GREG'S LEGACY

Specialising in the human experience of Living with prostate cancer – warts and all

King & Ovens Valleys Food Bowl – very unlikely

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For the last 12 months, Wangaratta Unlimited, the economic arm of the Rural City of Wangaratta, have been heavily promoting the idea of turning the King and Ovens Valleys into a major food bowl growing area.

It sounds exciting, with some of the most fertile soil in the state and a history of growing cold climate crops like millet, hops, tobacco, and various vegetables.  Many fruits from citrus to stone fruits and grapes have also done well in different parts of the valleys.

However, there are too many problems to make this a viable concept.  First is the climate.  Being in the high country the climate varies from one valley to the next.  There is no overall climate. Snow and frost are the major factors whilst the shortened sunlight hours due to the mountains shielding much of the arable areas doesn’t give adequate ripening time in the autumn.  The moment the sun is shielded by the mountains, it becomes cold in the valleys.  Tradition has it that spring vegetables planted before Melbourne Cup Day will not survive.  That is not conducive to food production.

The bigger problem is the dieldrin residues in the soil from a century of tobacco growing.  It is not only on the tobacco growing properties, but is still being flushed down the Ovens and King Rivers contaminating other properties preventing them from getting organic accreditation.

An anomoly is that beef cattle cannot be sold off dieldrin contaminated soil yet dairy cattle are allowed to be farmed there.  I find it hard to believe that if dieldrin will contaminate the meat we eat, why should there be no residue in the milk.

In Wednesdays Wangaratta Chronicle,  Wangaratta Unlimited is currently putting the final touches on a strategy it hopes will bring the concept closer to reality.  When you read this article, you will see it is a big ask to bring it to reality

Leadership needed to help make a promising idea a reality for valleys

Written by STEVEN BURKE .

LEADERS need to stand up for the Ovens and King valleys food bowl initiative to move forward.

That is the message coming out of the Rural City of Wangaratta’s economic development arm, Wangaratta Unlimited, which has been driving the push to establish fruit and vegetable growing on former tobacco land throughout the region.

The three-pronged approach includes the directive to encourage local leadership.

We need to identify some leadership to take this idea forward,” said Wangaratta Unlimited’s Graham Nickless yesterday.

It can’t be just Wangaratta Unlimited or council driving the project.

We are just facilitators.

At the end of the day, people need to say ‘yes, I’ll take this opportunity even though there are risks and it’s something new’.

The strategy also has a focus on ensuring a supply chain is in place.

We can’t just grow with the hope someone will buy what we’re growing,” Mr Nickless said.

Another major challenge identified in the strategy is the need for a cultural change among former tobacco growers in the region.

Mr Nickless said growing fruit and vegetables would never have the same price security as tobacco.

The system that the former tobacco growing community experienced is gone,” he said.

He said growers would need to adjust to a market and supply driven culture, not the quota and guarantees system they were used to.

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Written by Greg Naylor

23 July 2009 at 12:49 pm

Posted in PERSONAL

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