Bloomin’ marvel

Co­raki cou­ple fill­ing a niche for or­ganic flow­ers

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - Front Page - DIGBY HILDRETH Digby.hildreth@north­erns­tar.com.au

THERE was clearly a niche in the mar­ket for or­gan­i­cally pro­duced flow­ers, be­cause since she started grow­ing blooms with­out spray or chem­i­cal fer­tilis­ers, Han­nah Robert­son has been amazed by the de­mand.

The mi­cro-flori­cul­tur­ist has been cul­ti­vat­ing a quar­ter acre patch on the river­bank at Co­raki for her busi­ness Our Lit­tle Farm Flow­ers for three years.

While she says it’s only pos­si­ble to grow or­ganic on a small scale, she would like to have a full acre, to meet the re­quests from wed­ding plan­ners, party florists, In­sta­gram cus­tomers, a Ban­ga­low out­let and var­i­ous restau­rants and bars. But the big­ger the busi­ness, the more prob­lems, such as that bane of maca and av­o­cado farm­ers’ lives – the monolepta bee­tle – which hit the re­gion in plague pro­por­tions last year.

Han­nah de­liv­ers all over the North­ern Rivers but is con­scious of keep­ing the “flower miles” to a min­i­mum.

In fact, green prin­ci­ples guide the whole busi­ness. Han­nah chose to go or­ganic firstly “to be kind to the planet”. The Co­raki farm is a no-dig con­cern. Han­nah said the worms bring all the good stuff up to the sur­face.

She is a fol­lower of the “slow flower” move­ment that is gain­ing mo­men­tum in Aus­tralia, which aims to grow qual­ity cut flow­ers sus­tain­ably to sup­ply lo­cal mar­ket de­mand.

“The main fo­cus for us is healthy soil, qual­ity seed, suc­ces­sion plan­ning and plant­ing and grow­ing for our spe­cific cli­mate, not forc­ing the flow­ers to grow un­re­al­is­ti­cally,” Han­nah said.

“Us­ing these meth­ods we do not need chem­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion and are able to main­tain good healthy plants and build healthy soil.”

That way she is able to sat­isfy the most dis­crim­i­nat­ing con­sumers.

“Flow­ers are usu­ally grown us­ing a lot of chem­i­cals, then sit in a vase in our homes, and we breathe all those chem­i­cals in,” she said.

Then there’s the per­sonal an­gle: the plea­sure to be had from get­ting her hands in the dirt.

There’s also the joy of mak­ing va­ri­eties of old cot­tage flow­ers avail­able, such as zin­nias and cos­mos; dahlias and snap­drag­ons.

Some of the blooms are ed­i­ble and drinkers at St Au­gus­tine’s bar in Lis­more can have black ball corn­flow­ers or other tasty buds dropped into their cock­tails.

Also ed­i­ble are Queen Anne’s lace and the choco­late lace flower.

Han­nah was born in By­ron Bay and her six chil­dren are sixth-gen­er­a­tion North Coast­ers, their an­ces­tors “salt of the Earth” types who farmed at Casino.

She ad­mits to be­ing “driven” and has been re­search­ing old farm­ing meth­ods and adapt­ing them, and is about to un­der­take some in­ten­sive train­ing in her in­dus­try.

We are able to main­tain good healthy plants and build healthy soil. — Han­nah Robert­son

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

GREEN THUMBS: Han­nah Robert­son and her youngest child, Al­bie, 17 months, in their flower gar­den at Co­raki.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

COLOUR FIELD: A wide range of flow­ers grow hap­pily in Han­nah’s Co­raki plot.

HEAV­ENLY: Added flavour to a St Au­gus­tine’s cock­tail.

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