Do you have a dream?

 

Last Thursday night The Riverina Collective came to Barham for a night of inspiration, laughs and good food. Sixty women at The Long Paddock – sooo cool!

Hayley Purbrick founded The Riverina Collective in Deniliquin last year. The aim was to create “A platform to connect women in Deniliquin and surrounds to showcase the beautiful minds which exist in our own backyard and if it suits, from further abroad”. I LOVE everything about what Hayley is doing.

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Emily Wood, Meg Durham, Sarah Sammon (Simply Rose Petals) Me, Rachel Roberston

You all know I am so passionate about community and I believe that when women support each other great things can happen. I love that The Riverina Collective is creating a platform for women to do just that – support each other!

The events have a different topic each time and the topic this time was “Dare to Dream”.

Wendy McDonald opened the night, telling us all about her journey from the city to the country after marrying a rice farmer and the amazing adventure she has been on to establish her art studio and become an award-winning artist. Wendy is incredible and her story is so inspiring.

Next was a panel discussion with myself, Rachel Robertson and Emily Wood of RemLifestyle.

We talked about what we’d done, what we’d overcome, the importance of community and the importance of taking care of yourself and getting yourself to thriving so you can achieve your dreams and support those around you.

Meg Durham finished off the night with a fabulous presentation about her journey and her quest to bring wellbeing education in to schools.

A key focus on the night was the need for self-care and to improve our own wellbeing so we can achieve our dreams.

I hope we have many more of these amazing events and I hope that you can start to take some steps on your journey to flourishing.

In terms of what my dream is, well I’ve got a few, but here goes:

I dream that we can develop a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that will propel rural Australia forward and ensure a sustainable future for all of us living in the country.

I dream that my kids will grow up surrounded by positivity in a community that celebrates success and encourages them to flourish and I am going to do my best to help make that happen.

What’s your dream? I’d love to hear.

 

Katrina x

 

Some helpful links to help you with your dreams x

Marie Forleo – I love this women.

Jack Delosa Unwritten and Unprofessional

Start with Why. https://www.startwithwhy.com

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The Ripple Effect

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To me, mental health is everything.

If you don’t have a healthy mind it can affect you in so many ways and so many people these days seems to be affected by some form of mental illness. Whether it be anxiety, depression, weight issues, bipolar, manic depressive, alcoholism or drug abuse, and in all sorts of extremes people seem to be affected.

I was chatting with a friend the other day and she put it to me that she thinks that no one escapes it these days; everyone, at some point in their lives, will be touched by mental illness. I think she’s right and it makes me feel really sad and it makes me want to help.

As some of you know, my father died from suicide when I was young. His death has affected me throughout my life in various ways and probably more as an adult and as a mother than it did at the time. Last year I reached a point where I needed to get some professional help. I think Dad’s death effected my resilience and so things that shouldn’t have been a big deal became a big deal for me. I had a really difficult friendship that caused me a lot of anxiety and things had got to the point where I was feeling sad more than I was happy so I started meditating and I saw my GP and got a referral to a therapist. At the time I wondered if I was being paranoid, but to me that’s the point, who cares if I was! I think we all need to be a bit more paranoid and seek help earlier. We go to the doctor for a cold or a sore throat all the time and don’t even think twice about it, so why then is it such a MASSIVE deal to go to the doctor if our heads aren’t feeling right?

Dad and I when I was a wee tacker

I’ve decided to share my story because of a new project called The Ripple Effect. For a long time I have wanted to get involved with advocating for good mental health and for prevention rather than cure and a holistic approach to treatment. A few months ago I found out about The Ripple Effect project and I applied to be on the steering committee. The Ripple Effect has been set up by the National Centre for Farmer Health and funded by Beyond Blue, to investigate whether a digital platform can help reduce the stigma around suicide in men in rural communities, “farmers helping farmers beat suicide.” The Ripple Effect is a platform for people from farming communities to share their experience of suicide. The idea is that by sharing what helped you, you can help others. I am so pleased to be involved with this project and I really hope that it can make a difference. For me it’s about helping make sure that no more Dads die from this terrible illness by helping make sure that that the stigma is reduced so that people seek help earlier. It’s also about the many flow-on effects that a project with this sort of awareness might bring for the wider community.

