suitable for export and the domestic market.
The mind behind the Carrot Field Day was Alice Gorman, an award winning journalist who writes for many publications and most recently produced a series called ‘Ask A Farmer’ featured in the LIFE section of the Courier mail. She is one of the biggest supporters of Australian farming I know; a former city girl with incredible wit. I love her take on becoming part of a farming community after marrying Richard , the Managing Director and part owner of Kalfresh, also affectionately known as ‘Mr Bean’.
Mr Bean took on his role as tour guide with the same ease I would imagine he takes on at a board meeting or a John Deere at carrot harvest. Turns out he is a bit of a pied piper with kids, as he was followed by a steady swathe of them as we toured around the premises.
He explained how all of the carrots are used, and certainly nothing goes to waste. Carrots not suitable as 'A Grade' all end up being used in a variety of ways, including juicing, in ready-made products such as 'Kantong', and pet food and as feed for cattle. The tops get churned back into the soil.
Kalfresh have also had a strong association with 'Food Bank' who provide an incredible food distribution program to the needy within our communities -see http://www.foodbank.com.au. Excess carrots are donated to this cause as do many farmers in this country
Next came the moment my girls were looking forward to. We formed a cavalcade of vehicles, led by the balloon decorated pilot vehicle, ferried along the Cunningham Highway to a glorious field of carrots.
Armed with bags, we were let loose to dig out a bag of carrots to take home. There was particular excitement amongst the kids, including mine, at the simple act of getting dirty and pulling carrots! It’s kind of sad to think how much we are withdrawn from such simple and beautiful things. The farmers seemed chuffed by the questions and genuine interest in what they do.
We came home to Esk armed with beautiful carrots, seeds and a great respect for the people that produce this beautiful product. It takes a lot of work and innovation to produce a carrot that is so sweet and crunchy, and it’s another example of our farmers leading the way with a consistent, high quality product.
Whilst at the farm picking carrots, I just had to take a photo of this old tractor, to remind us how it used to be done.
You see my partner’s father spent quite a few years of his early married life growing carrots around Glen Innes, where the soil would freeze in the winter, the tractor was a Farmall similar to this and the carrots were hand washed, graded and hand sewn into hessian bags for delivery to the Brisbane Markets. It kind of put him off the idea of growing them as as a lifelong career!
I hope there is another Carrot Day next year. I get the impression that even the Kalfresh guys were a little surprised at the positive outcome, and it shows that there are many people out there that are interested in what our farmers do. Sometimes when you are ‘inside’ a situation, you don’t always see what the outsider is appreciating.
Thanks to Richard, Robert and all the staff at Kalfresh for putting on a great morning. The teenagers voted with an ‘amazing’ as their extensive synopsis of the event; I believe that’s a most positive recommendation…. In teenage terms.
Alice has a very great blog of her own, which can be found at http://www.alicegorman.com.au. It’s ‘real’ and it’s good value. You can also follow her on Twitter at – @farmerhasawife.