VEGNET Project Update
Earlier this year, Food & Fibre Gippsland was contracted to again deliver VegNET to Gippsland’s levy-paying vegetable growers.
The focus of the past six months has been the development of a five-year Regional Extension Strategy.
Although real-life engagement has been significantly limited due to covid-19, the project has given growers across the region opportunities to shape the focus of vegetable extension activities from now to 2025.
While everyone has had the opportunity to contribute, Regional Extension Advisory Group (REAG) has been established to guide the development and implementation of the plan, comprised of four growers from across the region, two agronomists and the project team; Food & Fibre Gippsland CEO Nicola Pero, VegNET's Regional Development Officer Bonnie Dawson & Hort Innovation's Extension Manager, Jane Wightman.
This phase has also given VegNET the opportunity to seek and plan collaboration opportunities with other F&FG projects and external projects, particularly other levy-funded projects.
There are, so far, four projects that VegNET plans to deliver to meet the needs of vegetable growers in the focus areas of :
• On-farm biosecurity
• Gippsland Vegetable Industry’s Impact on Waterways
• Ag Tech (precision agriculture and other digital technologies)
• Building Business Capacity and a Sustainable Workforce
Over the coming few months, as growers are busy harvesting their crops, the focus of VegNET will be on locally-relevant and accessible resources.
To stay on-theme for 2020, there will be a series of “bite-sized videos” produced on local biosecurity concerns, and an opportunity for growers and service providers to join a local discussion group produced with the support of AUSVEG Biosecurity team.
By collaborating with the levy-funded program, EnviroVeg, and supporting more growers through the framework, VegNET aims to gain a better understanding of the efforts that growers are already making across the region to look after the environment and therefore develop the capacity to tell the story of Gippsland’s Clean & Green produce.
Future training and workshops will then be able to be better targeted to any gaps that are identified.
While growing conditions are a remarkable improvement on last year and crops are growing bountifully, the industry has not been immune from the challenges that COVID-19 has thrown at us all.
You’d be hard pressed not to have heard of the apprehension in the industry toward finding enough harvesting and packing workers for the impending season.
VegNET continues to provide connections between growers and various support streams that have been established. The project will also have an ongoing focus of supporting growers to attract and retain new workers, contributing to industry-wide efforts to develop a more sustainable workforce.
VegNET is fortunate to have the Gippsland Regional Agrifood Employment Programme amongst F&FG’s suite of projects to provide support to locals interested in entering the industry.
In addition to the workforce challenges, the lockdown in Melbourne and hospitality closures continue to impact sales, particularly of the leafy salads that Gippsland grows so well.
However, you can all play a part in supporting your local growers by remembering to eat your veggies!