Farmer rating (pending assessment by the PFA): AA
Supplying Food Connect since: 2005
Farm visited by Food Connect: Yes
Written by Samantha Palmer
Despite being a relative new comer to growing organic vegetables, farming has always been a passion for us. It all started for my husband, Ray, when he helped out on his grandparents property at The Summit, near Stanthorpe. His interest held throughout school and he went onto study horticulture at The University of Queensland, Gatton. He worked in various roles throughout the horticulture industry including, farm hand, research technician, agronomist and finally industry development officer with Growcom, a leading horticulture representative organisation.
I am a relative newcomer to horticulture, although I did pick fruit and help plant garlic as a child. I was previously with NSW EPA in Sydney before moving home to Tenterfield to become a Landcare Coordinator. After meeting Ray, I made the move across the border into the Sunshine State and now work part time with the Southern Downs Regional Council.
Seven years ago we had the opportunity to buy Ray’s grandparents property. It has been in the family for over 50 years and we are proud to carry on the tradition of farming. The property is 350 acres with 60% being heavily vegetated with an endangered ecosystem. In amongst the trees and rocks there are small pockets of cleared land for vegetables. Until recently Ray grazed cattle on land not used for crops. The cattle are now all sold as Ray got fed up with them jumping fences to get into the vegetables.
One of Ray’s main passions is organic farming and sustainability. Having worked first hand with the chemicals used in horticulture and being made aware of the health impacts on himself and the environment, he has worked towards getting his farm certified organic.
We are now establishing an organic vegetable business. Our relationship with Food Connect is very important to us for a number of reasons. We get a fair price for produce. It is also good dealing with people who appreciate tasty produce and don’t mind if the broccoli in a box are different sizes. Not only are we suppliers to Food Connect but we are also subscribers. It has been invaluable to be part of the full cycle as we can now see things from both sides, as a producer and a customer.
Living in the coldest part of Queensland has its challenges. We get the first and last frost every season, and it’s not uncommon to get frosts in November or even December. We are trying out grow tunnels and a propagation house to extend the growing season.
Growing organic vegetables continues to be a steep learning curve. Ray is in his element walking around the property, bare footed and observing nature at work. At present we are growing a wide variety of vegetables including a range of heirloom and heritage varieties. Look for the Black Russian tomatoes in your boxes in the warmer months!
Like our vegetables, our business and knowledge is growing. So is our family, with Charlie joining our daughter, Eva Katie. The next organic farming generation, perhaps.
Watch a short video of Sam Palmer catching up with our produce co-ordinator Wade in December 2009.