Mt Tamborine Organic Garden is a certified-organic market garden, specialising in growing gorgeous leafy greens. Agronomist and grower Adam Willson and his partner, Mayjune, have a real passion for soil — they feed the earth with quality composts and minerals, which not only means their hand-picked vegies are truly sweet and delicious, but that they are jam-packed with an essential balance of vitamins and amino acids. They’re great for your gut! Adam and Mayjune are closing their farm in 2018 as Adam is applying to study a Masters of Agroecology in Lyon, France. They plan to return to the Scenic Rim to teach practical agroecology to younger students. (www.mttamborineorganicgarden.com.au)
ADAM & MAYJUNE WILLSON
Tell us a little about what you do here?
ADAM: We’re very passionate about the organic industry. Clean food, I think, is where the future is. If we are going to make the changes that need to be made in the world, it has to start with small farming. We have to have farming systems that enhance the ecology of the region. So, what we are doing here is looking at how you can develop a financially equitable farming system that encompasses all of the ecological values that are important, but also pays for the bills at the end of the day. And that is our challenge.
Why is it challenging?
ADAM: In Australia, we are following the bad examples that are going on overseas. We are destroying our ecology at an unprecedented rate and the biodiversity decline is huge. If we are going to protect our water sources, our soil and ultimately our human health, we have to start by showing a better example. The end result of this whole market garden is all about getting into education. We’re keen about getting the next generation engaged in agriculture.
Did you know that seventy per cent of the fresh water that is consumed in the world is consumed by agriculture? This is why it is so critical that we have a complete change in the way we manage that water, and the way we manage soil and the environment. It has to be highly biodiverse because it is an ecology, and we’re protecting that ecology for multiple generations.
Why did you choose Tamborine Mountain?
MAYJUNE: It has good soil and water, and clean air. It is good for growing vegies and good for my health.
ADAM: I have a vision that this plateau will be organic — to have the whole plateau clean and driving a different economy. This is our big picture: to build this into a community where people can work on a beautiful organic farm and be taken care of. You learn and you grow. Then, other people and other communities can say, ‘Look. We can do this too.’
Tell us what you grow.
MAYJUNE: Leafy greens. I went through a whole year of juicing in Brisbane when the doctor first told me I had cancer. We used to go to the organic market to buy the greens, but the juice tasted terrible. So, we decided Adam would grow some greens for me. He’d grow vegetables and salad greens — all the vegies I could juice.
ADAM: We were spending $1200 a month on vegetables.
MAYJUNE: And that is where we started. That is why we chose kale, salad and chard. I did take supplements, but I refused chemo and radiation. I wanted to do it naturally. If you do chemo, you can’t reverse it. But if you do naturally and it doesn’t work, you can still choose chemo.
ADAM: It is an auto-immune disease, and so the logic is: why hit it with a nuclear bomb when you can rebuild your auto-immune system? And the critical part of it is, if you don’t grow the vegetables correctly, they won’t have the minerals.
MAYJUNE: Also, I discovered that juicing Adam’s greens tastes super sweet!
ADAM: You don’t want to spit it out. Nitrate makes plants bitter. If there is a trace element deficiency, the nitrate won’t be converted to protein in the plant. You have all of these amino acids that are building blocks for protein, and if they are out of alignment — there is too much of one and too little of the other — you get all sorts of health implications. It happens in crops as well. As soon as you have an imbalance of something, you get more disease or more insects. We had a big problem with aphids here after Cyclone Debbie. Four hundred millilitres in twenty-four hours — it is enough to make anybody a little bit peeved. So, we’ve put compost and trace elements back into the soil, and now it is starting to come back into alignment. It just takes time.
So, you grow leafy greens?
ADAM: And we grow cabbages and cauliflower. We have about forty different crops. We do lovely Romanesque zucchinis. The origin of most of my seeds is from Italy and South-East Asia. I am after purity of seed type, because then the genetics can stay pure.
Is it difficult to get your hands on that kind of seed?
ADAM: You have to find other fussy people like us. You have to hunt them out.
Is organic farming more difficult than growing conventionally?
MAYJUNE: Organic farming is actually really difficult, but we stick to it because I find it is important for health, and for the Earth’s health, as well. It is the best way to get the carbon back to the soil — organic farming.
ADAM: You sequester the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and it goes straight back into the soil. The only way you can do that is to build up the humus in the soil. It is a no-brainer.
So, you are both keen on educating people about growing and eating organically?
ADAM: I think there are a lot of young people, now, who’ve been switched on. If you want to have optimum health and optimum thinking and perform in a highly stressful society at a peak level, you have to take care of your body. I didn’t ever have that when I was a kid because, when I was a kid, all of our food was reasonable. I wouldn’t say it was perfect, but it was reasonable. In the ’70s and ’80s, the farmers moved away from manures, but now organic farmers are going back to composts and getting those manures into the cycle again. So, there’s just one simple historical note, and I only know that because I’ve been an agronomist for twenty years.
Where do you sell your produce?
ADAM: At the moment, here on the mountain, we open our farm gates on Saturday afternoons, and we have a stall at the Northey Street Organic Market on Sundays.
Who is your market?
ADAM: Everything is hand-harvested and you can see where our price point is — above supermarkets but below boutique organic places. We’re trying to sit somewhere in the middle. But, look, if someone makes a commitment to their food and decides not to buy processed food but to buy pure food, they can fit it into their budget. How many times do you go to the supermarket and there’s a $200 trolley in front of you, and it is full of sugar and salt? It is a big subject, and, of course, the more you consume quality food the more it helps to re-inoculate your stomach with good microbiology.
Where do you see your farm in the future?
ADAM: As our farm evolves, we want to mimic the Asian and the European models, where you come to buy a little bit of food, many days of the week, rather than going to the market once a week, filling up your trolley and twenty per cent of it rots. We can’t do that until we have a farm shop that’s open every day, and then we can pick a smaller amount. That lovely thing when you go to Piazza in Italy, where the little old lady is selling you lots of stuff that she dug out of the garden — that is the proper model for staying healthy, and for engaging with the community. Eat fresh.