Our organic mushroom farm is located in Ohau, a few clicks south of Levin (NZ). Our current setup allows us to grow about 70kg of fresh mushrooms a week.
In addition to Mushrooms, we manage our 3-hectare farm using permaculture principles. We do not see ourselves as landowners, but rather custodians or Kaitiaki 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. Things that guide our practice:
Permaculture principles: in the care of our land, and in our business
Learning: We love learning and practising old-time Homesteading techniques, things our great grandparents understood
Sustainability: Reduce our environmental and energy footprint
Community: Development of community and nurturing relationships with like-minded people
1. Permaculture Principles
We have not formally studied permaculture design, instead, we just get in & do it! AKA getting things wrong and learning from it. We are not certified organic, but we use biological systems to manage pests and only organic materials.
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 their regenerating soil)
Designing the property based on permaculture Zones. Zone 5 (wilderness) is the largest area of our property. We also have a small but productive orchard of mixed trees, olive and nut groves.
We are learning and practising many old-time techniques. Homesteading, things that were common knowledge in previous generations have become lost …but are now becoming more relevant due to social, economic and ecological challenges.
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) for sterilization and melting plastic
Wherever possible, we reduce the amount of waste we generate. In many respects, we see ourselves as guardians of our waste so we take responsibility for it. This starts with consumption. We're cautious in what we purchase because we will need to dispose of or process it ethically. We’re not perfect, 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 the business) is composted. Further, we use the heat from the compost to heat our grow rooms.
Our plastic we melt on-site and extrude 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.
4. 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 fellow local producers and others seeking a sustainable lifestyle. Sharing knowledge and experiences, encouraging and supporting each other.
WWOOF'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 experiences and learn from each other. We teach them every aspect of our business, from mushroom growing, 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. Please contact us for more info. A tour is about 60 minutes with a maximum tour size is about 30 people.
We also wish to acknowledge Bernadette and Paul O'Sullivan, the previous owners/custodians of this land.
They had purchased the property when in their mid 70’s and spent 15 years turning what was once pastoral farmland (atop ancient sand dunes) into a lush utopian wilderness. We are honoured to carry their legacy forward.