Fish farmer challenges seasons
Salmon is not seen as a seasonal food for most people.
Rather, it’s generally taken for granted as a “year round” product regardless of the impact upon the fish’s quality of life or the taste for the consumer.
For one boutique producer in the Victorian Alps, however, convention isn’t necessarily the norm.
When Mark Fox took over the farm of Yarra Valley Salmon some 14 years ago, he questioned the way the fish were milked for caviar, and changed the process to a natural one.
He aims to treat his fish with respect, saying the result is flawless, 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 doesn’t use antibiotics or chemicals.
They are only culled and sold on the market from October to January, when the flesh is seen to be at its best.
Mark says providing flesh earlier in the year is not the humane thing to do for the fish – or the right thing for the consumer – 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.”
For Mark, it’s not about being a “greenie” but instead makes pure business sense.
“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 – 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.”