Farmers in the Canberra region are warning summer fruits and vegetables which normally pack out market stalls at Christmas might not grow in time this year — if at all.

Key points:

  • Rain and cold temperatures are destroying crops in the Canberra region
  • Producers warn fruit and vegetables, which would normally be readily available over the Christmas holidays, may not be harvested until February or March
  • After years of drought, fire and now floods, farmers say they need the support of the community

The ACT has experienced its wettest November on record, and farms across the region are struggling as the rain plays havoc with crops and livestock.

Dan Mundy and Erin Cooper live with their four children on a property near Captain’s Flat, and run a market garden.

“This year eating seasonally is probably going to look a little different,” Ms Cooper said.

Produce rotting in the ground

Two hands hold a brown strawberry which is covered in mold.

The family has had to throw out kilograms of strawberries. (ABC News: Holly Tregenza.)

The family farm is only producing about half what it normally would and the summer produce, which is already in the ground, is growing extremely slowly, dying off, or bolting.

“It’s a combination of the cold weather, the frost, not enough sunlight and the really cool soil temperatures,” Ms Cooper said.

Harvesting their strawberry patch has become a depressing exercise of picking out mouldy fruit.

The radishes have split in the damp, and the tomato plants are about half the size they should be.

Previously the farm has sold seasonal produce box subscriptions, but this year they do not want to ask people to pay up-front for food that might not grow.

“We’re not confident we will be able to deliver to them,” Ms Cooper said.

Livestock suffer through the damp

A woman crouches next to a basket full of eggs as she throws feed to a crowd of chickens.

Chicken farmer Suz Worsley-Deacon is struggling to keep her animals warm and dry in the damp conditions.(ABC News: Holly Tregenza)

It is not just fruit and vegetable farmers who are feeling the effects of the rain.

Down the road at an organic chicken farm, Trent and Suz Worsley-Deacon have had to take extra steps to make sure their pasture-raised chicks stay dry.

The chicks normally venture outside at three weeks old but the ground is too soggy.

“When you’ve got the combination of any cool wind and damp ground, it can make it quite dangerous for their health,” Ms Worsley-Deacon said.

While Ms Worsley-Deacon said it would not affect their output this year, the couple had been forced to think about running a different breed of chicken, which is more resilient.

“If this continues over a number of seasons, then it might actually make things a lot more difficult in terms of us expanding, which we are planning to do next year,” she said.

Drought, fire, and now flood

A family of six stand in the middle of their market garden and smile at the camera.

Dan Mundy and Erin Cooper from Tobellie Farm Produce have lost up to half their crop to the rain.(ABC News: Holly Tregenza)

Being inundated with too much water is a cruel problem to face in a region that was desperate for rain just a few years ago and threatened during the Black Summer bushfires.

“We feel a bit ungrateful complaining about the rain given that two years ago we were desperate for rain,” Ms Cooper said.

“We ran out of water right about now, just before Christmas.”

She said consumers who want to help should look for locally grown, seasonal produce, which has come from farms within 100 kilometres of where they lived.

“The best thing people can do to support us, is trying to eat seasonally, head to the local farmer markets, and make sure you have a look at where your produce is coming from.”

Posted , updated 

Farmers say eating seasonally will look different this Christmas
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