Phil, Westmar, Qld
Phil grows wheat, linseed and mung beans for Kialla on a 200 hectare farm east of St George. He actually share farms his father-in-law’s organically certified property. Share farming means that the farmer pays a portion of his proceeds as ‘rent’ to the owner of the property. It provides a way for a person to farm even when they don’t own enough land, or if the owner themselves has perhaps retired or is looking to reduce their workload.
Phil actually hails from down south – Moree in New South Wales, where he lives with his wife on their own farm. He travels the 300kms between the two properties to manage the crops he farms at Westmar. While this is about 3 hours in a car, if he has to take the tractor north for planting or harvesting you can imagine that it’s a long, slow drive. For this reason he is now more likely to look tractors to hire in the Westmar area.
In order to ensure the best yields, Phil has been trialling various methods of improving his soil’s fertility and microbe content. Soils become depleted over the years as more crops are grown in them. In conventional farming nitrogen and other synthesised fertilisers would be used. However many conventional farmers are also finding that these fertilisers don’t work as well as they used to, and have started to turn to using methods very similar to organic farmers. Herbicides and pesticides also affect the microbial content in the soil, according to farmers’ observations, even if the jury is still out on this one, scientifically speaking.
Using compost and something farmers refer to as ‘magic goop’ – a brew of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, enzymes, carbohydrates, and the fruiting bodies of beneficial organisms – Phil aims to build his soil microbial activity over time. This ensures more nutrients are available to the plants, helping them to better withstand difficult weather conditions.
However, even all that effort to build soils cannot control the weather and Phil’s mung bean crop was affected by lack of rain earlier in the year (harvested in May).
The mung beans are planted in January, and take 3 months to grow. Then they will spend some time drying out in the field before they can be harvested.
Linseed is a winter crop and is harvested in spring.
Both mung beans and linseed are notoriously contrary plants, being prone to diseases, bad weather and bugs. However they do return nitrogen to the soil naturally, helping organic farmers replace purchased nitrogen fertilisers.