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Fig Tree Farm: innovation, expansion and salad mix

Helena Game

It’s been a year since we first introduced you to Fig Tree Farm, the property in Wee Jasper bringing their heirloom vegetables to Canberra.

Founded by sixth-generation farmers Rich and Liz Carey, Fig Tree Farm is back for another season of delivering sustainably farmed produce to Canberra through Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA), a unique delivery service which sees members ‘buying into’ a share of the crop before it’s even been planted.

After memberships to the CSA are sold out, Rich then takes the collective purchase of the crop and distributes it between seeds, farming equipment and infrastructure. As the literal fruits of his labour grow, each week a harvest box of surprise produce is created for every single Fig Tree Farm member, which they then pick up from either a Northside or Southside location.

This relationship is ideal for both the farmer as the buyer, as Rich and his crops have financial certainty and clients can skip their weekend vegetable run.

Rich and Liz

Rich and Liz

While last year’s Fig Tree Farm memberships sold out well before deadline, Rich says that 2017 is going to be an even bigger year where members should expect not only innovation in farming practices but also in their delivery boxes.

Leafy greens, salad ingredients and a bounty of tomatoes are on the horizon for Fig Tree Farm members with Rich even travelling overseas earlier this year in order to hone his skills.

“I connected with a guy called Curtis Stone – a Canadian urban farmer – on a trip to New Zealand, [and] I got a whole heap of new ideas there,” explains Rich

. “Salad mix is a big one and we’re also going in for a variety of other salad vegetables, so radishes, turnips, and carrots.”

Fig Tree Farm in Wee Jasper

Fig Tree Farm in Wee Jasper

Rich says that 2017 will also see the implementation of a new aquaculture system – aquaponics.

“Aquaponics is running a system where you grow fish and plants together,” Rich explains. “The water is cycled through, you feed the fish, the fish digest the food, create waste which gets flushed through the system, the plants take that waste out as food, which in turn cleans the water, which is returned to the fish to use again.”

Fig Tree Farm in Wee Jasper_MartinOllman_1

“This will increase our yield and because it’s in the greenhouse it’ll start production early while the frost is still happening,” he says.

The amount of land to be used for growing will also be increased, as well as other options explored for expansion.

“We’re increasing the land area we’re growing on this time around, so we’re basically getting half the space we were using again, and that will be our pumpkin patch.”

Fig Tree Farm in Wee Jasper_MartinOllman_6

“I’ve also got some land out [at Wee Jasper] that’s, unfortunately, unusable for regular cropping, so we’re going to plant some perennial herbs in there like bay trees, curry leaves and rosemary.”

“We’ll also streamline the types of tomatoes we’ve got. Cherry tomatoes were really popular with our customers, so I think we’ll branch out into a couple of varieties of those, but for the big tomatoes, we’ll bring back to three or four varieties and focus on those,” he explains.

Another happy consequence of business has been the camaraderie between Fig Tree Farm, and other farms in the region.

Fig Tree Farm_1

“The small farms surrounding the ACT that bring food in, we’re all sort of banding together a little bit,” explains Rich. “Burrabee Farm, Banjo’s Paddock, Brightside Produce, they’re all really nice people and we’ve been catching up and sharing stories.”

Rich has even connected with local distillery Underground Spirits who are using Fig Tree Farm basil to make a brand new gin.

“It’s really good, one of the things I love about farming is the fact that I can stand in the paddock and not have anyone in sight…but at the same time it can get a bit lonely if the dog is the thing you see more than your wife,” jokes Rich.

Fig Tree Farm in Wee Jasper_MartinOllman_3

“It’s good to be able to catch up with other people who are going through the same climactic conditions and relying on the weather as much as you are.”

If you’re interested in being part of the Fig Tree Farm community for 2017, they’re offering an early bird special ending on 30 April, and customers can buy into the harvest until 30 June, through their website.

the essentials  

What: Fig Tree Farm’s Community-Supported Agriculture
Where: Vegetables grown in Wee Jasper
When: The early bird special ends on 30 April, and you can buy into the harvest until June.
You can find more information here: www.figtreefarmweejasper.com.au

Fig Tree Farm in Wee Jasper_MartinOllman_5

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Helena Game

Helena is a wannabe journalist studying Communications and Journalism at the University of Canberra. Canberra born and bred, she is hopelessly in love with writing, stories and travel. She recently wrote her way around Japan for a creative writing study tour, and spent another two weeks in the Middle East on a journalism exchange, both of which have left her with a proper case of the post-travel blues. While she plots her next adventure, Helena is hoping to gain as much industry experience as humanly possible, and somehow finish her degree at the same time. More about the Author