Joe’s Sgro’s a talented farmer. Even after all these years he continues to amaze me; with the large variety he grows, the huge quantity he produces week-in and week-out and the tenacity he shows in the face of all kinds of adversity. This week from his Colac farm he’ll bring to market kale, red and orange beetroot, fennel, pak choi, leeks, continental and curly parsley, red salad onions, silverbeet, turnips and swedes and he tells me his tomatoes are coming soon. But despite this plethora of produce for some reason I always think of Joe as a potato farmer, maybe it’s because he’s spud-like himself. He’d be the first to admit they’re one of his favourite foods.
I’ve been buying vegetables from Joe Sgro since 2001 when CERES started its Organic Market (that’s him above). I pledged then that CERES would always stick with him and he promised he would always take care of us. At some stage of every year since we repeat a version of this conversation and it’s like we are renewing our vows.It’s funny to think of it like a marriage but without the commitment the relationship would be difficult to maintain. For each party there are always opportunities for short term gain at the expense of the other – one off bargain deals from different suppliers or big money offers from buyers keen to lock up the market. But it’s the commitment to the relationship, which has over the years become a friendship, that keeps us walking the line. This morning when were talking about the coming season, the shift to the new wholesale market at Epping and all the challenges it presents, we repeated the words to each other. Married for another year.
This week Joe harvests the first of his potatoes for the season. We’ll see his otway reds followed by king edwards, nicolas, dutch creams, a new sebago variety and the midnight blue – Joe’s fast rising star spud he showed off last year on Masterchef. And although we eat them all year round I love the beginning of potato season – these first few weeks when new potatoes cooked simply and eaten with a little butter can make my eyes roll back in delicious pleasure.
Joe’s otway reds are in the Fruit and Veg section and feature in most of our set boxes this week except for Small Mixed (we’ll try to get them in there next week or if you can’t wait pick some up from the webshop).