On The Tractor with Farmer Richard

The period between 26th December and 31st March is a time of recuperation and preparation for sewing and harvesting seasons.

Traditional potato growing season harvests between mid November and the end of January, which is when we harvested a lot of our sebagos. Then, we grow Kipflers between January and July.

We have multiple blocks, with multiple microclimates – blocks sheltered from southerly winds and an elevation difference of up to 35 metres. To give an idea, one block could require us to move 80,000m3 dirt.

We look after the land and aim to constantly make the blocks healthier so that our produce is higher quality.

We level out undulating blocks and add sprinklers. An undulating block won’t allow for straight lines and even growth, so you end up with a harvest all over the place.

We give green manure – sorghum, spring onions, lucerne hay, oats and barley – to the crops one year in every three in between cycles to improve the soil quality. We then mulch these crops to create compost.

We mix the compost in the quarry and it turns into a beautifully moist (not dry) recycled top soil which can then be used again. Recycling the earth has changed the rhythm of this farm; it is a far more sustainable and cyclical way to operate.

Corn and strawberries act as brilliant fertiliser too through the forage harvester. We harvest some and chop in the rest to enrich the soil.The minerals and fertilisers from strawberry waste turns into brilliant compost.

We could drive the land harder, but we prefer to look after it and think with a long-term, outlook. We’re planning for the next 100 years; not the next 100 days.

The sandy, soft, free-draining earth helps to grow straight carrots, but the carrots don’t like too much water, or organic matter.

We rotate blocks according to the crop and the time of year; planting potatoes, carrots and parsley

We do invest in new machinery where necessary, but we also repurpose and rebuild where we can.

Efficiencies in regenerative agriculture, efficient use of water

We’ve invested in other tech, such as variable irrigation speed drives that we monitor through an app from a locally-creative micro weather system.

Our 99.8kw solar farm drives the electrical systems at the farm and our dam recycles water – which is both great for the environment and great for our vegetables which prefer recycled water. “Clean” drinking water is almost a contaminant. We’re protecting the land; not flogging it.

This long-termism manages supply where flogging the land and short-sighted strategies create over-supply and cause volatile markets.

We’re about quality, not quantity. We’re constantly striving to invest in the soil quality, through materials, labour and a nurturing approach that revolves around adding as much organic matter as possible; recycled water, fertiliser, compost (made of natural resources). It’s about capturing and reusing the greatest volume of natural materials in the most efficient way.

Getting solid moisture right is a mixture of gut, experience and science. 

We’re constantly managing our blocks and staying ahead of the curve, utilising technology to grow better herbs and vegetables.