John Bullock has always been a home gardener, but his recent application for NASAA certification represents a significant change in both scale of production and commercial intent. He recently spoke to Tim Marshall about biodynamic-organic growing methods and about his reasons for becoming a certified garlic producer.
When I asked John Bullock why he chose garlic, he was forthright with an answer.
"I am trained as a chef, so I'm interested in food. I'm also interested in people, and bringing them close to the food, involving them in it. I'm interested in local employment too, especially in regional areas like the Adelaide Hills. I don't think we ought to all truck off to a crowded city to work."
"I want to find ways to grow garlic with as little weeding as possible too."
"I am looking for a very sustainable system, with a social component to it. I would like to employ young people who find it hard to get work, and perhaps less able bodied people too."
John lives and grows his garlic on a community title property at Flaxley, in the Mount Lofty Ranges. During my visit, he reflected on some of his time spent in kitchens. "Peeling garlic is traumatic if it is small. Consumers lose patience, chefs 'lose-it' completely, and first timers give up. I have been working with garlic since training with a French chef, in 1978. Sixteen years later while working at a fine wood oven restaurant in Willunga, I chanced upon the best looking garlic I'd ever seen.
"This variety amazed me by its size and flavour and I was compelled to grow it. I have since discovered that it stores well too, with some cloves in good condition 11 months after harvest. My personal challenge is to grow and market the best certified organic garlic in Australia".
"We are very lucky to be farming land that has been managed without chemicals for over 12 years. Our peaceful 30 hectares are near the top of the catchment providing excellent dam water to irrigate in spring and early summer. Where we are, high in the Adelaide Hills and on a no through road, air pollution is very low. We have one of the cleanest growing environments possible and I'll market the product with this information because its important that consumers know all the details when they pay premium prices for first grade organic produce."
"Growing garlic has been inspired by the need to generate income from our farm, plus a desire to work from home. I am pleased to be growing garlic because it is so beneficial as a culinary herb, an insecticide and importantly, as a preventative and curative medicine. Clean certified organic food, sustainable permanent agriculture, and a supportive community that cares for its environment and its young people are what motivates me to develop this business."
"After four years of carefully growing and regrowing my best seed, I am know at the point of production growth where I am ready to employ people to do sowing, weeding and processing work. Being part of local enterprise and employment will be interesting. As a secondary school teacher I know not all young people find school suitable to their needs. Students who leave school before year twelve, and those still at school are looking for casual employment. I trained in outdoor education at university and I am keen to work with young people who are struggling to find purpose and direction in their lives.
"Designing the weed-free growing system using composted green municipal waste is an exciting development for this year. The recycling of urban plant waste for the production of organic produce is a logical and sustainable cycle which I am eager to support."
"Green wastes are chipped and partly composted to reach temperatures high enough to kill weed seeds and pathogens. Products are available in Adelaide, that are certified by NASAA as an organic farming input.
"Great care must be taken with all inputs into an organic farm. When municipal green waste composts are stringently and routinely treated for biocides, certified growers can utilise the product, avoiding the need to purchase their own chipper or other less sustainable mulches such as pea straw."
"Value adding has been an opportunity for artistic license, with smaller bulbs being made into wreaths, braids and strings. I add chillies, bay leaves and garlic to make an attractive and useful kitchen hanging. These value-added forms of garlic have some potential as a regional food gift, something a visitor to the Adelaide Hills would purchase. I am interested in opening a farm to the public, showing the permaculture features, the success of our re-afforestation program, a look at our beautiful forest of wildflowers, and of course, to buy wholesale garlic. When I'm older I would like to operate my own wood-oven pizza cafe from the farm using our own produce. Garlic bread would be at the top of the menu of course."
"Next year I will double the planting, but I still try to do as much as possible by hand. This year I had a stinking rose party where my friends came, shared food and good times and we planted the main patch of garlic" (500 square metres).
"I like to say my garlic is grown by hand I call it Bullock Brand, strong organic garlic."