Our organic farm
The Freshline Organics 40 acre farm is situated near Serpentine, about 80km south-east of the West Australian capital city of Perth.
Our farm features a landscape of rolling hills with layers of untouched bushland, a spring-fed dam and about five acres of vegetables.
In the 1980s the property was a commercial stone fruit orchard. Upon purchasing it in 1992, we began the organic cultivation of vegetables and fruit and have been certified with Australian Certified Organic since 1993 (certification number 6048A).
In our early years we were on a steep learning curve as the decision to turn to organic farming for a living was first and foremost a lifestyle choice. We had no background or experience in farming whatsoever, be it organic or otherwise.
At that time we knew very little about organic fruit and vegetable farming in Western Australia.
Thanks to a frugal lifestyle, perseverance, advice and support from more knowledgeable players in the organic industry, we learned and survived.
From the beginning we have grown a wide variety of vegetables and have acquired expertise in growing leaf vegetables such as lettuce, silverbeet and spinach throughout the year.
Leaf vegetables are considered difficult to grow organically. As a consequence, most retail outlets experience supply problems.
While we find it very satisfying to grow a big variety of produce, there is a significant drawback: cultivating (lots of) small crops precludes us from using machines for planting and harvesting.
Therefore everything is very labour-intensive. For example, carrots, potatoes and onions can only be produced at a reasonable price if harvested by machines, as is the norm in conventional farming.
To justify the purchase of such a machine, one needs to harvest successive crops covering at least one acre each.
Even with the use of machines, labour remains the single most expensive factor of organic farming. Keeping crops weed-free requires many hours of hoeing and, in some cases, hand weeding.
Conventional growers, by contrast, have the entire arsenal of chemicals at their disposal to suppress weeds.
There has been many a time we have hoed a crop two or three times to lose it all to diseases, bugs or even geese and kangaroos.
The labour factor is one reason organically grown produce is more expensive than conventionally grown produce.
Another reason is that organic produce takes longer to grow. In conventional farming, synthetic fertilizers make the plant absorb a maximum amount of water in minimum time, often resulting in large but tasteless fruit.
In organic farming, by contrast, the plant has more time to absorb vital minerals and trace elements which make the fruit (or vegetable) more flavoursome and prolongs its shelf life.
Since we started our home delivery service we have redoubled our efforts to grow a wide variety of fruit and vegetables.
This way we ensure that customers at our online grocery store have a broad choice of produce all year round. Many other organic retailers face seasonal supply problems.