Trav and Robyn Muller’s farm is as pretty as a picture postcard, nestled in beautiful Fassifern Valley with views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Farming is in their blood. After a few years away, Robyn and Trav returned to the Scenic Rim, so their children, Riley and Ava, could enjoy a country childhood — riding their motorbikes through creeks and playing outdoors, in the safety of a friendly community. The Mullers grow kohlrabi, spring onions and lucerne, and, while it is hard work, they love the farming life.
TRAV & ROBYN MULLER
Tell us about the farm.
TRAV: It is only a small farm, I suppose. Three years ago, we were renting and living across the road, and the bloke that owned the farm came across and said to me, ‘Would you like to buy a little piece of land? I am selling it in two blocks.’ And I said, ‘I wouldn’t be interested in buying a little piece of land, but I’ll buy the two blocks.’ So, we started a little farming business.
You met each other growing up in the Scenic Rim?
ROBYN: Yes. My parents live down Lake Moogerah Road. They’re lucerne farmers. When I was in high school, we met at church. We were married and we moved to Dalby for seven years, and when we moved back, we rented across the road. We had our kids out at Dalby, and our families were here. We knew it wasn’t home — this was always home.
TRAV: After seven years, we came back and slotted right back in; we picked up where we left off. It was like we’d never left.
ROBYN: Our old friends, they’re all farming and our kids are growing up together. It is a beautiful thing.
TRAV: I was managing some properties out there. We decided we wanted to bring our kids up here, and having no irrigation water there used to kill me, because you’d plant crops and watch them die on dry land. This sort of farming suits me better because there’s water, and I grew up with this sort of farming.
ROBYN: It is in his blood. He’s a farmer through and through, and always wanted to own his own farm. That was the ultimate goal. We were lucky enough to rent that house and it just so happened that we were offered this farm. How perfect is that? It is the most beautiful spot in the valley, I think.
Why kohlrabi and spring onions?
TRAV: Kohlrabi is something totally different. Nobody grows it. It is not very well known. It is a versatile vegetable. You can put it in anything. It just needs to be out there and people need to use it, and it is not a bad tasting vegetable either.
ROBYN: We were originally growing spring onions and that was our thing — bunching. Then we decided we would do something else to add to it. You’d say the name ‘kohlrabi’ and people were like, ‘What?’ No-one knew what it was. It is a great vegetable. It is almost like a superfood, but it is still unknown. I think, in time, it will be the new superfood, like kale. It just has to get out there. Eaten raw, it has more vitamin C than oranges. It is great for many things, like metabolism, and has many health benefits.
TRAV: It is good for your heart and your brain.
ROBYN: I generally peel it and shred it into chow mein and stir fries, or roast it with olive oil and salt and pepper. But you can also just peel it and eat it. We eat it in the shed, just raw. It is like an apple, but it has that radish bite.
TRAV: Spring onions are the main part of our business.
ROBYN: They’re beautiful and they’re so versatile. They go in everything, from mashed spud to stir fries.
Do you rotate your crops?
TRAV: Mainly the spring onions because they’re more prone to disease, so we keep rotating the ground, which is no problem as we have plenty of ground to rotate through, at the moment. The reason kohlrabi is good is because brassica after onions is good to clean up the soil of disease. It works well.
How do you ensure your vegetables flourish?
TRAV: Soil health is very important. You need more goodies in the soil than baddies. That’s what it is all about. I think it has really changed in the past thirty years, I would say, as my generation comes through. Soil health is important, and really looking after the soil, rather than just taking and not putting back. With cover crops and compost and all sorts of things that have been tried, it is working. It is good stuff. We use compost and it works very well.
Where do you sell?
ROBYN: We sell through the Brisbane Central Markets. We focus mainly on quality, not quantity.
TRAV: That’s what we’d like to do: do a really good job and look at that premium market.
Do you grow anything else?
ROBYN: We grow lucerne as well — hay — all year round, particularly summer, and the spring onions and kohlrabi are our winter crops.
What does a typical day look like?
TRAV: On a usual day, you’d get up and check the irrigation — make sure everything has happened that is supposed to happen. Then, because morning is calm, you water your onions and kohlrabi while it is calmer, and plant — whatever you need to do for the morning. Then, in the afternoons, you are back in the shed, bunching and picking. Then in the late afternoon, when it is nearly dark, you go and set the irrigation back up and get it going for the night again. So, then you get up in the morning, go and check the irrigation … It is a little like groundhog day, sometimes. It is great.
Do you enjoy the lifestyle?
ROBYN: You couldn’t ask for anything better. But as much as everyone says, ‘Buy a farm and get a lifestyle,’ it is a lot of hard work. The kids know how hard you have to work and what you have to do to make your money. They are part of it. They get down there and help us pick.
TRAV: When I was a kid, we used to have to get up before school and change the irrigation and stuff like that. I said, ‘I am never going to be a farmer. Why the heck would I want to be a farmer?’ And as you get older, you just … you are what you are.
It’s long hours, particularly when you work the day and have hay at night, and then you have to work the next day. Sometimes it is hard, but it is very good.
Hay at night?
TRAV: You have to wait for the dew to make good quality hay, otherwise it ends up being stalky and not very good quality. So, you wait for the dew and bale at the optimum time, when you get the moisture, so the leaf doesn’t fall off and it makes a nice bale. You can’t have too much moisture, otherwise it will be too hot. It is a bit of an art. We would usually start baling at about ten-thirty or eleven o’clock, and finish a bit after midnight. Then, we are usually up, out there and going again by six-thirty. The lucerne is very good during summer. We picked lucerne because, if you get a hail storm, you clip it off, water it and away you go again. It is not a massive loss, unlike other vegetables that we’ve tried in summer. It is good for rotation.
ROBYN: Rotation and regular income.
TRAV: That’s what farming is about these days, I think — having constant income, and trying to minimise your exposure to the weather and things that are going to wipe you out.
ROBYN: A hail storm can wipe out your entire spring onion and kohlrabi crops.
TRAV: But you don’t get as many severe storms in winter as you do in summer. That’s why winter crops are good for us in this valley.
What do you love so much about the region?
TRAV: We have a great network of good farmers in this valley. If I have a problem, I’ll ring someone. I’ll ask them things and they’re willing to help and share. This little valley here, all of the farmers are very professional. The community is great.
ROBYN: They all do what they do very well.
TRAV: I think it is the best place on Earth to live, here in the Scenic Rim. It is a beautiful part of the world. We are blessed to be able to get up every morning and see what we see and do what we do.
ROBYN: It is like a picture. It changes every day. We love the early morning.
TRAV: Is there anything better to do than get up and grow food for people — to provide people with some good healthy food?