We can grow a wide range of produce here in the sweet spot on the edge of the tropical and sub-tropical growing zones. Farmers and business owners in the Greater Whitsunday Region are taking advantage of this opportunity by sourcing seasonal produce to cater for a niche and local market. 24 growers took a bus tour to the farm of Goanna Brewery, a stellar example of a business in our region utilising their own farm produce, as well as other local produce, to create a unique product of locally sourced and seasonal cider.
A compost tea brewing demonstration prompted an enthusiastic response from attendees who were eager to trial this simple and effective method of increasing microbial activity in their soils. The post event survey revealed 83% of attendees said they would adopt new practices learnt on the day to their own property. This reinforces the benefit of attending the practical workshops held by Reef Catchments.
An innovative, pesticide-free, insect control device, the Vortex Control System, demonstrated ways to target non-beneficial insects with physical methods while the system is in the transition phase from conventional to biological and beyond if necessary.
Chief Bottle Washer (co-owner) at Goanna Brewery, Linda Palmer said, “Our seasonal, local produce ciders were born of our passion for food and a rural way of life. We integrated the fresh produce available on our farm, and within the community to create ciders that outsell our beers. It also makes sense to take the waste product back to the farm for composting and animal feed. It’s important to concentrate on what you do best and keep it simple. Don’t be scared to share your passion for things, it’s infectious.”
The Palmer’s farm and Goanna Brewery is a showcase operation embracing closed loop farming, and reusable bottles, as well as composting the hops from the brewery to fertilise their farm crops, which they use in their seasonal ciders. They also support other local farmers by sourcing seasonal produce that may not have had the shelf life to sell to the everyday shopper.
Reef Catchments Project Officer, Sophie Glasser said, “the tour inspired everyone to think outside of the box when it comes to both their business ventures as well as farming practices. The Palmer’s are a wonderful example of a successful business that has identified a niche market opportunity that fully integrates a brewery business with a farming operation.”
“The cider tasting was an enjoyable end to the day where participants could relax and discuss their own product innovation ideas with the group.”
Our understanding of soil health in the region is growing through the demonstration of local businesses and farmers who are using sustainable or holistic farming practices to create both environmental and economic benefits. Local businesses, like the Palmers’, have found a way to market local and seasonal produce in a different way, keeping resources local and strengthening our regional economy. These field days also showcase that we’re able to grow profitable produce while reducing reliance on synthetic fertilisers and fewer pesticides.