Suzi: Thanks for letting us catch up with you at home. I’m so glad we did – this view is amazing.
David: Yes, even our architect commented on how lucky we were to have a nearly 360-degree view of the area, taking in Mount Buninyong and Mount Warrenheip and the undulating countryside.
S: Well, I’m very impressed with your garden. I never imagined it would be so massive.
D: Yes, it’s 80 acres all up on the Navigators site and over at Dunnstown, we have our sheds and more acres that are better for growing in the summer. That’s at our old place.
S: My fingers are hurting just thinking about the weeding and picking you guys must do.
D: We have three full-time pickers and two part-time, but my lovely wife Lisa is the queen of the weeding.
I think Lisa could be the queen of all I survey. As no man could possibly do all of this alone – planting seedlings, harvesting, farmers’ markets every weekend, three growing kids (Charlie, six, Gus, eight, and Amber, 10), three dogs and a kitty, and dinner on the table seven nights a week. I’m nominating Lisa as super mum of the century.
S: How long have you been at Navigators?
D: Four years and, before that, 15 in Dunnstown. We moved here from Somerville. My father and grandfather were both organic veg growers – it’s in the blood.
S: Demand-wise, how much has changed since your dad’s days?
D: The demand for produce hasn’t changed much, perhaps a bit bigger, but there are a lot more suppliers.
S: I would think the price would therefore be cheaper. Is there some sort of consumer watchdog?
D: No, not really. The growers sell to the wholesalers at a good price, but once the product hits the supermarkets and other upmarket suppliers, they can charge whatever they like.
S: Well, poo (organic fertiliser) to them. Everyone should be hitting the farmers’ markets anyway. Your stall is one of my favs. I’m seduced by the colors of your heirloom vegie varieties, the purple, yellow and orange carrots, the white and red swirly beetroot, and the turban pumpkins. Where do you buy your seeds?
D: We buy from The Diggers Club at St Erth and from a company in Melbourne called Fairbanks.
S: Is the soil here as good as Dunnstown?
D: Yes, I think it’s the best in the area and improving all the time. We crop rotate with green muir, a grass that is ploughed back into the soil. We feed the earth with organic fertilisers and blood and bone.
S: What is the process in which the land is certified as organic?
D: First you apply to the ACO (Australian Certified Organic). They come and test the soil and look for things like DDT. They also test the pH of the soil – it should be neutral 7. For us, it was not a long process. The soil here is very clean so we had one year’s grace, one year in conversion and, on the third year, our certification was complete.
S: Is there organic police who stalk your property (I’m imagining a little hobbit hiding in the parsnips)?
David: Yes, the ACO send out a team every year to audit and do soil samples.
S: How are chemicals removed from the soil?
D: A lot of chemicals in soil are chlorine-based. Ultraviolet light breaks them down, so by turning the soil over and exposing it to light, the chemicals will deteriorate over time. Some farmland can take 10 or more years to achieve certification.
S: I see you guys go to 17 regional farmers’ markets a month. What’s your favourite thing to bring home?
D: We love everything. At the end of the day, all the stallholders have a barter system and we swap things like jams, olives, olive oil, breads – it’s all great.
Check out Spring Creek Organics on Facebook and find out where you can get into some of David and Lisa’s amazing winter produce like parsnips, celeriac, swede, kale and the best broccoli by a country mile.