Annette and Nevil Reed were just wrapping up another enjoyable Garlic and Tomato Festival when COVID-19 hit in March last year.
Their Tasmanian Natural Garlic and Tomatoes business in Tasmania's North had gone from strength to strength over the previous decade as they learnt to navigate the world of farming.
Being an organic and biological farm, crop loss was part and parcel of that learning process, but in time they had found a place where they picked between 400 and 600 kilograms of produce each week and their clients were beaming.
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But Mrs Reed said this past year was like every curve ball that had been thrown at them since starting the farm had been thrown at once as they battled to maintain supply.
"We've come a long way in 11 years ... we've learnt a lot over the years and managed to but things in place to mitigate against problems,"she said.
"But this year we've been hit with really hot spikes, really cold spikes and really wet weather all in quick succession or concurrently.
"It's just been like that throughout the season, so it's been really difficult to get on top of it. If it had been just one or two things even [we could have], but it's been all these things meeting together."
The situation was further complicated for the Reeds by the fact they are organic and biological producers.
Because of this, they have practices in place to avoid cold snaps, the wet, or the heat.
But they do not use chemicals to allay the problem of "powdery mildew" and other environmentally uncontrollable impacts.
Part of these practices are growing their tomatoes in tunnels to protect them for external influences, but Mrs Reed said these even presented a problem to to a convergence of the environmental factors.
"We grow undercover for protection ... but the irony of this year is we have really needed as much air circulation as we can possibly get to counteract the powdery mildew, and the plastic tunnels have just been nicely holding everything in," she said.
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The result is a "converging" of elements that caused production to fall by around 80 per cent.
The fall was categorised by uncertainty, and Mrs Reed said yields varied from anything 50 to 150 kilograms on any given week.
Because of the uncertainty, the farm was unable to plan ahead, and offering a guarantee to suppliers was impossible meaning what was picked was often wasted as it was not enough to actually send off for sale.
"We haven't been able to meet a lot of our customers orders. There are people that we just haven't been able to bring on board at all that we would normally supply," she said.
"There was a point where everything we were trying just wasn't working. We couldn't turn the rain off, we couldn't turn the and and two degree nights off on top of 35 degrees 12 hours before, we couldn't control any of that.
"Things were just coming thick and fast and you're just running around putting out spot fires and in the end you've just got to realise 'it is what it is and we'll get what we'll get and we'll deal with what we've got'."
Despite admitting the difficulty of the year had set the farm back "income wise", Mrs Reed said it was a problem many people were in the same boat with and mutuality had been a bonding force.
"The consolation to all of this is the customers. If we're feeling down we know that our customers are dealing with the same thing," she said.
"Not many people have tomatoes this year and if they did it's certainly not a good crop. They make us feel better and we make them feel better. We just have a cry on each others shoulders."
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With a typical agricultural stoicism Mrs Reed has laughed off the year behind them and has shifted her focus to the upcoming Tasmanian Garlic and Tomato Festival, to be hosted at their Selbourne Farm on March 21.
Mrs Reed said there were upwards of 40 stall holders registered for the festival and a number of different activities enlisted as part of the day.
Guest speakers including Tino Carnevale from Gardening Australia are delivering speeches, and the guest chef for the event is Nick Raitt from Josef Chromy.
Tours of the farm and how the tomatoes are grown, a vibrant display of heirloom vegetables, quality local food, produce competitions and games are on the agenda.
Mrs Reed was also proud to announce the festival would be themed in line with Harmony Week with attendees encouraged to dress in orange and a best-dressed prize up for grabs.
Further information can be found online at tgtf.org.au.
Tomato and Garlic Festival need to know
- Held March 21
- 9.30am until 4pm
- Tickets online
- Guest speakers including Tino Carnevale
- Guest chef Nick Raitt from Josef Chromy
- Food, games, tours, competitions, stalls
- Orange, Harmony Week themed
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