Hard work and grit are making this organic farm a success
RECENT downpours have forced Sheia Kyronn and Isaac Robson to raise some of the beds on their one acre organic market garden just outside Mullumbimby.
Most of the 100 beds at their LifeForce Food Gardens were built high originally, with deep gutters between to keep the water off the 10 varieties of mixed salad vegetables and cut flowers, but there’s always more work to do to mitigate the climate extremes.
The couple got off lightly in the recent hail storms that flogged so many Northern Rivers crops, but a year of droughts and flooding rains has meant the couple’s business underwent a baptism of fire.
And it is a business, with an aggressive planting schedule, large deliveries of compost from the Lismore tip, and supermarkets, shops, cafes and ritzy resorts across Byron Shire depending upon regular supplies of produce.
“We provide salad mixes, kale bunches and some seasonal vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchinis along with cut flowers,” Sheia said.
Salad vegies are grown under shade cloth all year round and weed matting reduces run-off and keeps moisture in, while reducing the time and labour costs of constant weeding.
Pests and aphids are the main problem and they deal with them by spraying with Neem, staying vigilant, keeping the rows free of rotting vegetation and introducing lace wings and ladybirds.
A plot has been planted in sunflowers to encourage birds, who will also eat grasshoppers.
Sheia has a farming background in England and was the hemp farming manager at Hemp Food Australia, growing a small trial crop of industrial hemp on the 200-cattle and mulch farm
❝We want the price to be affordable so families and kids can eat it...
— Sheia Kyronn
where the couple have one hectare to grow into.
It started as a spray free garden but Sheia said “we couldn’t find a market so that pushed us to develope an organic system” and become certified.
They are interested in starting a “gro-operative” in the Northern Rivers, to streamline delivery and other logistics, with the goal of taking on bigger contracts.
Sheia would like to see more stalls allocated at farmers’ markets to young certified organic growers, who are farming in a 15km radius.
She is also keen to make good food cheaper.
“We are really interested in keeping the price down, because that hasn’t happened with certified organic food and people are cut out because of the cost,” she said.
“We want the price to be affordable so families and kids can eat it, which is why we’re selling volume.”
Sheia will teach at Byron Community College on the Business of Permaculture next year, stressing the difference between a hobby and a business, bringing a good deal of practical knowledge to the task.
EARTHY: Sheia Kyronn gets her hands dirty at the Mullumbimby plot she manages.
WATERWORKS: Lifting growing beds isn’t a straightforward job, but recent deluges have made it necessary.