Just yesterday we packed up from a two day Wwoofing stint at Purple Pear Organics, a small farm just outside of Maitland, NSW, run on permaculture and biodynamic principles. Owners Kate & Mark, who I had the good fortune of meeting at my teacher training course at PRI, have been in business in since 2006, though they were on the land long before that.
“We really want to be a model for others,” says Kate, “as an example of what they can do with their own land.” Though the farm is situated on 14 acres, the market garden, which supplies 20-25 families with weekly boxes of veggies, herbs, fruits and soon, nuts through a CSA, only sits on approximately 1/2 an acre. It is no ordinary 1/2 acre, however.
There are many notable elements in this clever market garden that inspire awe and admiration, and I apparently, am not the only admirer. While I was wwoofing at Purple Pear, one of their CSA customers stopped by with a small entourage of friends to show off the garden to. They left quite impressed.
First, the entire garden is laid out in a mandala, inspired by Linda Woodrow’s book, “The Permaculture Home Garden.” It is quite a singular experience to walk through a garden entirely comprised of circles, so customary are angled beds and rows of plantings. And according to Mark & Kate, neither efficiency nor productivity are compromised with the use of the circles, but rather facilitated by the comprehensive, systems-thinking design.
Immediately noticed in the landscape are move-able chook domes throughout the garden, precisely the size of the circular garden beds: an integral part of this whole garden design. “We couldn’t do this kind of intensive growing on this scale without them,” says Kate. The chooks dig, aerate, eat grubs and weeds, and fertilize the beds while simultaneously providing a daily ration of (delicious) eggs. In addition, each Manadala area features a natural water habitat to attract ecosystem services from garden predators such as frogs and lizards, and along with companion planting and continuously building healthy soil with manure and compost, the need for additional pest control is dramatically reduced.
Another unique element in this market garden is the use of guinea pigs as grass cutters, in small tractors that are moved between rows planted with garlic (in the one area planted in rows adjacent to the mandala garden). These extremely cute farm animals are moved along the row a couple times each day, and don’t have the digging tendencies of rabbits and chickens (and their blades don’t get rusty and never need sharpening).
These are just a few of the special things you would see at Purple Pear Organics were you to visit, and hopefully you’d get to sample Kate’s delicious homemade yogurt and Mark’s beautiful cheese. And Purple Pear lettuce is truly the best you’ve ever tasted. Currently the Purple Pear CSA has a waiting list, however they offer permaculture courses for those interested in growing their own.