Gary farms about 250 hectares near St George in southwest Queensland, where he grows wheat, mung beans, sunflowers and buckwheat for Kialla. He has been farming organically since 2013, after leaving a teaching career at an agricultural college. His wife’s family has been long-established in organic farming and he actually share farms part of his wife’s grandfather’s property.
Share farming means that the grower leases land from the property owner and keeps the proceeds from any crops that he grows. Farming land can be very expensive to buy so share farming provides an opportunity for younger farmers to get a start in the industry.
Buckwheat and Mung beans are summer crops and Gary will plant 50 hectares or more each year – the rest of his area is planted with wheat, which grows through the winter. Australian organic farmers will generally only get one crop a year per paddock, because they don’t use artificial methods to boost their soil levels of nitrogen and microbes.
Because they are a legume, Mung beans are known as a nitrogen-fixing crop and can help to improve soil health.
Buckwheat is fast growing – it can be finished within 10 weeks, under ideal condition – so is not so hard on the soil. So depending on whether the farm has enjoyed a good season (enough rain but not too much) and there is still high moisture content in the soil, the farmer may then decide to plant a winter crop such as wheat.