Understanding demand key to grower's success
At first, Damien Rigali of Gourmet Fresh Farms in Wanneroo was sceptical about farmers' markets.
It was the determination of two ladies from the Mt Claremont Primary School P&C that led to his appearance at the market six years ago.
PICTURE GALLERY: Mt Claremont Farmers Market |
"They kept ringing me and I said I would do it once. The first time, I didn't sell anything. On your first trip, no one knows what you're about, so I gave it four weeks. You never do something once and walk away," he said.
In the second week of selling at the market, Damien started to understand what customers were looking for.
"I was predominantly growing whole head lettuce and people were starting to want loose leaf lettuce," he said.
In his third week at Mt Claremont, Damien stocked the truck with loose leaf lettuce and within an hour of trade he had sold out.
"Every week people started to learn what our products were," he said.
All produce sold at the market by the Rigalis is grown on 30 acres in Wanneroo, 20 acres of which are leased.
"I'm not prepared to buy product in, that's not what I am about," Damien said.
"I like people knowing my product for what it is. We grow leafy greens and that's it."
He enjoys time spent at the market, however, it is a big decision to spend time away from the farm.
Damien said preparation was the key on market days.
"You have to judge the weather," he said.
"One rash decision could change the crop. Our crops are like newborns, they have to be constantly looked after."
Damien, a mechanic by trade, said on-the-ground experience had helped him to grow into the producer he was today. By taking notes every day on the relationship between weather conditions and growing practices, Damien said he had improved soil health and consequently the taste of his produce.
"I've got a big black book with notes for everything and every weather condition. You can't teach someone that," he said.
"Sandy, coastal plain sand is hard to work with. There are high input costs because the ground holds onto nothing. If the ground's not healthy, crops won't grow and pests and disease will set in."
Damien believes you can taste the difference between produce grown in poor soils over healthy soils.
"Soil health is essential for growing produce," he said.
"The crops coming out of my ground now are a reflection of what is going on underground. If you have a good growing medium, the crops that come out of that are awesome."
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