I think I start every post by saying “we’ve been busy on the farm” and this week is no exception. Amongst all the other jobs I managed to fit in a beehive inspection earlier this week. The bees are all strong and healthy and I had the opportunity to split a hive. This means I can share my bees with a friend who is just starting their beekeeping journey, and has a hive, but no bees! Yet.

Today we got into some soil block production using our new tools which can press out 20 soil blocks at a time. A five fold increase on the old 4 block machine we were using. Soil blocks are an alternative to pots or plugs trays. Using soil blocks makes our transplanting process quicker and easier. More importantly the soil blocks create a superior environment for the seedlings to grow producing healthier, more resilient plants. It also reduces the use of plastic pots and plug trays on farm.

Soil Blocker and Soil Block Mix
Pressing Soil Blocks into Tray
Freshly Sown Soil Blocks
Red Frisee Lettuce Germinating in Soil Blocks

Speaking of plastic use, I have had the opportunity to speak with a few customers recently about the packaging we use for some of our products. I thought I should communicate the rational behind the packaging decisions we have made at this point in the development of our farm business. Our first priority is to deliver a quality, nutritious product to our customers. This means that we harvest our produce as early as we can in the day to reduce the wilting effects of the sun. After harvest we need to cool the produce as quickly as possible to remove any “field heat”. This process may vary depending on the product, but it will almost always involve some form of refrigeration. Unfortunately refrigeration has the undesired effect of removing moisture from the produce and possibly inducing wilting depending on the sensitivity of the produce. Chives for example tend to go floppy more quickly than carrots.

By protecting the produce from moisture loss in the cool room we are able to reduce or delay the vegetables or herbs from turning limp. Usually this involves plastic, either containers or plastic bags. We tend to use reusable tubs or containers in our cool room.

Once the produce is cooled we need to then pack and deliver all the individual orders. This would be best done in the cool room, but our cool room is tiny – that’s all we could afford to build and more importantly all we can afford to run. Working inside a cool room is also not ideal for us or our staff. So the produce needs to come out of the cool room and then be packed into the boxes for each order as quickly as possible and then returned to the cool room before being delivered in the refrigerated van. So for certain products that are loose such as leaves that cannot be bunched together or peas, or particularly sensitive items such as the afore mentioned chives, or chickweed and even basil they need the protection of, yes that dirty but oh so convenient stuff – plastic.

It also helps our packers to work most efficiently when produce is pre-bagged to be added to orders and not needing to be handled again for weighing during packing. It also preserves the quality of the product better during the packing stage too.

Now we despise the stuff as much as the next person, but at this point in time the best option we have is zip-lock plastic bags. We encourage you to reuse them as much as you can or desire, send them to soft plastics recycling if that’s something you do, or as some customers do send them back to us (clean and dry please) and we will reuse them for other farm uses such as seed storage.

Obviously the best way to reduce packaging in our lives is if we all grow our own food in our own back yard. I think we all recognise that this isn’t as easy or practical as it sounds so the next best option is to purchase from a local farm where you know the farmer. Think about all the transportation and other savings that are being made by purchasing your food locally.

I could continue to go on but I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted.

Brian.

P.S. We can also accept any rubber bands that you wish to return as well. Just pop them with your bags back in the box ready for me to collect when I make your delivery.

SugarloafRidgeFarm-Logo

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To order your box, head over to Kitchen Garden Boxes and follow the links.