The West

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Just as children need to know that milk doesn't come from the carton, they also need to understand the life cycle of a vegetable.

And it's not just kids who need to be educated.

A new study has found that many Australians are unsure of how common fruit and vegetables are grown, and it seems that those in the Generation-Y have really lost touch with nature.

New independent research commissioned by NSW-based greengrocer Harris Farm Market found that one in six Gen-Yers thinks bok choy is grown under the ground, while one in five didn't know that avocados were grown on trees.

"I'm surprised at the magnitude rather than the finding itself - I know more people are becoming distant from the food that they eat - but the magnitude in the younger generation is quite a surprise," says Tristan Harris, son of David, who began the business in 1971.

The study also found one in six Aussies in general isn't sure how asparagus is grown and one in 10 think broccoli grows in a bush or tree.

As Harris says it's alarming because Australia is an agricultural country: "We rode to prosperity on the sheep's back."

He says Australians are losing touch with how our food is grown and harvested. While our society has become so tech-savvy with information at its fingertips, he reckons there's a growing lack of the thought process of how food makes it to the supermarket.

"You turn up at the local shops and whatever's there is there, and if it's not there they start questioning, `well, why isn't my so and so here right now?' - it's all instant satisfaction and fulfilment," Harris says.

It's why Harris Farm Market has designed an app called The Crop - which it says is the world's first fan-grown harvest.

It's about taking Aussies, of all ages, on an online trip that shows them the full process of how vegetables get from the farm to the fork.

The Facebook app lets Aussies become virtual farmers.

All users have to do is "like" the Harris Farm Market's Facebook page, select The Crop app on the page and register their details.

They then have the option of choosing between three Harris Farm growers: a Sydney-based bok choy grower, and two growers in Tasmania - one who produces leeks and the other broccoli.

Fans will be taken on the full process of the crop, from planting, watering, fertilising, harvesting, right up until the vegetable arrives in the Harris Farm store when it can be picked up, purchased and taken home to cook up and be eaten.

"Our initiative takes you basically day by day of the entire process.

"They'll be able to follow the crop and as well have input into some of the decisions in the process."

There will be video link-ups with the growers and regular update photos of the crop to see how it's growing, plus dealing with issues that may occur such as weather.

Harris laughs when he says that it's a bit boring at the beginning because you're just looking at a patch of dirt - but this is the reality. However, he adds this is why Harris Farm have chosen fairly fast growing crops of a 12-week period.

He wouldn't subject users to an orange crop, which takes three years to grow, he says.

Harris Farm is hoping parents will use the app with their children to show them the farming process, especially in families who live in cities.

"A lot of country people, even our customers, grow their own vegies to a certain extent - and that growing of your own vegetables really gives you an appreciation of how lucky we are to get the quantity and quantity and prices we pay.

"Anyone who can produce a kilo of tomatoes for a couple of bucks is doing really well."

Harris Farm also want to show its customers just how fresh the produce on their shelves is, too.

"We pride ourselves on freshness, and not just a marketing term, but the real customer impact of freshness particularly with vegetables because when you buy it, you take it home and it lasts longer in your fridge."

He says where the bigger chains may use distribution centres as a floating stockpoint where produce is held for 24 to 48 hours, Harris Farm pushes to get the food in and out the door the same day.

If fans follow the bok choy crop, for example, they will see that it is picked and delivered to stores on the same day, he says.

Harris Farm, which has 22 stores around NSW, hopes the initiative grows so that in the future different crops will be added.

The app is being promoted now because the crops will get planted in four weeks' time.

Harris's attitude is let's harness what technology does bring, which is a really broad communication that allows people to interact back with a farm.

  • The survey was done through The Digital Edge with 1285 Australians nationally in January.
The West Australian

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