I have recently started having some great conversations with some beautiful friends about what we can do to build resilience and good mental health in our community. We really want to help as many people as possible to build mental resilience and to have good wellbeing and I want my kids to have healthy minds and good resilience so they can cope with whatever comes their way. I feel so strongly that prevention is so important when it comes to mental health and it’s about building resilience. The thing is it doesn’t matter how great your life looks or how many things you own or how much money you have, mental illness effects everyone. I am living the life I wanted to live,  I have a beautiful family and wonderful friends, but I still became affected. My Dad, was the same – on the outside his life looked fantastic, he was into lots of things, a very social and outgoing person, but he just got sick.  Maybe if we can all gain skills and tools for recognising when our minds are not quite right, we can all get help earlier and recognise when our friends and family aren’t quite right too.

It’s so awesome to see that the Federal Government has acknowledged how importat mental health is recently and the effect it has on productivity. Susan Ley is our local member and the Health Minister and she has said she really wants to help with the work that we are doing. She tweeted to me last week and I got quite emotional. This stuff is really important and it was so great to see that she wants to help.

With Christmas coming up it’s a good time to think about your family and friends and take a bit more notice of what’s going on with you or people around you. If you think there’s something not quite right with you or a friend or family member then do something. Go to the Doctor, have a conversation, just do something. You can’t do any harm by asking someone if they are OK. Sometimes just knowing that someone cares enough to ask if they are OK can help. The important thing is just to do something and not leave it.

It’s been 12 months since I went to the doctor and I now feel as though my mental health is in pretty good shape and my mind is healthy. I am so blessed to have a beautiful family and awesome friends who have helped me a lot and who I am so, so grateful for. I still meditate twice a day and I know this will be something I have to keep working on. Mental health is like physical health, you have to work at it and maintain it and you can improve it!

It’s Dad’s birthday next week, he would have been 61. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss him and wonder what things would be like if he was here. Our family and our friends are so important, we are all important, so look out for each other and yourselves and let’s all help each other to have happy health minds so we can all live long and beautiful lives.

Please head over and check out The Ripple Effect website and “do your bit to turn the negative ripple of suicide into a positive ripple of support”.

I’m also looking for people to be community champions for the project so please get in touch if you’d like to help too.

If you’re interested in learning more about meditating and mindfulness, check out Smiling Mind or Headspace and also The Broad Place. 

xx

 

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Positive Learning

Lately I’ve become even more aware of how important it is to surround yourself with positive-ness! It’s amazing how being around positive people and positive energy makes you feel so much better within yourself and how this reflects in your daily life. Going to see inspirational speakers or attending workshops or Q&A sessions in a field you are interested in can be really informative and uplifting and I think it’s a really important part of personal and professional development.

Lisa Messanger

Last month I attended the “Imagine the Possibilities” workshop at the Moama Bowling Club. I was surrounded by a room full of amazing women doing incredible things and all yearning for information and skills to improve their businesses and lives. Lisa Messanger of The Collective was the keynote speaker and Kylie from “Of Kin” also made a keynote presentation. These ladies rocked. Their creativeness, courage and enthusiasm for what they do is just so inspiring. The whole day was all about supporting and nurturing each other and about being positive and having courage to do things and I came away feeling so fresh and inspired.

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Last week I had the pleasure of being guest speaker at the Rabobank International Rural Women’s Day lunch in the Yarra Valley. It was such an honour to be asked to speak at this event and it I felt like it was my opportunity to spread that positivity on to the group of women that I was speaking to. I loved being able to share our story with these women and talk about what we have done to grow and develop our brand and our business and it was so lovely to speak with people afterwards and have lots of lovely feedback on what we were doing and hear stories from other people of all the wonderful thing they were doing with their businesses. I was also lucky enough to attend the Rabobank Leadership Awards dinner in Melbourne last week and once again I was in a room full of people who were looking to the future and who were positive about the field of agriculture and the future of the industry and it was really encouraging and comforting.

These sorts of networking events are so important for making you feel refreshed and giving you new insights into things. It’s good to be surrounded by inspiring people with positive energy and I really encourage you if you get the opportunity to get along to these kinds of events. Sharing knowledge and positivity is really important not only for you as an individual but also for your business development and you can come away with new and innovative ideas to explore.

