Dry as a bone

Dry as a bone

The Bureau of Meteorology has just declared an El Nino on the Eastern seaboard of Australia this Spring  Read more on this….. Well it seems that this has already started with the added knock on of climate change. In Wherrol Flat the old timers are seeing definite changes that have increased in just the past few years – ie less rainfall, more fires.

To read more what causes El Nino see this information….

So our local growers in August 2018 have been showing us their crops and what the dry has done to them. Without water many are having to turn to town water. One grower tells us this means he will get a quarterly bill for $6,000 from using town water on his crops. Others lucky enough to be located on rivers are on restrictions for pumping water. Often barely enough to water their crops properly.

Cherry tomatoes Aug 2018


So we know the cherry tomato.









Pictures are more powerful than words so take a look at what the growers of our food are facing. These were taken in Horsley Park, Sydney.

Cherry tomatoes dried stands Aug 2018Cherry tomatoes dried Aug 2018Cherry tomato rows



Avocadoes from Comboyne

Avocadoes from Comboyne

Ron the grower talking with Anton

Ron the grower talking with Anton

Avocadoes like well drained soil and there is a higher altitude are north of Sydney, north of Taree known as Comboyne. The town is small and quaint and if you drive through a wonderful Cafe to have lunch.

Ron avocadoGrower Ron Lindsay is following a passion with growing his avocado trees whilst renovating a former cheese making warehouse into his home, cafe and maybe a home brew …… mmm have to say their guacomole was dynamite, extra garlic, would go great with a home brew beer…of things to come.

So we thought you  might like to see where your avocadoes are grown.

Where is Comboyne?

Where is Comboyne















Three photos showing country avocadoes are grown in and the trees.

Avocado trees Aug





Ron Avocado country ComboyneRon avocado tree

























Parramatta Grass & Parra Trouper

Parramatta Grass

Parramatta Grass & Parra Trouper

Parramatta Grass has hit our farm area near Wingham and it is growing everywhere so native grassses can’t grow. It also makes it difficult to lay beds down for permaculture.

Video explaining Nigroospoea oryzae Parra Trouper an organic week control.

The use of Parra Trouper is a natural way to create crown rot in the Parramatta Grass.

It’s important for us to use non-industrialised chemicals so the organic option, whilst takes longer, is more beneficial overall.

read more about the people who discovered the Parra Trouper. Jeremy Bradley and Cathy Egger, of Hastings, took research by David Officer of the NSW Department of Primary Industries and commercialised it ….

Country Valley Dairy in Picton needs your help

Country Valley Dairy in Picton needs your help

Country Valley in Picton is suffering through a bad drought. This dairy farm with its own dairy makes and distributes Country Valley milk, yoghurt and cream – and is the last remaining dairy farm in the Sydney basin.  The drought is forcing John to buy hay throughout winter, which will cost him $1350 per cow.  He needs help: sponsor a cow, and bring your family on a farm visit to Picton, just 2 hours south of Sydney. Read his story below and contact him via Facebook (@CountryValleyMilk) or phone 02 4677 2223 to make a donation, big or small…read on below photo.

Country Valley farmer needs your help

John Fairley is a 5th generation dairy farmer in Picton.  The farm was established nearly 150 years ago and is now one of the last remaining dairies in the Sydney basin.  “With the urban sprawl getting ever closer, the harder it becomes to keep places like Picton rural. However, farming is more than a job, it is a way of life and it effects the lives of more than just the families who farm. To us it is not just about dollars and cents but about our heritage and the way we want to see our valley stay as farm land”, says John.

After deregulation of the milk industry in 2000, farmers like John were paid 26c per litre by the milk processors.  Which much of NSW in drought, John decided to become ‘Master of his own Fate’: he built his own dairy and started selling milk and yoghurt under the Country Valley brand into the Sydney and Canberra markets. It didn’t take long before he started buying milk from nearby farmers, paying them 20% more than what they got from the processors.

Country Valley went on to win prizes at the Royal Easter Show, and Pepe Saya uses Country Valley cream and milk to make his premium cultured butter.

For a few years, Harvest Hub sold Country Valley products.  Our members loved the creamy taste of the fresh milk and the thick yoghurt (without gum) – until the NSW Food Authority tightened the compliance requirements for storing and transporting dairy products which made it prohibitively expensive for small distributors like us.

However, times are lean on the farm right now.  Picton, and the wider Wollondilly shire, are in drought. Says John: “The time has come to swallow my pride and ask for help. The realisation that we will be fully feeding cows, all winter, has arrived. Even if it rains next week and we get crops in, it will get cold and we will still have no feed. My 83-yr. old Dad said he has never seen it worse than this.

“One of our options we put on the table to get through the drought was to shut the dairy down. I just can’t do it.

“We have developed the herd over time, milking daughter after daughter. We all grew up helping our Dad’s and Grandfathers on weekends and school holidays. The dairy is a part of who we are. ‘It takes a tribe to raise a child’ resonates with me.

“I want my grandkids to help my son and maybe my daughter in the future.

