Tilligerry Organic Produce
Terry Barton and his wife Kerry have a small certified organic farm called Tilligerry Organic Produce, which is located on the Tilligerry Peninsula, Lemon Tree Passage.
Previously Terry worked at a nursery and, after spraying roses with chemical spray; found himself severely ill, almost requiring hospitalisation. Following this experience, Terry began growing organically for himself in 1998; he also joined the seed savers network. After finding that Greenpatch were short of broccoli seeds one year, Terry made one of his first sales – 1kg of seeds. The seed was sown, that has grown into a labour of love.
Tilligerry Farm covers an area of about 6 acres which is all fully certified with the Organic Growers Association (OGA). Terry estimates that all of their growing is done on approximately 1.5 acres of plots – the rest of the land being used for the house, chook and duck areas, buffer zones, horse paddocks and a newly planted orchard. Recently you may have enjoyed Terry and Kerry’s superb lettuces, cabbages or herbs such as coriander and rocket. On a recent visit I was able to get a hint of what was to come; garlic (beautiful looking Giant Russian), carrots, shallots, tomatoes, zucchini, parsley, basil, potatoes, capsicums, both jap and butternut pumpkins, beans, cucumbers, rhubarb (by far largest I’ve seen), rockmelons and watermelon.
Special mention should be made of the watermelons, which have something a bit secretive, mystical and very special about them. Terry has made me promise not to reveal his secret, but they will be beautiful, original champagne watermelons. Terry and Kerry are very passionate and extremely dedicated to what they are doing. It’s a two person operation and their day can start anywhere between 3:30 and 4:30 am and finish between 9:00 and 10:00 pm. If they’re earning $5 an hour, they’re happy. Terry estimates that they spend 30 – 40 hours a week weeding – a job that on a conventional farm would take a fraction of the time with a squirt of Round-Up. That’s what Terry says it’s all about – time. To farm organically is very time consuming; building life in the soil and maintaining the biodiversity all takes time.
Terry proudly shows me how sandy the soil was before they started farming there, and then what it is like now – dark, rich and full of life!
So why is organic food so expensive?
Terry believes that conventionally farmed food is too cheap; to farm conventionally means to cut costs wherever possible no matter what the consequences, in the long term. He doesn’t necessarily see this as the fault of the farmer – more a fault of the system they’re trying to survive within.
“After all,” he says, “the Minister for Primary Industries has been quoted as saying the only label that matters on food is the price.”
What does Terry see for the future of Organics? He is concerned about the industry not being able to maintain it’s principles as it grows, attracting the wrong sort of players that may not necessarily be faithful or committed to the original organic principles.