 

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Innovative Farming

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Did you know that only 10% of Australians live in rural areas? So it’s probably fair to assume that many people have no idea what it’s like to live in the country or to be a farmer. So I thought I’d tell you what it’s like for me!

I love farming and I feel grateful every day that we made the decision to return to the land and for the opportunity we were given to take over my family farm. I love living in a small rural town and I love the community that we belong to. These days it’s really hard to get into farming – unless you are from one or have a small fortune, buying a farm is not an option for many, so it is a career that I see as a privilege and one I never take for granted. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do and it doesn’t feel like work to us. Everyday is enjoyable and challenging.

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Farming is like any other business; you have to be innovative or you won’t survive. I often hear people talk of farming and how hard it is and how it’s getting so tough, but I think that’s the same as any business these days. Sure, we have the factors of the weather being unpredictable and water unreliability is a big issue in our area, but other businesses have other problems. Think newspapers and the introduction of online media; dvds and iTunes or Apple TV; taxis and Uber; Wotif and Airbnb. There are so many new and innovative technologies out there now that it doesn’t matter what you do, you have to be ahead of the game to stay in business.

That’s the philosophy that we have had since taking over the farm in 2011. We wanted to do things differently. We wanted to develop a brand around our avocados and connect with our community and our customers.

I think there are loads of opportunities for this in agriculture. There are opportunities everywhere to differentiate your product and value-add. Sure it’s more work and time but it’s worth it. You can have the best product in the world – the best wheat, the best avocados, the best carrots – but if people don’t know about it then it doesn’t matter. The market is so competitive now that we have to find ways to differentiate ourselves. What we have found is that people want to connect and they want to know about the food they are buying and they love feeling part of our journey and our community and we love that too. It is so rewarding to be able to connect with our customers and get direct feedback. By establishing a brand and building our community we are establishing loyal followers who will choose to buy our products over others even if they are more expensive. It’s not just because it’s the best product around – which, of course, it is – it’s because our customers know who grows it, picks it and sends it to their door.

We love farming. Sure it’s busy, but it’s so enjoyable and every day is part of a really fulfilling journey for us. We chose to be farmers and we are grateful every day for that choice. I’m sure there will be tough times in the future – we haven’t been through a drought since we’ve been on the farm – but I hope that when that happens we’ll find new ways to get through it and new ways to manage those conditions.

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If you’re from a farm and have never considered it as an option for you I urge you to think again. If you’re not from a farm and you’d love to be a farmer then think outside the square: do your research find out where there’s a gap in the market and look at what other small producers have done to get themselves going and you never know what you might find…anything is possible.

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Jack Frost

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Mr Frost has been visiting us a bit lately and while the kids love the sprinkling of white flakes over the back lawn and watching the ice melt slowly, it makes Tim and I very nervous.

Growing avocados trees in our climate has many benefits in terms of producing great quality fruit and lack of pests and diseases, but it also comes with risks, one of them being frosts. Frosts are not an avocado tree’s friend and they are one of our tree’s biggest threats, so this time of year is always a little bit anxious for us. There’s lots of checking of the weather forecasts, frost fan maintenance and seaweed sprays.

To protect the trees from frost as much as we can we have big frost fans which soar 11m into the sky. They have 2 large blades which are 5 ½ metres in diameter. The blades spin like helicopter blades and rotate around on their axis to move the air and to stop the frost from settling on the trees. We have three fans, each one covers a 6 ha radius.

The fans are set on a temperature sensor and they automatically come on when it gets below 0C. It’s all very techno these days and Tim has a special program on his phone so that he can see a satellite image of the orchard and each fan with the temperature reading at each fan and he gets alerts to tell him when each fan comes on or if there are any problems with them.

Basically the fans work really well as long as there is warmer air at the top of the tower. The fans work by mixing the warm air up higher which is generally about 4 or 5 degrees warmer than on the ground and pushing it downwards. As long as these conditions are right and the frost fans do their job, the big avocado trees can tolerate down to about -4C and the baby trees down to about -2C.

If the trees get frosted, it’s pretty serious. A severe frost can cause damage to the fruit on the tree and if it’s severe enough it can also cause the fruit to drop off.

If the frosts are late in winter it can also affect the emerging flower buds which will reduce the fruit set for the following season.

