In this Edition
Welcome! At last our week of winter has arrived! The cold weather really bit this last week of July - freezing nights and mostly glorious days. We are a bit spoilt in Queensland - our winter season is quite pleasant and short compared to our southern counterparts.

This month we have ventured to North Queensland to talk with Sam Spiteri - a premium banana grower from Innisfail. The passion for growing quality produce is something that never ceases to amaze me. But everyday I am thankful for their dedication and pride. Sam and his partner Sonia are no exception to this.

You also get the chance to meet Paul Florence, Pershouse's Distribution Manager, and we have a Market update from some of our salesmen.

Enjoy your read!

Staff profile – Paul Florence, Distribution Manager
Not everyone enjoys a 2am start, but Paul Florence is used to doing ‘what it takes’ to get the job done.

“Having spent 6 1/2 years in the military, I’m used to the early starts – perhaps not this early, but that’s what is needed here. Maybe it is that disciplined military background that stands me in good stead for this job – and the lifestyle that you need to build around unsociable working hours.” said Paul.

Paul, 35, has been with Pershouse Produce for over 9 years and in that time has proven himself to be the ‘master’ of his domain as Distribution Manager for A Block, one of Pershouse’s busiest warehouses.

“We move lots of product though this warehouse. Sweet potatoes, watermelons and rockmelons to name a few. My role is to control and monitor the quality and quantity of the product. Everything needs to be checked. Around 40 pallets are checked, packed and loaded each day.”

And that is just part of Paul’s day.

“I also need to check on the next days deliveries and get them organized. Then there’s the paperwork – all the administration. It’s a big job.”

“But the good part about working in this environment is that all your work does not go unrewarded. I get a lot of satisfaction out of my job.”

Recently, Paul has also been experiencing the sales side of the business, turning his hand to sweet potato sales.

“I enjoy dealing with the growers, and the sales game is a challenge. I always love a challenge!”

Paul has been married for almost 8 years and has 3 children aged 6, 4 and 9 months (well, he does love a challenge!) and is training to become a competitive pistol shooter.

“My pistol shooting probably won’t be a surprise to anyone, given my military background. But I really enjoy it. I am a member of the Ipswich City Pistol Club and Ripley Rifle Range. I am training to compete at State and National level.”

And knowing Paul’s determination and commitment, we are quite sure he’ll get there too.

Grower Profile - Spiteri Farming Co
Farming is as much about skill as it is passion. To be able to keep up with all the latest growing techniques, seed stocks, crop management, marketing and environmental issues, really requires a certain type of person. Sam Spiteri and his partner, Sonia, are truly representative of the passionate side of growing.

“We really love growing bananas,” said Sam, “It is a lifestyle for us. Sonia grew up on banana plantation in Coffs Harbour – she is a Zecchinati, one of the first banana farmers in Australia. And I have been banana farming for over 20 years now after finishing my trade as a fitter and turner.”

The Spiteri farm is located 22km south of Innisfail, in a place called Mena Creek. The property is 28.5 hectares and currently has 16 hectares under crop.

“We only grow bananas here and we are gradually working to have another 8 hectares under banana in the next 2 years.”

“Cyclone Larry (2006) just decimated this area and it has taken a little while for us to get back on our feet. We have worked hard to rebuild the farm and are starting to make some headway.” said Sam.

“Our farm is very much a family concern. Sonia and I do all the packing and she also helps out with the paddock work. We harvest all year round, but as bananas are a winter crop, we aim to grow the majority of our produce in the winter. During our busiest times we can have around 8 people working on the plantation.”

And all that hard work really pays off. Cameron Kedwell, Pershouse Banana Sales, is proud to market the Spiteri bananas.

“Sam and Sonia produce a quality banana, consistently. The retailers love their product. Plus they are a pleasure to deal with.” said Cameron.

Outside of banana farming, Sam and Sonia are the proud parents of six children – Jade, Jacob, Brianna, Nicholas, Beau and Lucas. It is a little “Brady Bunch” with Sonia and Sam each bringing three children into their relationship.

“The kids are our passion – along with our bananas! We are very busy managing all of their needs, but it works. I love rugby league, so watching Jacob and Lucas play each Saturday is a real treat. In fact, Jacob has also played representative league, playing for North Queensland and also the Queensland merit side in Under 13’s.”

But in terms of banana farming, Sam sees many challenges ahead for the industry.

“One of the most important issues is the threat from the Phillipines. The increase in the compulsory levy on bananas was crucial in helping the industry to generate funds to fight these important issues. With costs of production increasing across the board, it is more difficult to match banana prices with these costs.”

