Growth in­dus­try

Hard work and grit are mak­ing this or­ganic farm a suc­cess

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

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.

PHOTO: DIGBY HILDRETH

EARTHY: Sheia Ky­ronn gets her hands dirty at the Mul­lumbimby plot she man­ages.

PHOTO: DIGBY HILDRETH

WATERWORKS: Lift­ing grow­ing beds isn’t a straight­for­ward job, but re­cent del­uges have made it nec­es­sary.

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