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                                                                  Fixing the frost fan 

Last week we had a bit of bad luck to go with a pretty bad frost. First of all we had ants in one of the fan’s control panels, which meant we couldn’t set the temperature properly. Then Tim fixed that and the same fan “did a clutch”. Not great when a -2 frost was forecast for that night and there was no chance of getting the frost fan mechanics up to fix it in time. It ended up getting down to -3.3 that night. Luckily it was the fan that covers the highest part of the sand hill and the mature trees and we seem to have mostly got a way with it. We have had some fruit drop and some fruit damage but at this stage it looks like the flower buds are OK as they are not really emerging yet. So it’s not too bad, thankfully.

Managing frosts is just one of the many risks we have to manage on the farm and although it can be stressful, to us it’s just part of running the business. If you’re a famer you know there are risks and it’s about managing them as best you can. People often say “why would you be a farmer, when you have no control over the weather” and I always think, “well, that’s just part of the challenge”. All business have risks, all business face challenges and you can’t control everything and that’s the fun of it!

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The season is upon us…

I am so looking forward to starting this season again. We’ve had a lovely off-season and have been busy with maintenance of the orchard and lots of planning for avos and houses!

It’s been nice to have some catch up time. On the work front I’ve been working on my time management; prioritising and planning for the next season; getting the website up-to-date; researching dips and other products; and working out how we can market the avo oil better. But it’s also been nice to have lots of lovely family time and just hang out with the kids.

Tim

Wayne

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Tim’s been busy in the orchard still getting things up to date and maintaining everything. The place just looks fantastic. We’re going to plant some more trees later in the year too, just replacement ones. We had to pull some of the original trees out as they were dying and not producing much. It was quite sad to see them go but it’s also going to be lovely to have more new babies. We left a couple of rows of the originals as we couldn’t part with all of them.

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The old Farm House that we will move into

We’ve also been getting ready for the reno on the farm house. Mum is building a new house on the farm and it’s this super cool sustainable design from LifeHouse Design architects. It should be finished in about a month and then we are going to renovate the farm house a bit and move in there. We’re going to do a kitchen reno so I’ve been very busy choosing bench tops and tiles and ovens and it’s been heaps of fun! I love interior design and it is so lovely to be able to work on doing our own place. I cannot wait to move out the farm and get stuck into everything. I am imagining a beautiful kitchen garden, chooks, lots of cooking for friends and family and lots of laughing. The kids are going to love it too, they are so ready to be out there running around and jumping on the hay bales. Tim has made a start on their new cubby house in the trees and they are really ready to be out and about at the farm.

We’ve got a couple of exciting things coming up for later in the year too. Our Reed avos and the Avo Oil are finalists again in the Delicious Produce Awards which is very exciting – 4 year in a row! We’re also off to Peru in September for the World Avocado Congress which should be pretty awesome.

I can’t wait to send out avocados to everyone again this year for you all to enjoy and I’ll keep you up to date with our moves to the farm.

Here are some of my favourite kitchen inspiration ideas for our new kitchen at the farm, would love to hear what you think and who you look to for inspiration.

Timber Island

Kip and Co kitchen

 

 

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So, I joined the CWA…

Barham CWA

This month, the Barham branch of the Country Women’s Association (CWA) re-formed.

There were over 35 women in attendance and ten apologies for the first meeting which, in our small town, is pretty amazing. The CWA is a community group of women of all ages, across all different groups in our society and it’s lovely.

There has been an incredible amount of interest in the new CWA. So many women are really excited about it and there were women as young as 30 at the first meeting. It’s got me thinking a lot about what the appeal is for women; why is it so popular? It’s also made me think about feminism and equality.

Why have women embraced the re-establishment of the CWA and flocked to the meetings in droves? What is it that excites me about the CWA?

I think there are a number of reasons. For me, it felt like it would be a lovely opportunity to come together with other women and do good things — I was particularly attracted to the opportunity to raise awareness about mental health and suicide in our community and also just to work with a group of community-focused people. I also love the idea of preserving the old school skills of making scones and knitting and I’d really love to learn how to make a sponge properly!

There is something about the CWA that resonates with women in our community. Maybe it’s because of the history of it and that we all remember our grandmothers being involved in it or maybe it’s the appeal of an women-only group?

