Vegetable growers encourage people to buy local as price of lettuce skyrockets – ABC News

Vegetable growers encourage people to buy local as price of lettuce skyrockets
For Sam Higgins and his wife, Susie, building a vegetable empire a year ago was never about making money.
It started out as a labour of love caring for the environment with a chemical-free patch and a way to connect to Mother Earth.
So, this week, when lettuce skyrocketed to $12 in supermarkets across the country, they did not capitalise on the opportunity to significantly increase their own cost of lettuce.
"For us, we just want to keep providing this service to the community, so we're going to keep our prices mediocre, so at some point when the prices are really low again [in supermarkets] people will still come back to us," Mr Higgins said.
After noticing that the fruit and vegetables they bought did not taste rich in nutrients anymore, the couple wanted to provide for the community.
Mr Higgins left his job as a plumber and Ms Higgins said goodbye to her job as a teacher so they could both pursue their green dream.
"We wanted to build the community by having something where people can come with their families, learn things, and share things," Mr Higgins said.
"It's healthy to be involved in nature and getting your hands dirty, and showing your kids where your food comes from, I think, is pretty important."
The pair began their business venture aiming to encourage people to buy local produce and start their own gardens.
The message, they said, came at a crucial time when supermarket prices continued to climb with no end in sight.
"If we're getting all our food from one place and we have a weather event that's going to take out a massive crop, or whatever vegetable it may be, then we're just leaving ourselves open to feast and famine," Mr Higgins said.
Wet weather in south-east Queensland has turned heads to lettuce prices as growers lost crops in the state and are struggling to plant more while freezing temperatures set in.
Lettuces now cost up to $12 in some supermarkets.
"If we have the means to grow our own food, keep it local. Then it makes sense that we won't have these huge price hikes — if we're not relying on getting our vegies from the one place," Mr Higgins said.
Mr Higgins gives people the opportunity to get their hands dirty and pick their own vegetables from the ground.
He said it was important that people reduced their "food miles".
"I realise it takes a lot of dedication to keep your vegie patch up and running, and that's why we've basically had to go full time into this to help people who don't have the time or energy to grow it themselves," Mr Higgins said.
The lengthy hours and labour needed to stay afloat mean that volunteers are welcome.
Karlie Bell volunteers with her husband and nine-year-old and five-year-old boys.
She said it was a valuable way to teach them about where their food came from.
"It is about learning about the origins of food and learning how to grow," Ms Bell said.
"Our thoughts were that we could come here, and we would be inspired to grow more vegetables at home.
"It also establishes the relationship with the grower, to contribute through our own efforts to help so we can turn to them when the going gets tough."
Ms Bell and her family initially set out to go to the farm for food security.
"Earlier in the year we were hearing stuff about supply lines being interrupted, food prices, cost of living going up, that's what prompted us to establish this, but since then we come back because we just love it," she said.
"After a day's work at the farm, we always leave feeling happy."
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