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Natasha Faigan Testimonial

An article from Organic Pathways in New Zealand by Natasha and Matthew Faigan regarding the setting up of their organic holding and the advice I gave them.

Natasha and Matthew Faigan recently sold part of their sheep and cattle farm and bought 20 acres which they are now converting into an organic market garden. Fortunately, the land was virtually organic - but the paddocks full of pasture, twitch and weeds were another thing! "With limited resources until the sale of the rest of our property we weren't quite sure where to start . . . " writes Natasha.

Pasture, twitch and weeds

My husband Matthew and I recently sold part of our sheep and cattle farm at Diamond Harbour on Banks Peninsula. We bought a lovely 20 acre block 15 minutes down the road in Gebbies Valley, which we intend to turn into an organic market garden. We've been here three months now and what a learning curve it's been! Luckily, our property has been virtually organically farmed by the previous owners, so that's a good start. Matthew has been sheep and cattle farming all his working life, and I have a background in Company Management, marketing and sales. I have just finished Horticulture 105 at Lincoln University - if you live near this area I would really recommend this course for anyone with limited horticultural experience, who would like to work in this area. It gives a very good overview of horticulture in NZ, and gets down to the specifics of vegetable and fruit production systems.

The paddocks full of pasture, twitch and weeds are another thing! With limited resources until the sale of the rest of our property we weren't quite sure where to start. So we bought a tractor, heaved the plough out of the hill where it had been resting for many years, and found we had a set of discs lying around by our woolshed.

Matthew hopped on the tractor, ploughed up and then disced over that, and did this a few times a week. We have done 3 blocks so far and its worked okay. We have had a good kill of weeds because we got them at the start of the spring growth, and a few hot days killed of a lot of the roots.

Testing Soil Quality

We have planted about an acre in potatoes, and have a vege paddock with tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, onions, kale, zucchini, cucumber and pumpkins, all as a trial to see how the soil quality is.

We have put the tomatoes along two fences of post and wire that we put up. This has worked well, apart from the very strong winds we get battering the plants. They are fruiting well already but I am not happy with the growth, I think they need a bit more shelter. The rest of the veges are going well, I've incorporated plenty of compost into the soil and set up an irrigation system.

Propagating

I am also raising seedlings in an organic mix of compost, peat and sand. I use 40% compost and peat and 20% sand and find this works well. Until I get my tunnelhouses, our bedroom is the propagating room. The only losses I've had so far are from our two year old 'helping' with the plants! I lost the first batch of zucchini seedlings because he unplanted every single one after I planted out!

We planted the potatoes mid November. I wasn't happy with the tilth in the paddocks, we had a lot of clods and tree roots to compete with.

Doing Things Properly the First Time

I am a great believer in doing things properly the first time, so we got in a consultant to look at the place. Best money we've spent so far! We worked out a soil management and crop rotation plan, he was able to fine tune our ideas, and also clued us in to what type of machinery we will need. Weed control is a priority for organic farming so we are going to concentrate on weeding our paddocks and growing green manures to improve the soil. Once we are happy with the soil we will plant away!

BioGro

We are also looking at getting BioGro certification. We have established plantings of olives, fruit trees and nut trees which will be cropping soon, so we have a lot of reading to do!

Hope you had a great Christmas, you'll hear from me soon, hopefully with a few tonne of yummy potatoes growing madly!

Natasha Faigan, Park Hill Organics, (November 1999)

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Copyright 2008 Charles N. Merfield.