Farm Gate shopping is all about farmers, makers and producers opening their doors for the public to purchase premium seasonal produce direct from the source.
Farm gating is increasing in popularity within the Western Sydney and Shoalhaven areas, as more farmers open their gates to consumers who are eager to know where and how their food is grown.
Lynnette Keanelly is the owner and third generation orchardist of Wollondilly based farm, Top Forty Orchard where she sells her produce from her farm gate and through local markets. Registered as one of the 10 farms on the Wollondilly Harvest Experience Farm Gate Trail, the 40 acre farm operates seven days a week and offers a variety of apples, pumpkins, berries, flowers and stone fruits.
“Farm gate produce is great value for money, has reduced food miles, supports local business and is absolutely as fresh as you can get,” she said.
Ms Keanelly said, besides the value and atmosphere, people come to the farm for their groceries because it makes them appreciate their food a lot more.
“It takes an apple 12 months of hard labour to grow an apple- so don’t just take a bite and throw it away,” she said.
At this time of year, Top Forty Orchard visitors can buy a range of seasonal apples and pumpkins at their roadside honesty store.
“Ninety-nine-point-nine per cent of people are honest,” she said.
“I had one person leave a Minty because they didn’t have enough money; they even came back and paid the next week”.
Ms Keanelly insisted there is more to fruit and vegetables than the supermarket standards and that shopping direct from the farm introduces consumers to fruit and vegetables that have “non generic flavours”.
“Our taste buds getting dumbed down by supermarket foods. Most people are only familiar with red or green apples, but we have about 90 varieties on the farm and all of them have individual tastes,” she said.
“It’s like a packet of jellybeans, you would never say that they all taste the same. Fresh produce is just like this, each variety of apple or pumpkin, or stone fruit has its own specific flavour.”
Many regional towns across Australia have established organised Farm Gate Trails to allow locals and tourists to connect with the areas they visit and sample a range of regional produce from various farms.
Freelance travel writer and blogger Briar Jensen regularly drives along the Hawkesbury Farm Gate Trail to source her fresh fruit and vege, and offers her top tips for Farm Gating adventures:
6 TIPS FOR FARM GATING:
1. Locations and seasonal availability – To avoid disappointment, always research the area and plan your trip before you set off. Hawkesbury Harvest is the leading resource for information on operating farm gates in Sydney, Wollondilly, Penrith, Hawkesbury and the South Coast. Through their website or phone app you can plan your entire trip. “If you are after particular produce, like berries or mandarins, make sure the fruit is in season and ring before you go to ensure it is ripe for picking or has not been picked over”.
2. Go with a group- “Buying fresh produce from the farm gate and sharing it between a group of neighbours, friends or students can be very economical,” says Briar. There are often many opportunities for picnicking with your fresh products in the many paddocks and orchards along the way. “Foraging with a group of friends is so much fun,” she says.
3. Allow plenty of time – There is often a fair distance between farm gates and many opportunities to explore properties and chat with producers. “Connecting with them is part of the fun, they often have a lot to say about their produce and recommendations on other suppliers to visit.”
4. If you are short on time or don’t have a car, consider taking a farm gate tour with a local operator. “They will know what is in season in their local area and can tailor tours to your preferred produce.”
5. PYO – If the farm gate is still not fresh enough for you, the Hawkesbury Harvest website supplies a list of the many farms that offer the chance to pick your own produce (PYO). The most common PYO foods include berries, mandarins and apples.
6. Don’t forget to take some boxes or recyclable bags to store your produce.