Tim Parkinson (thanks to Willunga Farmers Market)
The long ridge of high ground separates the catchments of Tookyerta Creek , flowing to the west, and Currency Creek, flowing to the south east. It provides opportunity for impressive views to Mount Lofty, in the north, and the Port Elliot to Goolwa Coastline to the south.. It is mainly old dairy country, now mostly converted to beef and to smaller, lifestyle farms. The soils are good loams and sandy loams, peaty in the lower reaches. Mount Jagged Organics is the property of Tim Parkinson, organic vegetable producer and grower of firewood trees.
Tim supplies local restaurants and the Willunga Farmers Market, where he has been a regular stallholder since the third or fourth market.
Tim began supplying mainly lettuce, and other salad crops to local restaurant, but has now increased his range. Many crops are grown specifically for the Farmers Market, and variety is important, to provide customers with plenty of choice, and increase the value of the transaction with each customer.
The small-medium scale horticulture operation is supplemented by work on two days per week, when Tim is the project officer for the Inman River Catchment Group. The firewood trees are around 8 years old and will provide some supplementary income next winter. Tim is also nearing completion of an owner-built mud brick house, which has to be ready before the arrival of his first child later this year. Tim grows on his own property and share-farms with Mark Seidel. He also sells produce for another producer, Glen Crowhurst.
The main winter crops are cauliflower and broccoli, with some onion, garlic, swede and turnip. In summer he will grow eggplant, capsicum and tomatoes. He makes successional planting two weeks apart to ensure continual supply. At present volumes he plants 170 of cauli and broccoli each fortnight, but suffers some losses as it is a minimal input venture and the employment and building obligations combined leave little time for weeding.
The ground is prepared with a tractor mounted rotary hoe or disk plough, and Tim also has a Yeomans plough for deeper loosening. Follow up weeding is made with a push hoe, or hand hoe. There is excellent water from a spring-fed dam that is always full. The water has less than 200 ppm total salts.
Fertility is improved with a Biotech prescription fertiliser and neutrog Bounce-Back, to supply nitrogen. As there is plenty of room, the crops are allowed to become weedy towards the end of the picking season, and the naturally sown weeds provide green manure for turning in later.
Tim finds very few pest problems in the vegetables that need treatment of any kind. He has suffered black aphid in unthrifty lettuce, but finds if he cares for their nutrition, healthy lettuce does not have much aphid. The worst pests are birds, especially the southern egg-stealing crow and the seasonal cauli-nipping galah.
Tim also keeps chickens for eggs. He says that the current flock of 150 birds is too many and will scale down to 120 birds, With 150 birds he gets nearly 120 eggs per day, and sells 50 – 60 dozen per week at the market. A very large local restaurant and function centre was taking eggs, but Tim now prefers to sell them at the market, because the return is better (the restaurant pays a wholesale price). A tall chicken wire fence and five outrigger electric wires keeps birds in and foxes out. The half-hectare enclosure is divided into six long bays with tractor access so they can be cultivated into vegetables or planted with pasture and fodder crops.
Tim has now developed a suite of regular customers at the Willunga Farmers Market and believes the average customer spends around $10 per visit, although the best customer spends $50.
Tim advises that variety is the key to success. He started the garden for self sufficiency and began selling excess, and has maintained the self sufficiency approach, planning successional plantings to keep himself in supply, thus ensuring customers will have variety too.
Other diversification around the property includes 30 olive trees, which Tim will process into pickled fruit and oil, raspberries, brambleberries, herbs, asparagus and young citrus.
Tim will sell the firewood in bags at the Farmers Market, and to take orders for delivery of larger quantities. A power mulcher will grind the residues of trees, including wattles, into mulch. Varieties planted include spotted gum, blue gum, black wattle, blackwood, Sydney bluegum and some local natives. There is also fodder trees, mainly tagasaste, and a small swamp, with some carefully protected small natives, and environmental and shelter tree plantings.