Farmers’ Market Saves Lives! A Rice Farmer’s Story
Such a simple solution to the declining wholesale price for broad-acre crops: Skip the middle man and connect directly with the consumers!
Working ‘off farm’ is no longer a necessity for Frank Boyle, local Goolmangar organic farmer. His family owned farm, a previously depleted corn field, has now been regenerated into productive fields of healthy dry-land rice and pecans and his life’s path and passion has been saved due to the simple, one on one exchange at Farmer’s Markets.
Frank employs a plethora of Permaculture techniques to achieve his growing success (excuse the pun!). He decided early on to work as a team with the earth and give back as much as he takes out. He chose to sacrifice initial quantity, for long term quality, and therefore spaces his Pecans 15m apart, allowing for greater root development and less nutrient robbing. He protects his precious soil with nitrogen fixing ground covers such as Vetch and Clover, letting it grow up to a metre, only cutting for nut harvest, mulching to spread clippings as green manure instead of slashing and never cutting below 10cm for root development. He spreads composted chicken manure from his chooks annually to replenish nutrients after being horrified at the soil burning and hardening effects of Urea. He also grows a diversity of Pecan varieties. This allows cross pollination and protection in the case of low yields from one variety.
An irrigation system has been implemented, but there has been no need to use it due to the efficiency of the soil holding moisture and rain occurrences. His water storage dams are vibrant, exploding ecosystems of life, encouraging pest predators such as birds, frogs and insects and a diversity of fish and wildlife. Over in the rice fields, Frank works hard to not over-tax his land to produce high yields. His overly high yields (5tonnes of rice in 2acres) comes as a default! Frank is a soil builder. Most important to him is completing the cycle and giving back, building soil strength to support high yielding crops. He returns the harvested rice straw to the fields and lays on compost using the traditional ploughs which don’t fully turn soil, but simply aerate. He also rotates crops to break weed and pest cycles and demand less from his soil.
Australian farmers have a reputation for being creative inventors and Frank is a shining example! His post harvest processing system is full of functional, traditional, creative and unique tools and machines, all crafted for specific purposes by his own, multi-skilled hands. He has done extensive research and experiments, has undertaken international training through scholarships and developed extensive knowledge. All this, paired with resource sharing enabled him to create the efficient, productive system he has today and best of all, its sustainable!
But its Frank’s connection with the local consumers which give him the most rewards. By taking his nuts and rice to the weekly farmer’s market, he is able to follow his produce from the ground to the mouth, knowing, in every aspect he has been able to close the loop and give back to the earth. Frank thanks you, the local consumer, for being part of this movement, because now with these markets, he can spend every waking moment caring for his crops and soil and doing what he loves. Farmers’ Markets are the answer!
Sample Frank’s delectable brown rice and sweet juicy pecans at his Nimbin Valley Rice Stall at Byron Farmers’ Market on Thursday mornings and Lismore’s Twilight Market on Thursday evenings (pictured on right) and hear it from the horses mouth… broad-acre farming CAN be sustainable!
Article & photos by Toni Robinson