Our farm is located in Ohau, a few clicks south of Levin (NZ). Our current setup allows us to grow about 50kg of fresh mushrooms a week.
In addition to Mushroom growing, we manage our 3-hectare farm around permaculture principles. We do not see ourselves as landowners, but rather custodians or Kaitaiki of this Whenua. We work on the principle that if we care for this land, the land will provide for us. It is a mutual relationship.
Our vision is to build our lifestyle and business around sustainable and ethical practices.
Some of the things that guide our practice:
- Permaculture principles: in the care and use of the land, and in our business
- Learning: We love learning and practicing old-time Homesteading, things our great grandparents understood
- Reduction in our environmental and energy footprint
- Community: Development of community and nurturing relationships with like-minded people
We have not formally studied permaculture design, instead, we’re just thrown ourselves at it and are doing it. AKA getting things wrong and learning from it. Central to our practice are:
- Building ecological systems to manage pests rather than chemicals (for instance developing habitats for pest eating birds like Fan-Tail and Morepork) or regenerating our wetlands as a habitat for insect and birdlife using native plantings
- Finding usage for our waste (outputs) to become inputs into other systems (eg hot water compost)
- Using till-less agriculture for our gardens (e.g. Hugel beds/Hugelkultur )
- Free-ranging our animals (and benefiting in them regenerating soil)
- Laying out our property in Zones, with our zone 5 (wilderness) being the largest area of our property. We have a small but productive orchard of mixed trees, olive and nut groves.
We are learning and practicing many old-timer techniques. Things that were common knowledge in previous generations have become lost …but now being rediscovered and brought alive.
- Preserve foods by drying, fermenting, pickling, and pressure canning
- Built and store root crops and vegetables in a 20,000-litre root cellar, that’s buried in a south-facing bank
- We make our own wine from the orchard fruits, like quince, plum, pear, and apple.
- Grow and use medicinal plants and herbs
- Our next project is making biofuel (natural gas)
Our Farm – Environmental/Energy footprint
Wherever possible, we reduce the amount of waste we generate by how we reuse or dispose of it. In many respects, we see ourselves as guardians of our waste by taking responsibility for it. This starts with consumption, we are very careful in what we purchase as we will need to ethically dispose or process it. We’re not perfect, as we still generate about half a rubbish sack of garbage a month, with things we can’t recycle.
- All our organic waste (including the spent mushroom bags from our business) is composted. Further, we use the heat from the compost to heat our grow rooms.
- Our plastic we melt on-site and extrude these into bricks that we use for simple garden constructions. Like pavers or retaining wall bricks.
- Some organic waste we bio digest to capture the methane, and use as natural gas. This we use in the business or to melt recycled plastic.
- We generate solar energy. At this stage, it only contributes to 30% of our requirements but hope to attain 100% over the next 12 months.
- We have a septic processing-plant with a filtration field under our orchard.
- Manage our forest areas and continue plantings to remain carbon negative.
Community and Collective development
Jude and I are very motivated in developing community and learning how we can help each other in more meaningful way.
- Markets: Our commitment and support of local farmers’ markets. We hope that our small and unique contribution helps create a market atmosphere that resonates with people and that they leave the market excited and to see them as a superior alternative to a supermarket experience.
- Local producers: Reaching out to other local produce and people seeking an alternative lifestyle. Sharing knowledge and experiences, encouraging and supporting each other.
- Woof’er program. We take great delight in hosting woofers. We don’t see, or treat them as labour, but rather as an opportunity to share n experience and learn from each other. We teach them every aspect of our business, from the mushroom growing, through to successfully running a small business and a permaculture farm.
- Educational tours. We welcome people to our property to show them what we do and how we do it. This might be people arriving unannounced, through to organised bus tours (sam bus as we can only accommodate about 15 people at a time).
We also wish to acknowledge the O’sullivans, the previous owners/castodians of this land. They bough the property while in their mid 70’s and spent 15 years turning what was once pastural farm land (atop ancient sand dunes) into a lush utopian wilderness. We are honoured to carry their legacy forward.