If you’re after tips for growing food organically, you won’t find anyone more knowledgeable than Tamborine Mountain farmer Adam Willson.
He’s an agronomist and horticulturalist with 20 years experience and he’s the new Organic Federation of Australia Chairman.
He’s consulted to clients in Northern Iraq, Romania and China and on June 28 and July 5 you can visit Adam’s Mt Tamborine Organic Garden for his Just Past the Solstice Farm Tour.
Adam is opening his garden to a small group of visitors during Scenic Rim Eat Local Week, which runs from June 28 to July 6 and features farm tours, cooking classes, producer dinners and an authentic Winter Harvest Festival.
Visitors will tour the garden and be encouraged to try the 38 seasonal plants Adam is growing, including Lamb’s lettuce, Mizuna lettuce, Komatsuna greens and sprouting broccoli.
Adam established his garden in October 2011, shortly after moving to the Mountain. His aim was to promote and encourage the establishment of local certified market gardens in peri-urban environments.
“We provide more than 30 quality and seasonal European and Asian vegetables to the local community,” says Adam, who sells via a farm gate stall and at the Northey St City Farm Organic Market.
“We are constantly researching and experimenting with new varieties for colour, taste and aroma. We are focused on more than just being chemical free. Our soils are comprehensively soil tested to identify and replenish the mineral nutrients deficient in our soil.
“These soils still need to be enhanced in order to produce quality food.”
The organic food industry is gaining momentum in Australia, where it is the fastest growing industry behind diamonds. Adam says the Australian industry is worth $1.2billion and is growing at 12 per cent/year, while worldwide it’s a $62-billion industry growing at between 10 and 12 per cent annually.
“This growth is driven by consumers,” says Adam, who consults through his business Soil Systems Australia.
“The interesting factor is that 22 to 34-year-old females are driving the whole process. They are concerned about health and if their boyfriends aren’t, they get rid of them.”
But not all organic produce is created equal. Adam says if your organic produce tastes bitter and does not last well then there’s a high chance its lacking minerals and nutrition.
“The original idea for our garden came from a photograph of an 1895 market garden in Paris,” he explains.
“I wanted to experiment and develop a small business on small acreage. Peri urban agriculture is the most important agriculture in Australia. You get fresh food to the people without the travel. Your vitamins drop off dramatically from the time produce is picked. It’s not just about how they are grown but also about the time to get them to markets.
“We focus on under 48 hours from picking to the time it reaches the consumer. Sometimes its 24 hours. If you’re concerned about your health and want optimal nutrition you don’t need to buy tablets you can buy fresh produce. We get trainers and sports people visit us who are interested in their health.”
In fact it’s health that attracted Adam and his wife to the Mountain, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. They were seeking a place with clean air where they could grow their own food.
“I wanted to produce the highest quality food I could for my wife,” he says.
“She had a mastectomy but no chemotherapy or radiotherapy. She’s going well.”
Adam farms just 1.25ha and his goal is to have 150 different varieties of vegetables in the ground.
During Eat Local Week Adam will walk visitors through his garden and explain his growing philosophies.
“We will sample some of the leaves so they can taste the flavour and get a sense of that aroma,” he says.
“I want to give them an understanding of why we grow what we grow and where we grow it. We grow within a strict seasonal window so the plants are no stressed and we keep a close eye on nutrition.
“I think local food has to be promoted because it’s healthy and has a lot of great advantages.”
Adam’s Eat Local Week tours are capped at 15 people per tour. SMS 0423 679 110 to reserve a spot.
Find out more about his Just Past the Solstice Farm Tour and the other Eat Local Week activities at www.eatlocalweek.com.au