Steve farms 300 hectares in the lush Lockyer Valley between Brisbane and the Great Dividing Range. And while this farm may seem small in comparison to some of the farmers that grow for Kialla, the small size is more than compensated for by the fertility of the soil.
This means he’s able to grow a variety of crops for us, including barley, maize, popcorn, soy beans and wheat.
Maize is one of Steve’s favourite crops, because of the ease with which it grows. Popcorn is a relative of maize, with similar nutrient requirements. Both of these crops will grow through summer for harvest early in the year. Wheat and barley are grass-like crops and will be grown over winter to harvest late in the year.
To grow maize, which is a very nitrogen dependant plant, Steve rotates the crop with green manure crops such as cow peas or fava beans. These will be ploughed back into the field to act as fertiliser, replacing the need for an artificial nitrogen fertiliser like urea, and taking care of the soil’s microbial health at the same time.
Legumes like soy beans are, like maize, grown over the summer. The advantage of growing legumes is that they fix nitrogen in the soil helping organic farmers to preserve their soil’s nutrition without the use of artificial fertilisers.
Steve comes from an organic lineage, so to speak, since his father was one of the pioneers of organic farming in Australia in the 1960s. It was a time when the so-called ‘green revolution’ was changing the face of agriculture around the world, by increasing crop yields through new methods such as industrially manufactured fertilisers and pest-eradicating chemicals.
However, Steve’s father came back from the UK infused with enthusiasm about ‘natural’ and ‘alternative’ growing methods. He appeared both ahead of his time, and completely out-of-touch to many of his farming peers. Nonetheless his persistence helped to build organics in Australia from being a ‘crazy fringe idea’ to the important industry it is today.