New South Wales farmers struggle in pandemic - despite bumper crop

New South Wales grower Mark Watkins has never seen a larger crop at his orchard on the northern outskirts of Sydney. Unfortunately, instead of reaping the rewards of a bumper harvest, he has been forced to take the chainsaw to hundreds of trees full of mandarins at Watkins Family Farm. Covid restrictions have made it so that the farm has had neither a market nor a way to distribute most of the tens of thousands of boxes of fruit on its trees.

The farm moved to a “pick your own” model a number of years back and had become a popular weekend destination for Sydneysiders. It was a business model that finally seemed sustainable. But due to restrictions putting an end to family picking outings, the family have had to think outside the box.

Watkins’ wife, son and son-in-law have been making home deliveries of the season’s remaining fruit in limited Sydney postcodes. He’s hoping to be able to deliver to more of Sydney now after finding a courier. They are supplementing the mandarin delivery with fresh fruit and vegetables from other suppliers.

According to Watkins, the family probably had too much hope at the start of lockdown that some of the season could be salvaged and large “pick your own” groups would return to the farm. But it’s now reached a point where he has had to take the chainsaw to countless trees filled with large, ripe fruit.

“This year would have set us up, but we’re just going to have to scrape through,” Watkins told brisbanetimes.com.au.


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