Every Sunday morning at the Tamborine Mountain Showground, local growers gather in The Green Shed to deliver their homegrown produce. The market is run by the Tamborine Mountain Local Producers Association, a not-for-profit group of mostly mountain-dwelling retirees with one thing in common — a passion for growing organic vegies. The market, open to the community from seven o’clock, sells freshly picked, seasonal, certified and non-certified organic fruit and vegetables, as well as honey, coffee, jams, preserves, chilled kefir, herbs and plants. Most produce is picked the day before, or in the early hours of the morning of the market — it couldn’t be fresher. A familiar face at the weekly markets and an avid organic grower is Di Brauer, the president of the Local Producers Association. Some years ago, after battling ill health, Di researched the connection between chemicals, arthritis and inflammation, and consequently stopped using chemical fertilisers. When she started using natural fertilisers, compost and mulch, she believes her health improved. (www.greenshed.com.au)
Tell us about The Green Shed. What do you do?
Dig in the dirt. Play in the dirt. The Green Shed is a little, not-for-profit organisation of local producers. People bring up produce they’ve grown — no sprays and chemical-free, and we have members that are certified organic, too. The producers bring up any excess produce they don’t use, and sell it to locals and visitors at The Green Shed. We provide the local community with lovely fresh produce. For me, it’s a hobby and it’s a love of growing fresh vegies. It’s our lifestyle. You know, you eat what you grow.
When do you pick and prepare vegies?
We start on Saturday, picking produce that will hold up to the next day — hardy things like potatoes, carrots and beetroot. Things like lettuce, we might leave until the late afternoon or the morning of the market. Some members pick at four o’clock in the morning in summer. If we run out of produce at the market — turmeric or ginger or whatever — we might run home, dig a bit up and bring it back to the shed.
How much of your produce supplies the shed?
Hard to say. Depends on the time of year. Everybody brings in a little bit, and it all adds up. Sometimes, if something is out of season up here — like, at the moment, capsicum or cucumbers or zucchinis — we may swap our produce with people, say, at the back of Cudgen, who can grow that produce. So we’ll take them rhubarb and bring back zucchini or tomatoes. We can never grow enough tomatoes.
What’s the most popular vegie?
In summer, it’d have to be lettuce. Lettuce is always popular. Kale’s a big one right through the year. Kale, spinach, chard, lettuce — the greens. They’re so lovely and fresh; you can’t get them any fresher. We’ve had people come up from the coast and buy greens because they say it lasts a week or two weeks, not like the greens they can buy elsewhere. Also popular are carrots and beetroot — fresh beetroot. You know what it is like to try to get fresh beetroot or golden beetroot? A good stayer, every week, is garlic — fresh Australian garlic. People are now realising the benefits and, not only the benefits, the taste.
Can you tell us a little about the other growers at The Green Shed?
There are not many of us that grow consistently. It is a hobby, so there’s no x amount of produce that they have to bring in every week. It isn’t regimented. They’re mostly retirees and it’s their lifestyle. They live that way. They eat beautiful fresh vegies and any excess they bring to The Shed. We have a few young people that are interested, which is great, but most of us are oldies.
We’ve always had a garden, wherever we’ve been — in our early years, even. I swapped to organic gardening when I came to the mountain. I’d contracted Ross River and it attacked the arthritis in my body. I had swelling and what not, and I’d been on anti-inflammatories for a while. I’d had enough. So, I started researching and I found out about the relationship between chemicals, arthritis and inflammation. I had never sprayed very much on my vegies, but I’d used chemical fertiliser. Once I learnt, it was simple: you’ve got to build up the ground, feed it with plenty of humus and whatever organic matter you can get your hands on. Build it up.
Do you rotate your crops?
Always. And I try to companion plant. But rotation is a big thing. Our little garden can look higgledy-piggledy, because one row can have ten vegetables in it for the simple reason — if you’ve grown a root crop, like a carrot, once you pull it out you need to plant an above-ground crop, like a lettuce.
How much growing space do you have?
I have about 500 square metres, I suppose, with the garlic patch there and the bit up the back.
How do you find the growing conditions on the mountain?
Wonderful. When we first came here, there was a patch down the bottom of the property where we put in some seeds, and then we went home to North Queensland for a visit. We were away a few weeks, fishing and what not. When we came back we had cabbages and everything was growing abundantly, and we were just amazed. We thought, how come everything just grows so well? The old pioneer guy, Mr Rosser, who used to own all the land through here, said that was just how it was. He said in prior years they would get a storm or rain every afternoon — about an inch — and they hardly ever had to irrigate. But the weather patterns aren’t so good now.
This rich, volcanic soil is wonderful. It lacks a few things — silicon and boron — so you have to watch those levels and add them to your soil, plus potash and things like that. We all have a soil test done every so often … regularly. We’ve compared our soil, from one end of the mountain right to the other end of the mountain, and it is all very similar. Somebody may have more organic matter, but basically it is the same.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about
The Green Shed?
Other than providing our local community with lovely fresh produce, because The Green Shed is a not-for-profit organisation, when we have excess funds that we don’t need to buy shelving or whatever, we donate back to the community. We’ve donated to Blue Care, to the primary school and high school. The firefighters and the rescue services are very important and rely on donations from the community. They support us, so we give back to them.