Barry Beach in his garden
Barry Beach produces vegetables, herbs, seed and seedlings on his 10 acre property at Middleton, on the South Coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, for sale to local restaurants and at the Willunga Markets.
The producing area is small, although it will expand a little this summer, due to both better growing conditions over the warmer period, and increasing demand from visitors to the Farmers Market. The remainder of the property was used for grazing horses until recently, and the house paddock has been significantly revegetated since Barry acquired the property in the mod 80's.
The gardens are found in patches nestled between plantings of fruit trees and natives. Microclimate is important in this cool, windswept coastal location, and the garden is very attractive. There are also significant efforts to make the garden bird, reptile and insect friendly, especially by providing small pools of water, with perimeter shade, aquatic plants and rocky habitat for small creatures to hide in.
Barry describes his method as "small-scale intensive polyculture". It is really a 'scaled-up' home garden, with small quantities of each line, but a lot of variety. Some of the patches are small and utilise circle planting rather than straight lines.
Barry has a small rotary hoe, but often even primary tillage is done with a wheel hoe, from Gundaroo Tiller. Follow up weeding is with the wheel hoe or hand hoe. Barry still works full time off the property, so time is limited, but utilising the wheel hoe, he can weed the entire garden in one day. The total summer garden is probably around about half an acre.
Because of his work commitments, Barry does not attend the Willunga Farmers Market every week. He sometimes works on weekends, or will skip a week if there is not much produce. The longer-term plan is to plant more quantity and even more variety, and eventually transfer the major income focus from work to growing.
Barry says variety is a key principle for supplying both his own table and the Farmers Market. He thinks he has over fifty varieties of vegetables and herbs and about 100 varieties including all the fruit trees. Major herbs include tarragon, mints, sages, lemon thyme, parsley, oregano and garlic chives. He also grows Warragul (native spinach) and a wide variety of vegetables, especially leaf crops.
Barry also keeps a small flock of about 20 poultry, behind 100 metres of moveable 'Electra-net' fencing. The fence has kept foxes out, even though there is significant pressure, and neighbours loose birds due to fox predation.
Barry recently obtained NASAA certification, but says he has been "unconsciously growing organically" for 20 - 25 years, since he first started gardening for self-sufficiency. In the last 2-5 years he has gradually built up excess production, originally supplying what he describes as "some of the more aware local restaurants".
Barry is very pleased with the Willunga Farmers Market and will grow more crops specifically for the market. He says "I like the environment of the market. People are prepared to pay a fair price and I can make a reasonable return, and the customers value the produce. It is also a 'one stop drop' which relieves some pressure to quit produce."
He says he has an average of about thirty products for each market, including herbs, but small quantities of each.
In the future Barry will focus on 'a niche market within a niche market'. He is interested in heirloom vegetables and would like to grow varieties not offered by other growers. This will feed his hobby interest and provide a way to compete against larger and more mechanised growers. He already saves about 50% of his own seed and obtains the rest from specialist seed suppliers such as Phoenix and Eden Seeds.
Barry's organic certification extends to organic seed and seedlings and a small polyhouse will be erected soon. Barry says "it is all part of the diversity" and the heritage vegetables are a point of interest for the market customers.