Welcome back to the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market. We have missed you during the cold months and have eagerly anticipated your return knowing that you bring with you the heady aromas and tastes of summer produce and long summer days.
As the sun heats up and the wind stirs and shakes those emerald leaves, the fragrance of you, sweet Basil, reaches out to market goers drawing them in to the Thirlstane Gardens stall. There an an abundance of fresh greens crowd each other out on the trestle tables daring anyone to pass by without being tempted to try.
Graeme Lodge is the grower of Basil in all its guises, from deep purple, sweet emerald green to the purple veined leaves of Thai Basil. Then there are the other herbs, rosemary, thyme, tarragon and sage which make their appearance at the stall throughout the year.
Graeme blames his life-long passion for gardening, horticulture and science for leading him down the path that took him on a journey from a few hydroponic channels to a state of the art sustainable glasshouse in which he tends Basil and an array of lettuces, herbs and other greens that are sought after by chefs and marketgoers.
This season Basil has appeared at Harvest slightly earlier than in the past, thanks to the new glasshouse, which has allowed Graeme to extend the growing season and attend the market weekly for the past few months.
Thirlstane Gardens joined Harvest Launceston from the beginning and in the past seven years, Graeme’s journey has seen his lettuces and herbs being increasingly sought after. Although he has expanded little by little he always struggled to keep up with demand. “What we found with our attendance at Harvest, from day one, was that we suddenly got this huge amount of traction and demand which we have never really caught up with.”
Today, Graeme has been joined by Sean McWilliams in the glasshouse, which is a masterpiece of sustainability and testimony to what can be done by a small niche producer with vision and passion.
The glasshouse is powered by a bank of solar panels, fed by huge water storage tanks, internal tanks are filled with the optimum mix of nutrients, fans and measurement equipment hang from the beams to determine the perfect combination of heat and moisture for maximum growth.
Sean is a new face at the Thirlstane Gardens stall, having moved from being a “postie” to being a dab hand at posting baby Basils into the rows of growing slots. Inside the majestic glasshouse the hydroponic system of channels and growing cups weave their way along rows of tables on castors, which can be rolled along for access to the plants. When ready the harvesting of Basil is easy as the plants retains their root systems which extends life. Spend a moment with Basil and Graeme or Sean at the Thirlstane Gardens stall and be inspired. Like Harvest market manager Caroline Williamson, whose encounter with Basil has resulted in the most delicious pesto. Watch out for her recipe this week!