Koscuiszko Road Farm Case Study : Farms With A Future

Case Study: Kosciuszko Rd, Berridale

Farm Overview
Jamie Atherton and Melinda Taylor run Koscuiszko Road Farm at Berridale. Whilst the property is 100 hectares viewed from the air, it extends to over 200 hectares once you take into account the undulations.  The majority of the property is bushland, with some cleared areas around the house and natural clearing throughout the bushland. The biodiversity of the property is amazing and much of it fragile, meaning careful planning of commercial enterprises is required.

Sitting on top of Varney’s Range the property undulated from between 1080 to 1200m above sea level with an average annual rainfall of approximately 500mm. The property has a diverse selection of plants, trees, fungi and mosses and many native wildflowers. It features a unique amalgamation of geology. Principally, it is made of basalt and quartz on a shale base, standing alone amongst the Great Dividing Range which is principally granite.

The farm is in its initial stages of development and the owners envisage initially planting out around 12 acres with lavender, Helichrysium and nut trees. The aspect of the proposed site is predominantly north-east facing on a sloping hill that is protected from the predominant South-Westerly cold winter winds.

Plans for the property include growing fruits, berries, vegetable and nuts. While more research and trials are to be done, the owners have an interest in the following plants in particular – oil producing shrubs, Hazelnut trees inoculated with truffles, pine nuts, maqui and goji berries, walnuts and vegetables suited to the cold temperate climate.

Background of the farm
The Snowy Mountains is often thought of as a harsh and unforgiving environment with temperatures regularly below zero degrees, but there are many types of food that can be grown successfully in these cooler climates. Having owned the property since 2013, Jamie and Melinda’s goal is to achieve self-sufficient production of high vitality produce in a climate that might be viewed as non-arable.

This property was used as a ‘bush block’ section of a larger run up until about 40 years ago, with sheep and cattle grazing intermittently. For the past 30 years it has been used as a recreational block and seasonal vacation home. The property is widely grazed by deer, kangaroos and wallabies.

Changes that have been made
Although the soil on the mountain is principally basalt and is presumably very high in mineral content, it is primarily dry with little water retention even though ‘soaks’ appear throughout the landscape. There were many bare patches of soil and the owners have been trying to improve the hummus and have been treating the soils biodynamically using Prep 500 for the past year to encourage biological activity. They have been composting waste products from the farm (chicken manure, straw, grass, vegetable/household scraps) to increase the organic matter in the soils and kept tillage to a minimum.

The main conduit to improving water retention is to use biodynamic preparation 500 to increase water retention of the soil. The owners have also received approval from the local council to drill a bore to source more water for the farm.

The owners currently have chickens on the farm to provide eggs for themselves, and have no plans to run larger livestock at this time.  The farm has been planted with a small amount of trees to see how they grow in the existing soil – lemon, peach, nectarine, pomegranate, fig, blueberries, raspberry, choke berry, goji berry etc. They have also been experimenting with growing edible mushrooms such as oysters and shitakes.

Plans for the Future
The owners plan to continue to treat the soils with biodynamic preparations. Soil testing is to be undertaken to determine the exact mineral content and then determine what needs to be done to improve the soil. They aim to continue to make and spread compost and experiment with biodynamic compost preparations.

Water is a high priority with the owners planning to install a bore to harvest water from the mountain. They have levelled a pad on the top of the mountain and will be purchasing a large water tank. This water will be used for irrigating the crops further down the mountain. They have consulted with local earthmoving companies on the creation of swales and terracing on the front facing hillside where the trees are to be planted. They wish to use the water we harvest carefully and ensure minimal runoff and maximum penetration. Create swales and terraces.

Biodynamic and holistic farming practices will be employed throughout. They would like to experiment with drought tolerant plants as well as increasing the aquatic diversity in the existing two dams.

Focus of the Ground Work Day

The ground work day at Koscuisko Road Farm will focus on:

•    Biodynamic practices for soil building and water retention in a cold and dry climate

•    Accessing water via springs and water retention methods of swales and ripping using a tractor

•    Planting out trees and shrubs into bushland pockets.

Book Here to attend the Ground Work Day on 4 May 2017

Acknowledgements: SCPA-South East Producers, LLS, Koscuiszko Road Farm