The farm has 75 acres of good quality, productive soils and the area has been producing vegetables, especially peas and corn, for over 100 years. The area was originally opened up for corn growing in the 1820's, due to its ideal warm moist growing season. Corn will grow in this area without irrigation. Recently some of the property has been land planed for drainage control, which allows better access over the growing areas after the intense rainstorms which characterise the region.
Forebears of Angus grew yellow maize on this property for many years before the family left the property to concentrate on timber milling. Angus returned after a five year absence and began to grow small areas of organic vegetables for the Sydney market, as well as corn for chickens and cattle. Eventually they came to an agreement with Mexicana, and later Spiral Foods to produce corn for the corn chip market.
"Our corn grows on soil water and we get 7 - 8 tonne per hectare. Last year it grew well despite the drought. Corn is perfectly suited to our area. The shape of the leaves funnels moisture to the roots in the evenings and even a heavy dew gets to the roots, and our 40 inch rainfall is spread through the year.
Few crops are grown during the winter months, peas, potatoes and brassica, according to Angus the brassica grow extremely well. During the spring or summer, two or three crops are grown in quick succession. About 50 acres of yellow maize is grown for corn chips. These are marketed in Melbourne and Sydney. About 10 acres of sweet corn is grown for the fresh market, and 25 acres of field peas. Beans are also grown.
Angus is currently developing a new farming system which aims to reduce ploughing. Although the soil does respond very well to turning, Angus is keen to make improvements to the system by incorporating organic certified cattle. The property is set up with a perimeter laneway and electric fencing. Troughs are moved in after cropping. The laneway allows access to any part of the property and the animals compost the standing crop residue.
After the cattle have finished, Angus may still need to slash with a turf mower, and then uses a mouldboard plough and one pass with a spring tyne cultivator. In this system the residue from the previous crop is mostly consumed and composted. The next crop can be planted within days, often peas and beans. These produce useful green manure in high volumes and most of the crops grown have a large seed, so a fine powdery seedbed is not required.
Up to 40 cattle at one time are used on corn stubbles. This system has also reduced the equipment needs for the farm. Most operations are conducted with the slasher, spring tyne cultivator or mouldboard plough.
Interrow cultivation is used for weed control, so all crops are grown in the same row width. A rolling cultivator is the preferred tool for this operation.
Pests include heliothis in sweet corn, which is not serious enough for treatment with any organic insecticide, and cabbage moth. High populations of parasitic wasps control the moth for most of the year but some application of Dipel may be needed when the wasps are dormant. Cutworm is also a seasonal pest in corn. Angus says "the main way we deal with pest problems is to avoid growing crops which are prone to significant pests - like fruitfly in tomatoes".
Marketing is a very important aspect of the system. Angus descibed his views about marketing in t5his way: "We are victims of the taste of people in Sydney" he says "they demand super sweet corn - so we must grow super sweet corn. They demand red and white potatoes - so we must grow red and white potatoes".
He is surprised that while consumers express interest in environmental issues and clean food, the industry remains very small.
"Last year we would have dumped 7 tonne of Kifpler potatoes. We grew 20 tonne but the organic market could not take the last seven." he said, "we were lucky to know someone who swapped the Kifpler for seed potatoes".
Angus hopes that a merger of the two largest certification organisations will help to get the story about organis foods out to the public. He says "the organic industry is still too small. We have a huge potential market but we are not tapping into it. We have a good story to tell - why aren't we out there telling it?".