August 24, 2011

The joy of the Taste Flinders Island

Degustation – The Joy of the Taste. The New Entrepreneurs.

The next time to pick-up a bag of potatoes spare a thought for the journey those humble spuds have taken from the paddock to your plate.

In 1998 Dave and Pauline Bellinger came to Flinders Island with their family to start a new life on a property at Memana. They had been farmers on the North West Coast growing potatoes, capsicums, tomatoes, sweet corn and zucchini.

They started by planting a crop on a five acre patch having invested in a small harvester and a lot of hard manual labour. As production increased and the work got even harder they moved  up to a larger harvester and more efficient planting equipment. Now you may think that all you have to do is put ’em in the ground – wait a while and dig ’em up!!! Not so easy.

With 5 acres planted Dave needed to provide regular water intermittently over a forty eight hour period for 10 weeks while the crop was growing. Unfortunately, water was not available at the patch so it had to be piped 4 km. to a dam site close by and delivered via multiple rows of sprinklers. But it didn’t stop there; the sandy loam soil needed some extra trace elements, so potash, phosphorus, nitrogen, boron and copper were laid with the planting. Then there’s the problem of weeds. Well if you hit them just once when the plants are coming up – no problem.

Like many crops produced for market and safety margin was needed in case of possible failure of an increase in consumption on the island. Dave and Pauline soon realised that with wastage of almost a third of the crop through imperfections or low yield they had to plant an extra 50% to cover. There are two plantings a year, August and November. Potato tube-stock starts a 4 year cycle of multiplying annually by replanting the ”eyes” until the fifth year when a new cycle begins again. Fortunately for you only enough spuds are harvested for each week’s requirements which means they’re always fresh. Pauline sorts the stock and packs it in 2.5kg, 5kg and 10kg bags for your friendly supermarket.

So next time you take home some of those little fellows make sure you keep them cool and dry.

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