Thursday, March 13, 2014

An 11th hour plea!

I began this letter months ago, but sowing kale, keeping up with animals and weeding has kept me busy. It's our Tasmanian state election this Saturday, and whilst there are so many important issues to be covered, these are the ones that directly impact on our family business.

Any politicians that have something to say will be loudly congratulated!

Dear Politician,

I am writing to you seeking your position prior to the upcoming state election.

Together with my husband I run a small mixed farm growing specialty herbs and vegetables for local restaurants and vegetable seedlings, vegetables and eggs for the Hobart farmer’s market.

The Federal Egg Act is due to become enforceable in November. As far as I understand, following community action, Tasmania’s conditions are under review to better reflect the practicalities of enforcement on producers after confusion and misinformation previously, that lead to media interest in the issue and a petition being presented to Minister Green.

I would love to hear how you and your party intend to offer support for small primary production enterprises.

Our production system is diverse to allow for resilience in the face of fluctuating seasons and markets. This diversity enables us to offer a good range of local, fresh, nutritious food to our customers and also is integral to our land management systems. We currently use poultry to cultivate, control pests, create manure and clean up spent crops. We sell the eggs to cover the cost of their feed and as another income stream on our farmers market stall. Our eight-year-old daughter has grown and sold radishes to raise capital to run quail as her first business venture. She hopes to care for the birds and sell the eggs on our farmer’s market stall, but with limitations on the number of birds as it stands this would prevent her from undertaking this entrepreneurial initiative.

I have been encouraged to hear that all parties intend to support rural Tasmania, and I would love to see this focus not only on large scale agribusiness, but supportive of small scale, family based enterprises as well.

Our business is unique and has followers all over the world on social media. Our brand is intrinsically linked with Tasmania and adds weight to the boutique food angle of Tasmania’s tourism branding. Businesses like ours provide authenticity, depth and faces for the image of Tasmania as a place rich in quality, sustainably produced food.

My husband Matt is a qualified chef, and it would greatly increase the viability of our business if we were able to utilise excess produce to make pickles, jams and other low risk products to sell in the cooler months when produce is more scarce. This is a traditional method that small, family scale farms have used to maintain income streams. The difficulty we face with the current regulations is economy of scale. Because of the diversity that makes our business resilient in the face of the vagaries of weather and markets, we cannot afford to invest a lot of capital in any one aspect of our enterprise, so to access a commercial kitchen would make it to expensive for us to grow, process and market the small quantities we would be producing.

We would applaud a bureaucratic culture that sought to enable family enterprises like ours.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Warm regards,

Paulette Whitney

The reason we do what we do.
We want our kids to enjoy value in hard work,
good access to a wide variety of clean, fresh food,
cohesive, supportive communities,
a beautiful environment
and successful, happy family life.