Managing the impact of seasonal conditions is always a significant challenge for Tasmanian farmers and producers. Changing seasons see some produce arrive and others disappear from the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market but extreme dry conditions can be a time of crisis for the land, the animals and the farmers that operate them.
At the moment, many parts of Tasmania’s agricultural landscape are experiencing unseasonal dry conditions. Spring 2015 rainfall was well below average in all parts of Tasmania except the northern east coast. Record lows were experienced in the western half, along the north coast and into the southern midlands. Coupled with this, high temperatures occurred much earlier than usual meaning low soil moisture and an earlier start to the fire season.
Harvest Launceston committee member, small landholder and cider producer Caroline Brown points out that city dwellers will see the impact on household gardens, but will still have access to a regular water supply. For our rural producers however, it is a different story, she said.
Whether a large or smaller producer, the dry seasonal conditions will pose different questions and decisions depending on the operation. Farmers will be thinking about access to water, maintaining their soil resources, impacts on their stock, pastures and crops and most importantly the financial impacts on their operations.
For Wayne Adams from Erinvale Farm the lack of rain has meant that their potatoes are not going to grow to a marketable size. Wayne explained that early plantings have been skipped to ensure that there is enough irrigation water for the main crop. Hopefully, the dry conditions can be managed effectively and Wayne can return to Harvest Launceston later this year.
For many of Tasmania’s livestock producers, those in the driest of areas are considering destocking. There have been reports of thousands of sheep and cattle have been shipped out of Tasmania over the past couple of months as producers wean stock early or get rid of older excess stock.
Berry producers have had good crops over the Christmas period but recent high temperatures could mean lower yields. Although the drier conditions have some positives for larger fruit and grape producers, the situation will continue to be monitored closely. Our honey producers can be impacted due to lack of blossom.
One of the great things about farmers’ markets is that the change of the seasons is visible through the produce that is available. However due to the weather, some regular producers may simply not be there.
Farming families matter. Although sentiment is largely positive, put a smile on the faces of our Harvest market producers by thanking them for their effort in producing great food and beverages.