Virginia vegetable growers are bouncing back from a $50 million flood hit last year

Virginia Market Farmer Tu Thanh Truc
Virginia Market Farmer Tu Thanh Truc with a new crop of cucumbers after recovering from last year’s floods which destroyed his crops. Picture: Tom Huntley

Renato Castello, The Advertiser August 28, 2017 11:05am

EACH morning farmer Tu Thanh Truc walks row-by-row inspecting the health of almost 10,000 young cucumber plants on his Virginia property.

If all goes to plan within 8 weeks the plants – fulled by organic fertiliser, compost, water and the warmth of a greenhouse – will reach 2m in height and thousands of cucumbers will be ready for harvest.

And this year the weather looks like it will be kind to Mr Truc, 52, who in October last year watched helplessly as a metre-high wall of water spilled over the neighbouring Gawler River across his property, drowning $5000 worth of plants and destroying greenhouses.

The expectation was that it would possibly take up to two years for affected farmers across Adelaide’s salad bowl to rebuild, replant and harvest again after the devastating floods which caused an estimated $50 million damage in the region.

But through hard work to remove flood water and replace contaminated soil, Mr Truc was able to plant a new crop of cucumbers after six weeks with the bounty harvested earlier this year providing some precious income.

Another harvest in October will be a much-needed bonus.

It is the resilience of farmers like Mr Truc which the Vietnamese Farmers Association will celebrate in the Duncan Gallery at the Royal Adelaide Show this year.

VFA executive assistant and spokesman Ly Luan Le said it will be the first time in nearly 30 years that the Vietnamese growers – who employ up to 2500 people – have had a stand at the show.

He said the capacity for the farmers to bounce back after last year’s floods was incredible.

“The resilience in our growers, I can’t believe it,” he said. “They work days and nights, seven days a week they do everything to make sure they can go to the production line.

“The resilience factor in every grower is very strong. They say ‘I love this land’.

“Everyone came back to the land and went back to production. Some went back smaller scale, some bigger scale but most to a normal scale because the market had big demand (for produce).”

He said show goers will be able to buy locally grown produce including cucumbers, capsicums and eggplants.

There will also be a daily cooking demonstration daily from Saturday and people will be able to buy homemade spring rolls and fried rice.

“The purpose is the promotion of the produce and also the importance of the growers’ contribution and spreading that importance and understanding,” Mr Ly said, adding that the Royal Adelaide Show organising committee had requested the VFA attendance to reflect the growing demographic change north of Adelaide.

“The diversity and contribution we are very proud, we have a culture of making a contribution.”

He said in the long run the VFA would like the state and federal governments to work towards a solution to stop flooding from occurring, including through the use of levees along the lower reaches of the Gawler River.

“We want to see action,” he said. “If they put in a levee then they are looking after the mental well-being of the growers, they will have less worry.”