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TAS Country : March 24th 2011
ch 25, 2011 15 LOOKING AHEAD: Mark Duggan with red delicious apples about to be picked and shapped to the mainland. Things got fairly tight in the industry and that's why we focused on local markets and got into the varieties that people wanted.' RICH PICKINGS: Local apple pickers Matthew Cooke and Paul Sawyer. Pictures: JENNIFER CRAWLEY aphids on the trees so we won't have to spray for them this year.'' The Duggans have not used a spider spray for 25 years. ''There's lots of bush around --- the native bugs come and eat them,'' Mark said. A conventional spray program is used and MRL testing is done for chemical residues. ''There's no chemical on the fruit, the levels are well under the recommended levels,'' Mark said. ''The major supermarkets demand it now.'' A copy of the test results is available for customers at the markets to have a look. One of the most common questions asked at growers' markets is, have the apples been gassed? People think the apples are put into cold storage and gassed, Mark said. ''That's not true,'' he said. The apples are placed in a sealed room where the atmosphere is dropped down to about 2 per cent oxygen. The apple's breathing is slowed in a process called controlled atmosphere (CA). ''When we bring them out they go back to normal,'' Mark said. The Duggans will join Fruit Growers Tasmania and Hansen Orchards in a combined stall at Agfest this year. The stall was Mark's idea to spread the story of Tasmanian apples. ''People need to know about their apples,'' he said. Howard Hansen will be promoting new varieties, jazz and eve, and there will be apple tastings. ''We will be there just to talk to the people and let them know there's still plenty of lovely apples in Tasmania to eat,'' Mark said. It's busy at the Duggans' shed. Local man Lindsay Coad, who has worked in the orchard for many years, is hauling in box after box of apples on the tractor. The sounds of pickers talking reaches the shed from the rows. ''We've just recladded the outside of the shed to make it look a bit tidier,'' Mark said. ''And the grader's been cut in half to fit into the shed.'' The 50-year-old grader still works successfully. Duggan apples are sold to university hostels and to jam and chutney makers. Large red delicious apples hang off trees like dark red lanterns. ''They are just beautiful,'' Mark said. The red delicious are to about to be picked and shipped to the mainland. The apples will be packed by Montagues, a large firm with orchards in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria and on the Tamar River in Tasmania. ''We've dealt with them for over 30 years,'' Mark said. Fujiis are picked in the middle of April. Mark said he eats apples every day of the week but likes to change varieties. ''I like my cox's orange pippins early in the year and can't wait to get my teeth into a gravensteins. ''I eat fujiis fairly solid through the year and golden delicious I like.'' Lady in the snows are bagged and ready for market. The heritage apple variety does not have a big shelf life but is highly sought after. ''You have to pick them and sell them,'' Mark said. ''But they are just a taste on their own. They really are a beautiful apple, sweet, juicy, really white flesh, sometimes they have little pink veins in them.'' They will be sold within three or four weeks once picked. Locals Matthew Cooke and Paul Sawyer look relaxed standing next to their ladders. It is unusual for locals to pick apples, with backpackers taking up most of the positions, Mark said. ''These are a couple of new guys who have moved into the area,'' he said. ''They came looking for a job, they've made their home in Cygnet.'' Six pickers are employed in peak season. ''We have a lot of jono gold and golden delicious and royal gala and red delicious to get off the trees,'' Mark said. Grannie smith trees planted four years ago are bearing fruit with branches spreading out and almost touching the ground. ''They will be there until May,'' Mark said. ''Grannies are no good till they start to lay down and lay out.'' He walks past two rows of royal galas that are tree ripening. ''These galas are starting to get a bit oily now --- you will find they are absolutely the best,'' he said. ''Every apple has got their own oil. ''There's a bit of blush on the goldies this year --- that will be good,. All our goldies go to the local market.'' Small wooden apple boxes are a big seller at the Duggans. Mark came up with the idea after seeing similar boxes at Agfest. Christine makes the boxes with the Duggan brand label small enough to fit as cabin luggage on planes. The boxes will soon be sold at the farmgate and they will be sold at Agfest's FGT stall. ''I always wanted to get back into wooden boxes and those boxes are just magnificent, everyone wants one,'' Mark said. The apple grower does not see himself as an ambassador of Tasmanian apples. He said there were plenty of growers out there growing a lot more older varieties and he was always conscious of how many growers had left the industry. ''There's that many really nice growers, really good people that have gone out of the industry,'' Mark said. ''They've gone broke and gone out and yet we have been able to survive because we've been smaller. ''It's been tough but we've been able to do it.'' ''We are still a family business. Family businesses seem to be able to get through tough times whereas bigger growers have overheads that are much bigger than ours.'' Mark said the Huon Valley will be always be associated with apples.
March 17th 2011
March 31st 2011