Johanna Bell, organic farmer, Allamburra Organics
It’s easy to get bogged down because you are stressed, worried, nervous or scared, but at the end of the day, you just have to keep going, do the best you can and have a big smile on your face ...
Let’s get one thing straight – organic produce isn’t a foodie fad, it’s the future. The past decade has seen organic farming practices and demand for organically produced goods skyrocket, indicating that it will soon be a norm across the country. The family behind Allamburra Organics on Tamborine Mountain saw this coming from a mile away, and committed to ensuring that their micro farm was capable of growing, selling and delivering organic produce to business across south east Queensland and it has paid dividends. Allamburra Organics is fully certified organic, and is renowned for cultivating a stellar range of eggs, avocados and dairy products. As part of the Scenic Rim community, Allamburra Organics will be getting in on the fun of Eat Local Week, hosting an Eggstravaganza of an open day on Saturday June 24 and again on Sunday July 2. We caught up with Johanna Bell of Allamburra Organics to talk about the benefits of organic farming and the greatest thing about the Scenic Rim.
To start, can you tell us what first ignited your passion for ethical and sustainable farming?
My dad! He grew up on a big farm in rural South Australia, so he’s a wealth of knowledge, skill and experience. I have fond memories growing up here on Tamborine Mountain and following Dad around the property talking about nature, animals and how things work. I have also studied undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Environmental Science and was particularly interested in how small scale, local farming was the most sustainable way to feed a community. Now, we are combining all of that knowledge on our small property and focusing on modern farming that incorporates environmental, social and economical factors.
Tell us a bit more about Allamburra Organics! What sorts of products originate from your farm?
Allamburra Organics is our family dream! It’s just less than 12 acres right on top of beautiful Tamborine Mountain and we have visions for this great diverse production system that blends in with the natural rainforest that we also have on the property. We’ve spent the last year and a half really focused on our egg production, but we are also continuing to cultivate our avocado orchards and experiment with different varieties of fruit trees (lychees, limes, jaboticaba, grapefruit, pear, orange, lemons, olives etc). Now that we are in the market, the next year and a half is going to include expanding our egg production, planting out a lychee orchard, growing sprouts and micro greens and setting up a vermiculture system that will incorporate a food waste collection program within the community.
What are the basic tenets of the philosophy behind Allamburra Organics?
Small scale, diverse farming that responds to the demands of the local community. Getting the most out of the land we have, whilst respecting, emphasising and protecting the natural vegetation and wildlife of our farm. We are dedicated to farming with a whole lot of respect and love for the environment and our animals.
As a certified-organic producer, what sort of work goes into ensuring your practices and products are organic and sustainable?
There is a lot of very intricate details that need to be managed to be certified organic, which is what I think makes certified organic farming so good! We have detailed land management, waste management, biodiversity management and water-management plans, and we are held accountable to these practices by our certifying body. It’s so much more than just making sure our animals are happy and healthy, it’s also about ensuring our natural environment (vegetation, wildlife, water) is also in great condition. Having happy, healthy animals and no chemicals, antibiotics or GMOs is what allows us to produce good food, but taking care of the environment is really what makes our way of farming sustainable.
What are the key benefits of the type of holistic and responsible farming that you undertake?
We are continually blown away with the feedback we get from our customers – some people are actually intolerant to other eggs and can only eat ours! The quality of our food is probably the best indication of the benefits of farming practices, but of course you can visibly see the effects in how life on our farm thrives. The other huge benefit is within the local community and economy. Local people buying local food creates this great positive feedback system within the community.
Tell us about the environment of Tamborine Mountain – what environmental conditions make your location great for farming?
Tamborine Mountain is awesome! It’s lush, fertile and has the purest underground water sources. Plus, it’s so close to Brisbane and the Gold Coast that it is the perfect place to grow good food and get it directly to the consumer.
Allumbarra Organics will be hosting an Eggstravaganza for Scenic Rim Eat Local Week – what will visitors to the farm be able to experience on the day?
We are really excited to be opening our gates to the public this Eat Local Week, because we want to deepen that connection that we are creating between our customers and our farm. We are a family farm and we consider our customers a part of the family! Of course there will be lots of chicken talk, but we also want to show the other aspects of our farm that make us certified organic – like how we are planting 1000 native trees around the property to promote biodiversity and protect precious riparian zones. It’s going to be a great afternoon full of information, chicken cuddles and delicious, local food tasting.
How have you seen the community’s response to organic food change over the past few years?
We’ve only been fully certified organic for just over a year now, but the reason why we got into this was because there was such a demand from consumers and yet, there were no certified organic egg farms between Lismore and the Sunshine Coast. Since then, we’ve seen demand continue to increase – both from consumer households and restaurants. People can quite easily notice a difference in the quality and many of our customers tell us that they can only eat our eggs – just because of how they taste, but also because their bodies react badly to other (non-certified organic) eggs. Increasingly, people want to be able to see how their food is being produced, which is why our social media posts are so important, and who the farmers are. All of our customers have become our friends! I think what people are now looking for in particular is that certification, because anything can say ‘organic’ on the label, but unless it is actually certified, those organic claims are not backed up with audits, standards and in-depth farm management plans.
What is one thing that you absolutely love about the Scenic Rim region as a whole?
The diversity! There are so many different producers in this region, everything from our chooks, to camels, carrots, finger limes, wineries, breweries, distilleries and cheese makers. We’re so close to the Gold Coast and Brisbane and have so much quality food to offer.
What are some words of wisdom that you choose to live by?
Just keep going and smile! And that applies to whatever it is I’m doing – triathlon, business and life in general. It’s easy to get bogged down because you are stressed, worried, nervous or scared, but at the end of the day, you just have to keep going, do the best you can and have a big smile on your face.
Head along to the Allamburra Organics Eggstravaganza on Saturday June 24 and Sunday July 2. Email [email protected] to book your spot!