Tomato crop will be all ripe – Cool summer delays picking

COOL temperatures over the past few months have delayed the growth of fruits in Tasmania, with Cracknell Tomatoes expecting their crop to be harvested will into the winter.

Based in Granton, Cracknell Tomatoes has been in the Cracknell family for decades, with current chief operator Matthew having taken over the business from his parents, Nick and Sue in the past few years.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, we are in the midst of one of the coolest summers in almost a decade, and that is being reflected on the vines at Cracknell.

“We’ve not had a very good summer, we’ve just not had enough sunlight,” Matt Cracknell said.
“Things have picked up in the last two weeks we’re probably getting eight or nine tonnes off per week so there’s still a lot of fruit, but we are a little bit down.”

Cracknell Tomatoes grow about 6700 plants in their 4000sqm greenhouse, and with the addition of an extra planting to boost the later harvest, they’re expected about 220 tonnes of product this season.

The harvest is expected to be wrapped up by July.

“We only started picking in the second week of November, “ Mr Cracknell said. “The cold, dark winter meant it took a little longer for fruit to come along for us.
“We’ve only picked about a quarter to a third of our crop so far.”

Despite the delayed harvest, Cracknell has the advantage of their fruit having very low food mileage from the vine to the customer.

“Our fruit doesn’t leave Tassie, the bulk of our product goes to Woolworths and Hill Street, who have been great supporters of us, and the remainder going to smaller, independent stores.”

The efficiency in transport is also reflected in packing, with fruit being picked and packed directly off the vine, so no unnecessary handling.

As for the pickers and packers at Cracknell, they’re somewhat of a low mileage force too, predominantly coming from the surrounding area, with seven pickers, six packers and a handful of full-timers from the Derwent Valley and Claremont region, as well as the enlisted help of the Cracknell family providing a consistent, reliable crew.

“We’ve been lucky, the picking group we have pick 38 to 40 weeks a year, so we’ve had a pretty similar crew over the years.”
“There haven’t been pickers miss out due to Covid.
“We’ve had a few packers miss a week after being close contacts, but touch wood, everything’s been great in that regard.”