Many industries have faced changes due to COVID-19, including potato growers. The Great Trentham Spudfest in Victoria, Australia was cancelled earlier this month due to coronavirus restrictions, which left the region’s growers without one of their biggest opportunities of the year to sell their produce.
But they, along with other growers around Ballarat, have all found ways to continue selling their potatoes to the public.
The Walsh family have been growing potatoes in Trentham for about 150 years. The family legacy started when three Walsh brothers hopped on a ship from Ireland, bound for Australia. Eventually finding themselves in the region, they started to clear the land and grow potatoes in Trentham. Today, Alison and Denis Walsh continue that legacy with their boutique potato business, Trentham Potato Co.
For them, the coronavirus situation has meant that their usual method of selling their produce – to restaurants and at farmers’ markets – has been somewhat impacted.
Ms Walsh said all of their supplies to restaurants had stopped for the moment with so many businesses closed, but they hope that when restaurants open again that they will want their potatoes.
The family returned to selling their produce at Melbourne’s Coburg Farmers’ Market last weekend, and Ms Walsh said while the way the market was operated was different – there was no entertainment and stall holders could not provide samples – it was extremely busy.
Among the crowds, she and other farmers noticed many of the people streaming through the gates to buy their produce were new customers.
“Business was really strong and a lot of customers came through. It was really busy – we sold out two hours before the market finished,” Ms Walsh said.
While farmers’ markets fall into the category of being an essential service, similar to a grocer or a cafe, many were suspended by councils when stage 3 restrictions were announced.
In addition to it being an excuse for people to leave the house, Ms Walsh also attributed the increased popularity of farmers’ markets to people wanting to support Australian growers.
“People are getting some really good quality produce from the farmers’ markets. Some of these people who have probably been shopping at supermarkets for many years have finally realised the benefit of outdoor shopping and have tasted the difference because it’s so fresh…
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