I was recently out for dinner with our local NSW MP Adrian Piccoli and a group of local business people. We talked about many things but we also got talking about the re-formation of the CWA and this lead to a discussion about equal rights and women’s equality. Adrian’s wife is actually the President of Soroptomists International in Griffith.

It was put to me during this discussion by one guest that the CWA might been seen as backwards with phrases like “sitting around baking scones is so old fashioned” and “what does the CWA do anyway, bake cakes?” bandied about. It seems that some people around town were also surprised that many young women were joining this seemingly antiquated group. I must admit that I had considered this myself when the CWA was forming, I wondered it if was anti-feminist and old fashioned. Does it send the right message?

Here’s the conclusion that I’ve come to…

The CWA is amazing. Their aim is to “improve the conditions for women and children and make life better for families, especially those living in rural and remote Australia”. Their “old-fashioned” scone baking last year raised over $80,000 at the Royal Melbourne Show. They made 72,500 ‘trauma bears’ for kids undergoing procedures in hospitals. They send packages to women in East Timor to help them after childbirth and they raise loads of money for different causes every year.

Last year they raised awareness of the domestic violence against women and this year it’s mental health and suicide, a cause particularly close to my heart. The CWA is the largest women’s organisation in Australia with a membership of over 22,000 in over 1,200 branches around the country and they have representatives on over 12 boards nationally including: Consumers Telecommunications Network, Telstra Consumer Council, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Consumer Consultative Committee and Australian Communications Industry Forum. The CWA has a long history of achievements and helping to connect women around Australia and to improve the quality of life for women, particularly in rural areas.

In The Age recently there was this great article written by Annabel Crabb entitled “Feminsm, like humanity is messy and imperfect”. This article really resonated with me. Annabel states that sometimes she does things that she’s frightened Germaine Greer will find out about like “wearing high heels”. I love this comment. I think perhaps this is a bit like the CWA for me. I am a strong women who believes very strongly in equal rights, of course! But, it’s OK for me to want to bake scones too isn’t it? It’s OK if I want to wear high heels but also Blundstones? Isn’t it OK for me just to do what I want? Isn’t that where we want to get to?

In her piece, Annabel Crabb says that she was “bothered that women are more than 50% of the population and more than 60% of university graduates but only 3% of chief executives…it bothers me that one women per week gets killed by her male partner and it bothers me that ‘working Mum’ is a phrase used all the time but you never hear ‘working Dad’.” I couldn’t agree more.

Getting together with awesome women to do good things like raise awareness about suicide prevention makes me feel good. So does making scones. The CWA is a friendship group for women of all ages, it’s a group that focuses on kindness to all and on helping others. To me that’s pretty cool.

I’ll be sticking with the CWA. I’ll continue to run my business with my husband. I’ll also be looking after the kids and running the household. I’ll be doing an online business course and presenting when I’m asked to. I’ll be getting involved with the community and trying to do as many positive things as I can to contribute to making life awesome for everyone in our community because that’s what I want to do.

It was International Women’s Day last Sunday so let’s celebrate being a woman. Bake a scone, run a company, look after your kids, run a marathon, join the CWA! Do whatever you like!

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Managing the Heat

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On any farm there are a number of risks involved with growing a crop. We have a few big risks that we need to mitigate to grow our avocados including frost, wind and heat.

At this time of year our biggest risk is the heat. Avocados are a tropical fruit so they like the hot – but only humid heat, not dry.

The climate in Barham sees hot, and often very dry, summers so we have to use a number of techniques to ensure our trees do not suffer too much damage. Sometimes, even with the management techniques, we will get loss of fruit or damage to the trees.

There are things we do on an ongoing basis like managing the watering of the trees. We manage our water use very carefully with a special water monitoring system to ensure the water is at just the right depth at all times so that the roots can get the right amount of water. We also manage the nutrition of the trees to ensure the trees are really healthy at all times.

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When we know really hot weather is coming we use seaweed sprays and we also have a cooling system that we turn on when it gets above 35 degrees. Basically it’s sprinklers on top of tall poles on every second row of trees. The sprinklers just put out a very fine mist, which cools the trees down but doesn’t make them too wet. It just makes the environment in the trees nice and humid like it would be in the tropics. The overhead sprinkler system is essential for growing avocados in our climate. We turn the system on when it gets above 35 and then there is a lot of going round the trees and checking that there are no pipe blow outs or blockages in the trees as it’s critical that they keep going.

