Feature

Fresh off the farm

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Jane Campbell from Barambah Organics in Queensland.

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Hapi Fiefia from Field to Feast in NSW.

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From left to right: Jilly Middleton and partner Kris Tysonwith their daughter Georgia, at Huon Choice Organic Blueberries in Tasmania.

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From left to right: Stewart Seesink, son Lee and Bee Winfield at Merri Bee Organic Farm in Western Australia.

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Greg Palmer from Spencer Gulf King Prawn Fishery in South Australia.

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Ben Falloon from Taranaki Farm in Victoria.

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Merri Bee Organic Farm, WA

Bee Winfield, 52, partner Stewart Seesink, 50, and son Lee, 12.
ORGANIC EGGS, FRUIT, VEGETABLES AND HERBS.

Bee: “I’m a city girl having grown up in Melbourne, but I didn’t feel very happy there amongst all the brick and tile. I always wanted to be a farmer from age 12, and for some reason, always an organic farmer. I’ve had the organic farm here in Nannup, WA for 26 years.
I’ve been into permaculture since I got here. I was 25 then and was really keen to put into practice all the Bill Mollison ideas which are more relevant and important today than they were 30 years ago, when
I first heard about it.
We put in a lot of oak trees and I’m really glad that we did; they are really big now, along with stone pines, kurrajongs, olives, carobs and figs. And this is what we mostly rely on now is those tree crops because it’s getting harder to grow vegetables – we don’t have enough water anymore; we used to have a lot more rain. We’re about an hour from the coast, but have recently purchased a block near the coast just to have that safety net in case the climate really starts to dry out. We bought one of the wettest blocks we could find, and we’ve checked it’s a good height above sea level too! So hopefully we can keep going for a while.
We’re a fairly mixed farm. Eggs are one of our mainstays because we’re still allowed to do them. Berries are big for us too, along with persimmons and figs. With the new food act it’s really hard to sell meat now – we used to – but we are allowed to continue to sell eggs, fresh fruit, and vegetables. Just no processed things without registering as a food producer and put myself under monitoring and surveillance and be open to very big fees.
We’re certified organic and have moved into selling certified organic seeds, which we think is important because Monsanto has bought out most seed companies in the last six years, including Yates, so we want to be able to provide people with local organic seeds that are bred for our conditions. We just have to really hope that no one grows a GM crop in Nannup because they will put that all at risk.
It’s just Stewart and myself that work on the farm, and Lee is becoming very helpful now that he’s 12. We do have visitors who want to come and see how to grow things, and they volunteer.
To be honest Stewart does most of the farm work now and I do marketing and research. I also unfortunately spend a lot of time on the computer campaigning against all kinds of environmental issues like GM food, mining taking over all the good farm land and using up all the good water and toxifying what they leave, as well as people not relying on water tanks.
I just love improving soil and seeing abundance and being able to be involved with nature’s recycling of nutrients. And creating food that’s nutrient dense, and being able to provide health to people from that. I mean there couldn’t be a more satisfying thing to do.
The mainstream is just going in a very lineal one-way street with nutrients in, and waste products out to the ocean – there is no nutrient recycling going on. So we’ve got to get people buying organic more and we’ve got to get farmers growing organic more. Because it’s currently only around one per cent of farmers that are organic.
If people say they can’t afford organics, I say ‘you cant afford to be healthy?’ You either spend your money at the doctors or on paying maybe a third more for your food. I reckon there’s no excuses either, if you can’t afford it you can easily get outside and grow it yourself.”

Spencer Gulf King Prawn Fishery, SA

Greg Palmer, 53.
MSC-CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE KING PRAWNS.

