A South Melbourne Market stall is trying to offload 300 kilograms of garlic after buying the entire harvest from an East Gippsland farmer in the bushfire-affected town of Nicholson.
Last week, East Gippsland Garlic’s Justin Dykes put a call out on Facebook asking for help to sell a six-by-four metre trailer-load of Monaro purple garlic.
Dykes had stored the cured garlic under his house, which was not affected by nearby fires. But with most local markets shut down and tourists told to stay away temporarily, the farmer found he had no way to sell his rescued produce – a problem many producers are now facing.
“I rang him up and said, ‘I’ll take all of it,’” says Georgie Dragwidge, the owner of Georgie’s Harvest, a stall at South Melbourne Market.
Dragwidge paid Dykes his usual retail price of $30 a kilo for the hand-planted, organic heads, and is now onselling them for the same price at her stall in the city.
“[Everyone]’s coming to buy two heads of garlic,” says Dragwidge. “It’s not hard, it’s like two or three dollars, and we’re all showing our support in a really small way.”
Dykes delivered his garlic to Melbourne yesterday before heading home to help others in his community. There is currently no direct fire threat to Nicholson but, according to Vic Emergency, a bushfire is still burning north of Bairnsdale, which is around 10 kilometres away.
Across the country, as each fire-affected area is declared safe, tourism will be crucial to recovery (some regional areas that are now safe to visit, and even some untouched by fire, are losing business). Until then, Dragwidge suggests paying attention to where your produce is coming from and supporting regional producers however you can, whether that’s by booking a holiday down the track, buying online or buying from onsellers in metropolitan areas.
“This is one small business helping another small business, and in the market that’s actually what we do,” says Dragwidge. "It’s lots of small businesses helping each other, from the florist to the butcher.”
Georgie’s Harvest is open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7am to 4pm at Stall 50, South Melbourne Market, 22–326 Coventry Street, South Melbourne.
This article was updated on January 18. While Dykes has been involved in putting out spot fires in his local area, he is not a volunteer firefighter.