And keeping up with these costs is harder when you are rebuilding your farm after a cyclone.

“Of course, being in Innisfail, the odds are that you will eventually come across a cyclone. Cyclone Larry in 2006 was tough on all the growers in the region. But, we are growers, and we love what we do, so you just dust yourself off and get on with it.”

And for those of us who love a quality banana, Sam, we are pretty happy you love growing them for us.

Vegetable Supplies Shorten as the Cold bites
The end of July has come as a bit of a shock to south-east Queensland as the cooler weather arrived with gusto! And we have had some rain, which is unusual for the traditionally drier months. So I asked the ‘College of Knowledge” what this means for the market.

“Many vegetable lines have increased in price rapidly this last week.” said Dario Vescovi, Pershouse Produce Vegetable Sales.

“We draw many vegetable lines out of Gatton and the Lockyer Valley and the cold weather has certainly slowed down the growth. On top of this, these districts didn’t have the water they needed earlier in the year, so the plantings have been somewhat less than normal. So many lines are very short in supply and some lines have doubled in price.”

“It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the actual buying was as strong as usual. Our retailers are telling us that it is really quiet – obviously some economic factors are starting to bite, so while there is still a strong demand, it isn’t up to normal levels for this time of year.” said Dario.

“Certainly beans, broccoli, cauliflowers and carrots are all up in price as they are in short supply. But lettuce, silverbeet, Chinese vegetables, red capsicums and sugarloaf cabbage all represent good buying at the moment.”

“I expect that this price trend will continue well into August.”

Adley Malickson reports that tomatoes are really good quality at the moment.
“While the quantity of this fruit has tightened up, the quality is really great.”

Sweet potatoes are another steady product this month, and prepack sweet potatoes are proving popular.

"The trend of pre-pack fruit has not missed sweet potatoes and we have started to see an increase in demand for pre-pack product.” said Paul Florence, Pershouse Produce ‘A’ Block Distribution Manager.

“I have really noticed this trend in what I’m sending out – and also selling through our market stands in A and C Block at the Brisbane Markets.”

Bananas are certainly a fruit that will be weather affected as the cold has slowed down growth.

“I am starting to see the market shorten with bananas. The supplies have started to drop as the growth has slowed. The product is also starting to dull in colour, which is normal for colder weather. The fruit is still great eating though!” said Cameron Kedwell, Pershouse Produce Banana Sales.

And the apple market is still holding steady said Chris Georgiou from Pershouse Fruit Sales.

“We get a lot of fruit from Stanthorpe, which had a bit of frost and even some snow late last week. But all of the apples have been picked well before this cold snap, so supplies and quality aren’t affected."

Broccoli Could Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk
Now, at Pershouse Produce, we have always regarded broccoli as one of nature's 'super vegetables'. Aside from being a delicious vegetable, it's nutrient properties have been coming to the attention of the world's scientists.

The most recent study was reported on earlier this month when scientists from The British Institute of Food and Research found that eating broccoli makes developing prostate cancer less likely, and helps men fight an existing cancerous tumour.

Broccoli, like it's counterparts in the cruciferous family of vegetables ie cauliflower and cabbage, has for some years been linked to a cut in prostate cancer risk of around 25%.

In the study, scientists found that the study group who were consuming the broccoli (others were given peas), had a change in the chemical pathways that were linked to cancer formation and inflammation.

But some experts are warning that the study was small and fell short of actually proving that broccoli could cut prostate cancer.

Professor Ian Oliver, Cancer Council Australia chief executive, said that while the study was small is "does add to the evidence that eating fresh fruit and vegetables in general may reduce cancer risk."

Think Pink Week
On the 18th July, Pershouse Produce hosted a fundraising barbeque and raffle at the Brisbane Markets to raise money for the Kim Walters Choices Think Pink Week!

Think Pink Week is the major fundraising week for the Choices charity, one of two cancer charities that Pershouse Produce is supporting this year.

The barbeque was a great success and as always our Market friends were very supportive.

Pershouse Produce also supported Think Pink Week campaign by donating special Pink Lady apples for the charity to use to promote the campaign.

A special thanks to Forrester Properties who also donated $500 to the campaign.

Here is a list of just some of the produce available right now* at Pershouse Produce

Broad beans
Brussel Sprouts
Butter Beans

Honeydew Melon
Kipfler Potatoes

Okra Beans
Spring Onions

Sth Gold Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes

*subject to supply conditions.

If you have a story or article that you think would make a great addition to Fresh Perspective contact;

Laura Koman
Ph: 07 3379 3034

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