Growing the community

An intern’s life: fruit flies, zucchini flowers and gender

From SAGE member Trevor Moore

It was the English poet John Keats who wrote in 1820 of the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” in his poem To Autumn. Now I know that it is neither autumn nor England but the idea of mists and mellow fruitfulness pervades my sense of the country and the bounty that nature provides. These romantic notions are always dispelled when I catch up with Leanne. Each time I talk to her about how things are going at the SAGE garden it is brought home to me that the life of a market gardener is not romantic, soft and fluffy but is a life filled with problems and challenges. So, in a sense it’s no different to any other occupation; every decision is a compromise.

She was with her friend Jeff when I found her worrying about her zucchini. They looked fine to me; fine yellow flowers. She was worrying that they weren’t pollinating. Without pollination, the fruit will not mature. There are, and I remember this vaguely from biology lessons at school, male and female flowers. Jeff showed me an example of each. He opened the flowers and showed me the difference. “My mother told me that the male flower looks like it has a penis,” he said. OK, I thought, I can work with that.

Male (top right) and female (bottom left) zucchini flowers

I looked at the zucchini plants and to my untutored eye, they looked as if they were coming along just fine. A couple of rows across was a line of celery that looked spectacular and is ready for market. Being ready for market is no less of a challenge for the market gardener than it is for any other business. “It’s good if you can be first to market with a particular vegetable,” said Leanne, “and you need to watch the prices at the other stalls.” She’s worked out that if you can attract a customer for one item of produce then the chances are that they will buy other items. There are some really good business lessons here… and the best lessons are learned and not taught.

The SAGE Friday Sunset takes place every other Friday. You can buy Leanne’s produce there. Check Facebook for details

She has planted tomatoes but is worried about fruit fly. There are over two hundred species of fruit fly in Australia but it is only the Queensland fly that worries us here on the South Coast. When the weather warms up the flies lay their eggs under the skin of ripening fruit. Leanne says “if everyone did their bit to tackle fruit flies then it would make things much easier.” There are effective methods for dealing with these insects. SAGE has run several workshops about how to do this. Once again, in talking to Leanne, I was struck by how many things there are to do… and they all seem to need doing at once.

It amazes me that whenever I appear she has a massive smile on her face; she is clearly enjoying the life and the work. And you can’t really hope for much more than that.

Follow Leanne’s work, and the other things that SAGE is doing, on Instagram and Facebook.

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