Kim Vincent samples some of her cherry tomatoes.
Kim Vincent samples some of her cherry tomatoes. Brendan Ray

Greenest thumb in Australia

COFFS Coast vegetable grower Kim Vincent is the 2009 Australian Vegetable Industry Landini Grower of the Year.

The national trophy is a huge coup not only for Mrs Vincent but for vegetable growers on the Coffs Coast.

“We are not known as a vegetable-growing region,” Mrs Vincent said.

“It's really put us on the map.

“In two weeks' time I am going to a big dinner in Melbourne as part of the rural leaders' strategic course and I am going to do a profile on Coffs Harbour.

“I have asked the mayor to put something together. I am also going to talk about specific growers.”

She said the award was not just about having high-quality produce but also about 'what you do on a regional and national level'.

In her speech in accepting the award, Kim Vincent said she had come into the industry at an older age and would like to thank those people who had supported and encouraged her.

Kim Vincent and her husband, Robin, who trade as Vincent's Produce, began as purely hydroponic vegetable growers but now also grow field vegetables on their Crossmaglen farm.

She is also the president of the Mid North Coast Hydroponics Association

At the 2009 Vegetable Industry Conference last week where the national awards were announced, Kim Vincent was also among eight vegetable growers to receive accreditation under the EnviroVeg program, a project she is particularly passionate about, as she wants to combat what she says is a perception that vegetable farmers are 'environmental vandals'.

“EnviroVeg is all about looking after the environment and includes your use of water, use of sprays, training staff; fencing off land which is sensitive to erosion; signage - all those things . We have gone through two years of audits to get this accreditation.”

Kim Vincent also operates The Absolutely Fabulously Local shop at Bonville, which sells produce grown or made within 100 miles (160km) and also sells Vincent's Produce at Coffs Harbour's Sunday Top Town Markets in Castle Street and the fortnightly Coffs Coast Growers Market in the City Square.

She is now involved in helping other growers, advising them about what to plant; what sprays to use and how to market their crops.

Kim said the Coffs Coast was ideal for hydroponics, because the sub-tropical climate meant they did not need to heat or cool greenhouses.

Fungal diseases are the big problem for growers, she said, but fans were used to combat these.

She said Valla was known for its beans and peas, although some growers there were battling a nematode problem and Dorrigo was excellent for brassicas as well as potatoes, while Thora growers were doing a lot of work with speciality potatoes.

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