For most people salmon is not seen as a seasonal food; but for boutique producer Yarra Valley Salmon, it will only do just that.
Yarra Valley’s Mark Fox has built a reputation for being anything but conventional in farming his Atlantic Salmon.
When he took over the farm at the base of the Victorian Alps some 14 years ago, he immediately questioned the way the fish were milked for caviar, and changed the process to an entirely natural one.
Labour intensive it may be, but the fish are treated with respect, and the result are, plump, caviar; and fish prepared to spawn again the following year.
The same philosophy applies to the way the farm produces its salmon products. The fish live in long earthen ponds which are fed by waterfalls, and the farm refuses to use antibiotics or chemicals.
They are only culled and sold on the market from October to January, when the flesh is at its best. He says providing flesh earlier in the year is not the humane thing to do for the fish – or the right thing for the consumer â€“ with the fish needing time to recover from milking in May.
“Even though we’re the only aquaculture farm to milk our fish entirely by hand, the process still takes its toll on the fish. It’s like any animal giving birth; they need time to fully recover.”
“Because of the space we give our fish to swim around, we don’t need to use antibiotics, and prophylactics because there’s no need â€“ the fish are actually less prone to disease just because of the way they live, and therefore of course much healthier and happier and in turn that results to the quality of the product on the plate.”
It’s the reason the likes of renowned chefs Luke Mangan and Guy Grossi choose Yarra Valley Salmon’s products.
“I’m not interested in creating products from intensive farming” says Mark. “It’s makes far more sense to provide a top quality product, and in the process do the right thing by the fish, the Rubicon River which feeds our ponds, and ensure the long term sustainability of our farm.”