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Published May 19th 2014
Is This The Last Honesty Box Shop Around?
I've seen the signs on the way to Whittlesea a million times: Just picked raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, blueberries, apricot, peaches, plums, bean, nectarines, corn, apples, pears, pumpkins, figs. However, I had never stopped.
It doesn't look much when you drive in, in fact you could easily miss it …but you wouldn't want to. I was most impressed by the free tastings, the freshness (I shouldn't have been surprised by that), the prices and the honesty box system.
Don't blink or you might miss it from the road
It was mid week when I first came to check out Just Picked and no one was in sight, however there were lots of food fresh fruit and vegetables that could be purchased. I am amazed that anyone still runs a business where they leave out the goods and a box and hope that people pay for what they take.
The second time I went to Just Picked I met Hans who has owned this farm for 20 years with his wife Maria. He looked a little surprised when I asked him about the honesty box system and he said it works out okay. He then opened the box and found several notes and coins. He took out some and left the loose change.
It didn't take long to realise that Hans was an easy going down to earth person (pardon the pun) who is as honest and hard working as the day is long. He was happy to open up the shop and show me around. Normally the shop is only open and busy on weekends and holidays for the public to enjoy fresh smoothies and Norgen Vaas ice creams. Smoothies and syrups in the Café use berries and fruits sourced from the property.
A little shop full of tasty treats
Traditional morning and afternoon teas with a selection of their own jams and marmalades are served. The apple and sour cream tarts sound a must.
Hans told me that they have 20 acres of intensely farmed land in Yan Yean. They are accredited farmers and they only sell what they grow. Environmentally friendly management strategies are used for pest control. They do not use insecticides, waxing or processing to enhance the look of products. According to Hans (and the locals) the produce is as fresh as it can be. Berries are picked daily.
Free tastings. Help yourself
From the unmanned store I was able to verify his claim by tasting one of the free pears. Most fruits are available for tasting before you buy.
Self serve shop
Just picked is open December through to July. They grow whatever is in season, such as stone fruit in summer. At the moment they have half a ton of lemons, heaps of limes, pumpkins and other products. He said the honeys, chutney, cured fruit and jams are very popular and are made by his wife. Liqueured fruit and berries are made on the premises with 2 year old Brandy.
This farm is set up to please. U-pick and escorted farm tours are available by arrangement and phone orders filled. There's plenty of off street parking.
In the winter months they spend time pruning, preparing, fertilising, functioning and composting, especially the berries. This is the first time I have really understood why berries are so expensive. Hans explained that they cost more than eight dollars a kilo to grow and five dollars a kilo to pick.
Just Picked also offers an on-site consulting service and can complete Independent Expert Reports when required for business prospectus. Once a month, there is also the opportunity for home gardeners and inexperienced growers to attend Field Days conducted on the property at Yan Yean. These days include information and hands on experience with fruit and vegetable production. Topics include pruning, fertilising, spraying, irrigation, pest management, weed control, soil and equipment maintenance.
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What a bargain
Hans and Maria have simplified the food chain to minimise the impact on the planet and produce the freshest possible fruit and vegetables at a minimal cost. A trip to Just Picked can be good for your health and pocket and a fun and tasty outing for the kids.