GREEN PICK: Harvest Moon expects to produce about 90,000 tonnes of fresh produce this year. IMAGE: Supplied
THE sweeping plains surrounding Forth in Tasmania's stunning North West are flush with Harvest Moon's latest crop of seasonal vegetables.
Tasmania's largest locally-owned, vertically integrated vegetable growing and packing business, Harvest Moon has set its sights on delivering the freshest produce to Australian and international markets.
Spread across a 1600 hectare aggregation which includes plots in Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland, the company's agricultural director Mark Kable co-owns and operates the business with managing director Neil Armstrong.
In the field
After Armstrong established the business in 1981, the Kable family opted in to become co-owners in 1991 and, today this dream-team are harvesting upwards of 60,000 tonnes of fresh produce locally per year.
"We grow and market a variety of produce, including beans, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, onions, swede, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, and baby spinach," Mark said, adding the company's 'Snackables' range is now sold nationally through a variety of retailers.
Selling produce locally, in all states of Australia, and exporting across the globe, Harvest Moon is a true powerhouse when it comes to meeting consumer demand and this season will be no different.
"The growing season this year has been fantastic," Mark said. "We have had a lot of rain, so we have had to work hard in the small windows between the rain to get ground worked and crops planted. "Managing this has taken a lot of forward planning by the field officers and farm staff." Mark said the key to modern day farming is to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.
Like every farm, each day has the potential to bring both achievements and challenges, with a seasonal routine helping the team to focus their efforts on production goals.
"Every day is filled with different activities, depending on the weather and the time of the year. Autumn and winter are spent forward planning our sales for the coming season, sourcing ground, preparing paddocks, installing new plants and maintaining existing equipment.
"Spring and summer are all about harvesting and packing produce and shipping it to customers across Australia and around the globe."
Grown on land owned by Harvest Moon, along with additional leased properties and with help from contracted growers, the high quality produce relies heavily on the best in management practices and soil health is at the heart of the operation.
"Crop rotation is incredibly important. We are lucky that we grow around 12 different products, which gives us plenty of scope to rotate crops each year," Mark said.
"Soil health is also key. We implement a variety of different practices on farm to maintain and improve soil health including cover cropping with a variety of crops such as caliente, ryegrass and rye corn, and tillage radish."
The team at Harvest Moon are responsible for all aspects of the preparation, planting and harvesting of products, both on their own farms and with contract growers.
"The biggest challenges during harvest are weather and labour. Weather can dramatically influence the quality of our crops at harvest.
"Sourcing labour for hand-harvested crops has always been a challenge as it is hard, repetitive work, however COVID-19 has made this even more difficult."
Harvest Moon is also implementing Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF), using permanent two-metre wheel tracks in order to reduce the negative impacts of soil compaction, and strip tilling.
"As a business, we are certified to and audited regularly against a variety of quality management systems that include food safety, environmental management, ethical treatment of workers and compliance with legislation." Mark's passion for agriculture shines through when talking about Harvest Moon.
"We live in a beautiful part of the country. I love driving around the farms and seeing the crops growing. I love to travel around the country, and the world, looking at what other people are doing and identifying what might work here in our operation," he said.
With the head office and main packing site located in Forth, Harvest Moon has expanded over the years to establish packing and distribution sites in Werribee South, Victoria, and Gatton, Queensland.
"A couple of our lines are packed in the field, then transported to our packing facility for cooling, quality control and labelling," Mark said.
"The majority are taken to our packing facility at Forth for cooling, grading and packing. This is the case in both Forth and in Werribee. In Gatton, all produce is packed in-field. Across all of our operations, we expect to produce about 90,000t."
In late 2018, Harvest Moon made a bold leap to expanding into avocado production and have recently finished planting out their fourth round of Hass trees with the total plantation covering about 16 hectares.
"We expect to see fruit from the oldest of these trees in the next 12 months," Mark said, adding the variety was chosen to match consumer demand and bolstered by positive reports of good yield and high fruit quality.
*First published March 2022 for Tasmanian Farmer Newspaper - owned by Australian Community Media.