In the lush Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, David and Tammy grow organic grains such as Sunflowers, Popcorn, Soya Beans and Maize for Kialla. They have about 200 hectares of farmland in two valleys outside Gatton where they alternate vegetable crops in winter and grain crops during the summer growing season. The farms are irrigated, so while the area farmed is small in comparison to dryland crops on the Western Darling Downs, the fertile Lockyer soils and the regular water supply mean that they can be growing product all year round.
Both Tammy and David grew up on farms in the Lockyer Valley. David left school at 15 to work on the family farm and has been a farmer ever since. They enjoy the lifestyle and freedom it offers, even when they face farming challenges such as drought or the recent massive flooding in the Lockyer area, which ruined some of the potato and soya bean crops. There is also a shortage of farm workers to help with the intensive work schedule of vegetable growers, particularly in the last few years.
Their switch to organic was initiated by the premature birth of their second child. When the doctors couldn’t explain why she had been born four months early, but commented that perhaps it was due to pesticides, Tammy and David made the decision then and there to take up organic farming. Their children have grown up eating organics and their daughter who was born so early now has her own Patisserie in Gatton where she uses Kialla’s organic flours in her pastries.
For the past 18 years they have grown fully certified organic vegetable such as potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower. Recently they began farming organic summer grain crops for Kialla to utilise the paddocks at a time when it is often too hot to farm vegetables. They will plant the summer crops in late August with harvest taking place from November to January depending on the crop. In terms of soil treatments, they rely on compost, and also lablab beans to replenish nitrogen in the soil. These legumes grow prolifically, sometimes up to waist height, and they can then slash and mulch these back in to fertilise the soil.
Tammy admits that it’s tough being an organic farmer. A lot can go wrong that can’t be treated with the quick-fix solutions of conventional farming – such as pest infestation. However, she has noticed that if they get the soils healthy and the plants are able to develop a good root system, they can grow healthier plants that exhibit a greater resistance to disease and pests. This is supported by research in organic and regenerative agriculture.
Their recent organic maize crop so impressed their Seed Rep that he declared it was the “best corn I’ve ever seen” and proudly displayed his seed signs in their paddock in full view of passing motorists.