“I am asking our supporters of Country Valley to adopt a cow or a calf, to help my family get through to Spring. Any amount, with enough people, will help. You will receive a photo of your cow which you can name if you like. Then we are offering a visit to the farm on a roster basis over time. You can introduce yourself, to the cow that is, and me as well of course. You can milk a cow which might not necessarily be yours, depending on the timing. We finish the day by helping to feed the calves and choose a sample bag to take home.

“I have estimated that it will cost $1350 per cow to feed her until the end of September. And I have 130 cows to feed! This is by no means a minimum amount for adoption. I’m just trying to let you know the scale of my problem.

“Anyone kind enough to help out please email me at johnfairley@countryvalley.com.au with your details and we can register you in the Cow Diary. Or call 02 4677 2223 and ask for Sally or Tom in business hours. Any help will be greatly appreciated”.

Hidden Valley Pasture Raised

Hidden Valley Pasture Raised

At Hidden Valley Free Range we operate a number of farming systems to help improve our soils for the benefit and future of our children. The integrated systems are called Holistic Management. As part of our farming system we utilise pastured free range chickens to add fertiliser to our soil and provide us with delicious pastured free range eggs.

2 of our ladies in their laying boxes

2 of our ladies in their laying boxes


To ensure our eggs are the freshest and healthiest possible we house our chickens in caravans. These vans have been modified to incorporate mesh floors with perches and laying boxes. Our caravans are kept in an area surrounded by electric fence netting to keep away any unwanted visitors.



Whilst in the paddocks the caravans are moved every couple of days to ensure the chickens have fresh green grass to pick and to allow an even spread of manure. We have a maximum stocking rate of 500 chickens per hectare (10000 square metres). This allows our chickens to live a happy carefree life with minimal stress.

Laying Boxes

                               Laying Boxes


To make sure our eggs are collected and provided to you in the shortest time frame possible our young family is involved in the entire process from providing food and water through to collecting, processing and packing our pastured free range eggs.




One of our laying boxes after our chickens have visited. Eggs in their most natural state. The bed of rice hulls allows our hens to scratch and maintain their natural habits and instincts.

At Hidden Valley Free Range we want you to enjoy the healthiest, most nutritious eggs available. This is why we make available our delicious pastured free range eggs to you, our valued and cherished customers.

Next generation of farmers

                                                   Next generation of farmers

Insect Hotel

Insect Hotel

These fabulous photos show first Sonya’s garden and the Insect Hotel. What a joy to share a morning looking at these wonderful creations. Great to get updates Sonya on your garden stories.

Sonya the garden Wahroonga

Hubster, Sonya, in Wahroonga has a passion for all things green and growing. She has a magnificent food garden, fully fenced that stops even the most wonderful of Brush Turkey high jumpers, and was totally energized to try out the Insect hotel we spoke about some time back. Used by farmers keeping bugs as part of their ecosystem whilst giving them a place to eat and sleep – hence the Insect Hotel. Permaculture works when we work with the environment.

Insect Hotel by Sonya Wahroonga

We tend to manicure our gardens to the point of no return for some insects that we need to encourage to pollinate, act as controllers of other insects we don’t want like aphids. There is a balance in the Web of Life. By providing a home we keep the ones we want – ladybirds and they love the aphids, Lacewings will eat aphids and mites, bees will also find a home.


Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes

They take care and patience to grow. With changing climate Heat, Rains, Winds makes it a challenge. At one point the heat went to 51C in the growing pods – how can anything survive this? The flowers die and they are needed to grow the tomatoes. Too hot even for the bees to pollinate.

So if there are no tomato flowers and the tomatoes won’t get pollinated which in turn means that the fruits won’t form. The tomato flowers encourage the bee to land on the flower and vibrate its wings thereby shaking the pollen from the anthers onto it’s legs.

So the tomatoes this week from Nymboida above Coffs Harbour are a bit of a miracle. They have had a stop start journey in growing. Thanks to the persistance of our farmers we have in our kitchen delicious, juicy cherry tomatoes.

Here is their story:

Cherry tomatoes Nymboida

Choi Sum Damaged

Choi Sum Damaged

Choi Sum damaged Simon and Gary Chong in Leppington

The storms let rip on Friday.

On Friday morning, we saw Simon and Gary Chong in Leppington to check out the Choi Sum that we wanted to have in this week’s Value box. It all looked great, until ‘that storm’ came through late on Friday. Within 15 minutes, the storm had flattened a large part of the crops.

The extent of the damage became clear when the brothers trawled through the paddocks: most of the Choi Sum was shredded and smashed by rain and hail – along with parsley, Chinese broccoli and coriander.


They rang around other growers to try and source Choi Cum – but there wasn’t much around.

Good news

However, some baby buk choi had survived – and the rest they managed to get from neighbouring farms.

So this week’s Chinese vegetable, Choi Sum, will be replaced by baby buk choi instead.

The damaged greens will be ploughed into the ground, and they expect to have choi sum ready for picking around mid-March.

Please do share this story as we’d like everyone to know the challenges in farming and just how lucky we are to have farmers like this who battle on regardless.