The Adelaide Hills has a world class boutique apple and pear industry, many of its orchards owned by the same family for generations. At the Adelaide Hills Farmers market, we have the opportunity to buy superb locally-grown fruit from Andy and his family at prices equivalent to what supermarkets charge for fruit that comes from anywhere but the Hills. It is the repeated lament of the market that not more Mount Barker and district locals shop at Mann Street on Saturday mornings.
A recent study of the Hills Region Apple chain indicates that individual orchards should work more closely together in the face of the Woolworths and Coles hegemony. Such orchards have traditionally gone it alone against an ever-increasing tide of government regulation and lack of coordination between departments, scenarios not confined to small scale farming. Water management policies are complicated and sometimes affected by politics, which kills coherent planning.
In 2006 it was noted that the smaller scale Adelaide Hills fruit, vegetable and wine producers might be compared to the primary producers of the Netherlands (population about seven million), which established a global reputation for being innovative and responsive, collaborating with centres of applied research and government agencies. Infrastructure that enables growing bodies to liaise routinely with government agencies could enable a plan to provide small scale farmers of high quality local produce with avenues to more efficient water management, marketing and distribution of the product not only to local communities but indeed to the wider world.
Plan? What plan? The study’s primary finding points to an absence of a thirty year agricultural plan for greater Adelaide. God forbid that we should PLAN for our hard-working small-scale farmers. Heavens, they might start to think they’re important. Imagine if the small-scale farmers were able to speak with a single thunderous voice that might make politicians pay attention? What if they were able to force governments to take them seriously to the extent to which there could be uniformity in regulations, industry training, infrastructure, storage, handling, transport…?
Many small voices can become a bigger voice. This is another reason why our market and others like it are crucial to the development of our region. We can change the world, voice by voice, step by step. Bring someone you know to visit the market this week. Get them to bring their friends. And buy Andy’s apples. They are world class.