One of the most critical times for heat impact on the trees is during January. This year we have been really lucky with the weather; we had a hot dry Spring, but January has been relatively cool.

The trees have a fruit drop in January when they spit off some of their fruit and if it’s really hot at this time then they will spit off more. Last year we had 5 days over 45 degrees which meant we lost a lot of fruit so this year we have been much happier with the cooler temps. There might still be some really hot weather in February but at least we’ve got this far. The fruit set is still looking good for next year and we are past one of our challenges for this year so fingers crossed there’ll be lots of yummy avos for you all next season!

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The New Year

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A big Happy New Year to all!

There’s something really special about the start of the new year. I love that feeling of new beginnings and the anticipation of what’s in store for the year ahead. It kind of feels like hitting the reset button to me. It’s a chance to just regroup and take stock and think about where we are in life, before we head on in to a whole new year.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what my priorities are and the juggle of family and business and how to make it all work smoothly for everyone. I’ll be trying to do less and focus more (not easy for one with a busy head) and just trying to find that happy place. My sister wrote a really good blog post about this recently if you want to check it out here.

This year will be another big one for us. We are going to be moving out of town and onto the farm – into the house where I grew up. Mum has still been living in the farmhouse since we moved home but her new house is just about finished. She’s building a really cool house with a sustainable design by Lifehouse Design architects in Castlemaine which should be finished by late April. We cannot wait to get out there. It will be so lovely for the kids to grow up on the farm and so great for Tim in terms of management as there is always something that needs doing out there so this will be much easier for him.

I’m also going to be trialling a new avocado dip! We’ll be taking it to farmers’ markets and giving away free samples to get feedback from people so look out for that one.

Our oldest daughter Daisy, is also going to be starting school which is so exciting. She can’t wait and it is going to be so much fun seeing her learn and grow.

I’ll also be trying to keep everyone updated as much as possible with happenings on the farm and fun things we are up to. If anyone has any requests of things they’d like to see or something they’d like more information on then please do let me know.

I hope you’ve had a chance to stop and think about where you are and what’s happening with your life and what your priorities are for the year ahead.

Here’s to a fabulous year filled with lots of great moments and lots of fun!

 

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Avocado Varieties

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With Christmas just around the corner we are so excited to get back into it and pick our premium variety of avocados: the Reed! It’s been a really funny season for us this year in terms of when each variety has been ready for picking. The Reed is the last of the main four varieties that we grow on the farm and it’s our absolute favourite.

We actually have seven different varieties of avocados that we grow on the farm: Hass, Reed, Bacon, Fuerte, Wurtz, Gwen, and Ryan. Worldwide there are more than 500 types, with about 75 varieties grown in Australia. Of our seven types, we only harvest four for commercial sale (Bacon, Fuerte, Hass and Reed) because we’ve only got about five trees for each of the other varieties and we’ve got about 1,500 Hass trees, 800 Reed, 50 Fuerte and 20 Bacon (this paragraph has way more numbers in it than my usual blogs but avocado data is ‘cool’ data, right?!)

The main variety that you will see in Australia now is, of course, the Hass. This is mainly because the industry organisation Australian Avocados has focused on promoting the Hass because it’s the most robust and the easiest of all of the avos to tell when it’s ripe because it darkens in colour. This year our Hass were ready earlier than usual and we picked them all quickly so we could give the trees a rest before the next season’s fruit starts to form. It also meant that we were able to capitalise on higher market prices before a glut of New Zealand fruit entered the market.

With around 800 trees, the Reed is our second biggest variety in terms of volume. It’s not just our favourite, everyone who tastes them falls for them, too.  They look so impressive with their big emu egg-like shape and on the inside they offer a beautiful, creamy flesh. The Reed trees are taller and thinner than the other varieties and sometime their branches get so heavy that they can break off under the weight before they are ready for harvest.

If you haven’t tried one of our Reeds then grab some for Christmas, they make such a special ingredient to fresh, summer meals. We’re positive you’ll love them as much as we do!

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