Greg: “The Spencer Gulf King Prawn fishery started in 1967, and I’ve been with them for 29 years. My family has a big history of fishing and Dad was one of the pioneers of the prawn industry when it first got going. I always though I’d end up fishing, but when I left school to start, I got too seasick.
So I went and did my plumbing apprenticeship for a while, wondering whether I could get over seasickness. I tried everything, from paper bag on the stomach, music in your ears, those bands for your wrist, patches behind the ear, hypnotherapy, injections, everything. I started working for some skippers on our family boat, and when my Dad came out on the boat to teach me I went from the deck up to the wheel – that’s when I really got rid of the seasickness, because my mindset changed. I’m now coordinator at sea and manage the 39 vessels in the fleet.
We fish for only 50 nights a year. We used to fish 280–300 nights a year in the 70s, but it wasn’t too long before we realised the fishery needed management.
There were people that actually put in and asked for closures, and asked for the government to help us do that, so we could stop people going out all the time. It was finally a gentleman’s agreement that was put in place by the fishermen themselves to put those closures in place. We went from strength to strength from that point on, where sustainability is our main aim, to protect the stock and our envied lifestyle for generations to come.
My role is extended beyond the sea. I do a lot of work promoting the fishery, talking to government, doing things like getting sustainable accreditation or certification.
I do a lot trying to market our prawns and that we are the only certified prawn fishery in Australia that has sustainable prawns, and I do a lot of maintenance on the boat myself. As soon as my crew and I are finished fishing, we clean the boat up, do a little bit of maintenance and then I let them go and do their second jobs.
Our season runs from November to June and we always fish with the darkest phase of the moon for 10-12 days each time. That’s the time when the catchability of the prawns is the highest as they’ll be up and running around in the dark feeding.
We’ve got a highly efficient way of catching the prawns and snap freezing them on board very quickly. So they’re caught and frozen within half hour of capture, to seal in freshness straight away.
We do surveys first to ascertain what the stock is, if it actually meets the criteria of our strict management plan, so that we can make sure that we only target and take the prawns that are the right size and that there’s plenty more to spawn and recover from one season to the next. Over the years, we’ve also identified all the areas in the Gulf that are delicate areas with aggregations of juvenile fish like whiting and snapper and and where there’s things like seahorses. We’ve blocked those areas off for the last 20 years and we don’t touch them. We also have changed and modified our gear; we skim the bottom rather than dig the bottom so hard, and therefore we only catch the prawns basically. All the boats have also installed hoppers on board, which is a basin filled with seawater and when the prawns and any bycatch drop in there, the survivability is increased and then they go very quickly back over the side.”

Taranaki Farm, VIC

Ben Falloon, 35, wife Nina Grundner, 28, father Stan Falloon, 57, and daughters Maya, 4, Magdalene,
3 months.

‘BEYOND ORGANIC’ BEEF, PORK, CHICKEN, EGGS.

Ben: “I’m fourth generation on this farm, it was my great grandfather’s. I’ve been managing the place for about six years now. I used to be in IT and marketing, and came up here on an R&R escape – the farm was unoccupied at the time – and it didn’t take long before I looked out the window a little bit and thought ‘this place needs a bit of work’. It grew on me and before I knew it, had claimed me. It wasn’t my choice I don’t think!
I’m looking to resurrect and correct some of the – what I perceive to be – unfair arrangements that farmers have been subjected to and also provide the community with some food they can trust. So that’s where we’re going.
At the moment we’re emphasising mixed farming enterprise because we believe that for land to be in balance it has to have a variety of different species growing and being produced on it so that they complement one another in what Joel Salatin [from Polyface Farm in the U.S.] calls the symphony of the pasture. So we’re producing beef, chicken, eggs, and pork. We orchestrate the movement of those animals around our systems usually with daily moves in a lot of cases to keep them mimicking the way that these animals might function in a natural eco system. So the farm itself is very carefully managed to produce fertility.
We’re opting not to go down the organic certification path, we describe what we are as being ‘beyond organic’. Mainly because I perceive organic certification to be somewhat elite and a minimum standard. We’re choosing not to be certified so that we can market our produce as being whats ‘beyond organic’, the best practices of how you could farm.
We draw inspiration from the phrase ‘don’t expect what you don’t inspect’. Our feeling is that for people to be truly confident and have trust in the food that they eat they should also be able to access the farm that it’s produced on. We encourage people to actually come and have a look around so that they know what they’ve seen is what they get.
The cows are moved every day to fresh new pasture, the free range laying hens every 3–4 days, and the pigs help to turn compost and are moved frequently as well. They’re the happiest animals you’ll meet. To draw a quote from Michael Pollan’s Omnivore Dilemma; ‘The animals on Polyface, (and in our case Taranaki) have a wonderful life and just one bad day.’ We love our animals, we emphasise the quality of their life, making sure they always have fresh forest and that they’re cared for – that’s a top priority.
Theres no question in our view that the chemical farming paradigm is on a fast track to annihilation. People talk about sustainable farming, but the truth is, the majority of farms in this country are completely land destructive instead of constructive. Land is an ecosystem itself, and what happens on that land to produce the food that’s eaten by the customer is very important. So when a person consumes food, every bite that they take is either improving the land or damaging the land. And so the great opportunity in that is to look for food from farmers who are doing things that are good for the land.Chances are it’ll be good for them too.”

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