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Stories from the farm – a closer look at the people, the place and the bio-diversity at 5EyesFarm

Organic farming

You might come across organic labelling in supermarkets and have some idea that it means the food is a bit healthier and a bit more expensive. Still, there is more to ‘natural’ than meets the eye. When we ask people here what they think organic farming is almost without fail, they say it means we don’t use pesticides. And that’s about as far as it goes. Yes, right – that is very true, we say – we don’t use pesticides. We don’t use herbicides either. We try to manage the processes naturally. And it is certainly a challenge at times. It would be easier to go to the shops and get anti-virus powders and chemical fertilisers (especially) pesticides. Most of the pests in the valley come to us because we are the only organic farm for miles.

You might well wonder why we bother. But, can you remember back to a time before we had these chemical systems, to a time where there were no hybrid seeds or GMO or synthetic fertilisers or herbicides? It was before the 1960s. For many thousands of years, people grew food naturally without any of that. And they had far more variety – and far better methods for managing without modern influences. Their food was healthier, it tasted better, lasted longer and smelled more lovely. It was more potent, and there was a need for less.

We can only claim to be trying as we often get it wrong and need to change up our approach, but we are growing more and more foods here and saving a good range of seed. Not as much as we would like to and many species won’t or don’t grow either because they are hybrid or the climate and soil don’t suit – the temperature is not right.

Even so, we are learning to improve the soil by creating different composts, worm farming, utilising manure from the animal (free-range poultry) farm.
We are making Japanese Bakasi ferments, using indigenous microorganisms (IMO’s) from the natural farming methods and creating biochar and compost teas.

Some of these we had learned about in permaculture classes and through years of home gardening back in Melbourne. Much of it is new to us but nevertheless ancient and helpful and illuminating. Once a system is discovered, put in place and developed, it goes more or less by itself just needs maintaining.

At 5EyesFarm all our produce is organically grown. It all starts in the soil. It is said that this is the basis of all cellular health in the garden. We have good water, and the context is entirely tropical. We still manage to grow a range of European herbs and vegetables as we are 400 meters above sea level here. Again, we cannot grow potatoes, for example, or any cold climate foods.

We grow fruits including blackberries, passion fruit, rambutan, jackfruit and mango and herbaceous fruits like pineapples. We grow veggies like lettuces, kale, tomatoes in rotation with nitrogen-fixing runs like peanuts and sweet potatoes. We intercrop herbs and companion veggies.

We also grow grains like sorghum and lately heritage rice. We also grow root crops and traditional medicinal plants like ginger, clove, cinnamon and turmeric. All up we have over 200 species of food growing here at the farm.

Looking ahead, the goal is to maximise variety in small amounts. We have planted trees to grow fruit and support ‘trees’ like banana and papaya and guava to create layers of production that are more verticle. A typical food forest is a 7 layered section of garden around tall trees, medium trees, low trees, vines, herbaceous plants, ground covers and root plants. We hope to create a few dozen food forests here based on the organic processes we have been learning.

We envision these to be the most productive way we can grow food here. We are aiming for food security solutions with the least inputs (including labour) for the most production and variety. Looking forward to it being more established.

We are looking forward to using the organic food forest as a model to help local and regional farmers maximise their land and production too.
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