While the smoke has cleared and the rain has finally come, that is not the end of the problems for our farmers. Supply has become a big issue for fruit and vegetable producers.
ARC Organics proprietor Claire Stewart said there is simply not enough stock to meet demand at present.
“The drought was hitting the supply of fruit and vegetables well before the fires came. Before Christmas suppliers were warning us that it would become hard to get hold of even some fruit and vegetable staples. With the weather patterns disrupted, growers are telling us that they will be planting less in the coming seasons as well. Putting it simply, our climate has changed and it is affecting our food supply,” Ms Stewart said.
“At the moment we have lost one of our big avocado suppliers to the fires, it is impossible to buy English Spinach and fruit prices have increased over 6 per cent in just the past few weeks.”
Ms Stewart urged people to support local producers and help them recover from the unprecedented conditions.
“It can be tempting for consumers to take the easier, cheaper path and buy imported fruit and vegetables from the big supermarkets but if we do not support our growers during the tough times, they may not survive,” she said.
“The best thing people can do is be flexible, know that there are some items you can’t get at the moment. You may pay a little more but you will still be getting quality Australian grown food and supporting Australian growers.”
One local supplier doing it particularly tough this season is Prana Produce, located just outside Braidwood. John Carroll and Christina Jagusiak started the business in 2015, growing produce, running workshops and creating store products such as beeswax wraps, soap and dressings.
But Mr Carroll said the past year has been a challenge.
As if drought and fires weren’t enough, road closures were also a significant blow for the region and their business.
“We are 60 per cent down in our takings for the season. Braidwood relies heavily on tourism but obviously that didn’t happen this summer. The restaurants had no customers so they were not ordering produce from us,” Mr Carroll said.
Compounding their problems, he said insects have been an issue this season.
“It has been hard to grow leafy greens. I have never seen so many insects. We certainly have had some challenges.”
But Mr Carroll said he is an optimist.
“You’ve got to be or you wouldn’t survive. We have put our heads down and kept going. The fires came awfully close. At one stage we were stationed across three hills, radioing in when the fires were approaching. But we were lucky and our property was not directly impacted,” he said.
“The rain has come, which is great, and our dams are overflowing. Just a few weeks ago we were wondering if our bore was going to stop like it had for many other farmers in our area and now I have a greenhouse full of tomatoes with mould issues.”
As if all that wasn’t enough, Mr Carroll said he had planted a field of seedlings ready for the next season and some local wood ducks moved in following the rain and helped themselves.
“You do pay a price sometimes but the fires have gone, we have water and we are in this for the long haul. We have invested in infrastructure on our farm and we are determined to keep growing our business.”
He said the best thing consumers can do is keep buying the produce.
“It doesn’t matter where you buy it from. You don’t have to buy it direct from the farm gate, just keep buying quality, locally grown food and support farmers and suppliers.”