On Saturday 7th May it was another early start for a group of around 45 subscribers heading off to Gympie for a “Farm Tour with a Difference”.
We were firstly welcomed to the Guggers’ farm – Mary Valley Orchards – by Heinz, Angela, Leslie and Mitchell. Heinz and Angela moved to Gympie from Switzerland around 9 years ago, changing their lives from working in office jobs to farming. It was a big adjustment for them… and they started out farming conventionally before learning that there was another way to farm without chemicals. So began the long process of converting the farm to an organic farm, working on biodynamic principles. The farm now produces mainly persimmons and some nectarines, without using any chemicals. They have found that farming biodynamically produces great results, and each year their harvest gets better and better.
Heinz took us on a tour of the persimmon orchard and farm, set in the beautiful countryside near Amamoor Creek. At this time of year there are no persimmons on the trees and the trees have lost their leaves in preparation for the dormant winter period, so this is the time that pruning takes place for the next season. We saw how the orchard operates, how the nets are spread over the orchard and heard how the Guggers are continually striving to produce better fruit as efficiently as possible.
The farm grows two varieties of persimmons – Fuyu and Jiro – which are sweet and delicious. Heinz says that these persimmons are a lot different to the bitter persimmons that Australians may remember from their childhood, as those were typically astringent varieties, whereas the Fuyu and Jiro varieties are non astringent. Due to the Australian preconception of persimmons, the main market for the Guggers is Asia. (Of course Food Connect subscribers also love a good persimmon!) The persimmon tree is native to Japan, China, Burma and the hills and mountains of northern India and it has always been grown widely throughout Asia.
After lunch we were treated to a very informative talk by the founder of Nutri-Tech Solutions, Graeme Sait. Graeme explained how many factors influence the health of a farm and its crops and how a farmer needs to look at all parts of the equation to get the most healthy and nutritious crops. He discussed soil health, what weeds can tell us, the importance of soil testing and the role of various minerals in the soil. There is certainly a lot for a farmer to consider!
Thanks go to the Gugger family for being such fantastic hosts, and to Graeme Sait for sharing some of his extensive knowledge with us.
We then headed off to Eden Hope Organic Dairy to spend the night camping under the stars in preparation for another early start the next day. We had a delicious dinner provided by the Food Connect Kitchen and then sat around the camp fire getting to know other Food Connectors and our hosts, Glenn Bunter and Therese Cawte and listening to the dingoes howling in the distance.
Next day, when the mist had cleared from the farm it was time to bring in the cows for milking. Some of the subscribers headed off to the paddock with Glenn and Therese’s sons to move the cows up to the milking shed. We then watched Glenn perform the task he performs twice a day, every day, and some of the subscribers helped him out. Glenn explained how the milking process works, and how they have bred their cows over the years to possess qualities such as being a good milk producer, having good udders, having good feet, and having a good temperament. It was great to meet the ladies that provide us with our fantastic Eden Hope milk and to hear how Glenn uses organic and biodynamic methods to run his farm.
Thanks go to Glenn and Therese and their clan for giving us such a great welcome, and to the lovely ladies who produce such tasty milk.