Matt and Liam Dennis are a father-son duo who run Nebo Park Farm in East Maitland. This highly productive 14-hectare market garden was previously a turf farm. It is now a family business that has spawned a second generation of farmers. At a time when Maitland’s rural land is being absorbed by the urban sprawl the importance of a family business like this cannot be overstated.
The farm produces a wide range of crops including pumpkins, potatoes, brassicas, corn, silver beet, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroot, capsicums, melons and beans. They run a Facebook page where you can keep up with their latest produce.
“We do everything we can to maintain a healthy relationship with the land through sustainable farming practises and we practise moon planting whenever we can.”
Austin and Laurel’s farming is defined by their commitment to producing heirloom varieties of fruit and vegetables. This is reected in Austin’s keen interest in unusual or rare food sources and means you may often see puzzling varieties of produce at Austin and Laurel’s stall. Having resurrected land from what was once a destitute ex-mining site, the sprawling acreage on the banks of the Hunter River now boasts a market garden, chickens, a small rainforest and an orchard with the most interesting fruit trees. Austin practises sustainable farming methods such as seasonal planting, crop rotation and manual harvesting.
“Why poison Mother Earth? Caring for the earth through your growing practises makes sense. Farming is my contribution to the world.”
In 2011 Liz Griffiths registered Within Radius. Her goal was to be part of a community where people continually strive to reduce our carbon footprint by sourcing food from within a small radius. The Earth Markets in Maitland are the perfect venue for this. Within Radius focuses on two main areas – herbs and turmeric. Liz sells fresh herbs at the markets as well as dried herbs (when they are in abundance). The turmeric is sold fresh during harvest (from July to early November) but is available all year round as a dried spice. Liz and her husband, John Clarke, dry and grind their own turmeric. They dry to Indian government standards to ensure a quality product.
To complement their range of herbs, Liz and John also grow and dry peppermint to produce a spectacular peppermint tea. Liz and John grow all their produce organically – although they point out that they are not certified organic growers.
Telarah Public School
The Telarah Public School food garden produces a range of herbs for the Earth Market including hard perennial herbs such as bay and thyme and soft, seasonal herbs like basil and chervil. The school is part of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program. Each fortnight 180 children take part in the program, looking after the garden, harvesting the produce and turning it into a fabulous array of yummy meals in their two-hour kitchen/garden class. The vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs are grown organically and all proceeds are invested back into the garden.
Wine Country Olives
Ian and Kaylene Anderson own an 800-tree olive grove at Mount View where they produce Wine Country Olives. Cultivated olive varieties include the popular Manzanillo (used for table olives and oil) and the University of California (used for martinis and tapenades).
Their table olives are sold plain or marinated. All their oils (extra-virgin unltered and infused) are processed within 24 hours of harvesting, and they source some of their products from fellow Hunter Olive Growers and Sellers (HOGS) cooperative.
“We’re really proud to be providing a quality product from small groves with minimal impact on the earth.”
Simon Brownbridge and Loo Boothroyd’s family owned and operated bakery is a part of their 48-hectare, biodynamic farm outside Dungog.
At Fosterton Farm Simon and Loo also run a small herd of beef cattle, keep bees, raise chickens, and grow fruit and vegetables for use in the bakery.
They source both biodynamic and organic grains which are freshly milled on the farm in an Austrian stone mill. The our is then used to create a range of high-end artisan pastries and sourdough breads.
“We care about producing quality food, caring for human health and sharing what we know with others.”
Four Acre Farm
Located in Dungog, Four Acre Farm is the love affair of Tom Christie and Dominique (Dom) Northam. While they produce seasonal vegetables, their signature crop is garlic, which is available in late October to early November. Tom was the inaugural winner of the Slow Food Hunter Valley Young Farmer’s Scholarship in 2016.
Complementing the produce are a range of flowers (including natives). With a background in floristry, Dom is growing and producing eye-catching posies. Dom’s flowers are a huge favourite at the Earth Markets.
Tom and Dom’s farming practices are informed by permaculture and organic growing principles which aim to improve the health of the soil.
“We worry about the impact of large-scale industrial agriculture so we try to live in tune with the land.”
Felicia’s Homegrown Veggies
Felicia Nguyen knows flavour and it is evident in both her produce and her cooking. Felicia grows mainly Asian-style vegetables and herbs but given that Felicia lives in what might be described as a multicultural home, Felicia also has to work with some Western-style produce. For this reason she also grows and sells some western-style vegetables and herbs.
Felicia runs a Facebook page where she shares recipes using her produce. She grows almost exclusively from seeds purchased online or from her own seed bank. Felicia grows organically, focusses on companion planting to help control pests, rotates crops and leaves the ground fallow for extended periods of recouperation.
“Gardening feeds not just body and mind but also the soul.”
Lisa and Peter Kalokerinos run Kapsali Farm where the mainstay is pasture-raised egg production. Life on the 110 acre farm in Lambs Valley isn’t just about egg production, it’s also about improving soils and using natural farming methods. Lisa and Peter are working towards regenerative farming practises and rely on experts to help them grow their knowledge.
“We want to leave the land better than what we found it.”
Len is an apiarist with decades of experience. Now living in East Maitland, Len still keeps bees – although on a smaller scale than in previous years.
Andrew McPherson from Think Green has been involved in the horticultural industry for over three decades. His main focus now is his seed raising for the Slow Food Maitland Earth Market and his home garden. Based in Paterson, Andrew is driven by a passion for growing things organically. Having been raised on a large block in Lorn with fertile soil under foot, Andrew’s parents fostered in him a love of gardening from a very early age.
“I love the process of watching things grow from seed to harvest and seeing the different stages of growth. I hope I inspire others to grow their own produce.”