Across three years farmer Arran Heideman and the volunteers at Millen Farm have been toiling in the community field. They have endured frost, heatwave and flood. But they have also experienced strong community support.
The organic farm now provides a wide range of crops which can be bought by locals and visitors every Wednesday on Market Day from 2-5pm. We chatted with Arran about his life as a full-time farmer.
Q. What’s in the garden at the moment?
A. Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, silverbeet, fennel, coriander, Asian greens, lettuce, beetroot, garlic, radish and more. It’s a mixed crop market garden to supply the community a vast range of crops straight from the farm.
Q. What grows well here?
A. Last year, we started to grow fennel and it looked terrible. This year, we’re growing fennel and it’s the best-looking fennel I’ve seen. It will vary each year, depending on the climate. Things perform differently so staying flexible is key to planting out the market garden.
Q. Most exciting moment in the garden?
A. Having Costa Georgiadis (from Gardening Australia) come back for the second time. That was awesome. When he first came, we’d only just started the farm. I found it a little bit embarrassing, but to see his face when he walked out, second time around, he was stoked.
Q. What was the toughest moment?
A. When all the volunteers had moved away and we were on the verge of collapse. The board president was saying, “what do you want to do?” and I said, “give me six more months”. We turned it around, the community backed us. It took that major down, to turn everything around. That’s what’s made us super resilient.
Q. Why is this project so important?
A. When you take a look at the bigger picture, in terms of food systems, we’re heavily reliant on chemical systems and have a heavy reliance on big agriculture. We’re now seeing a movement towards market gardens. Most of the people building farms in our area are all market gardeners.
Q. Is this what you wanted to be when you grew up?
A. I had no idea. I wasn’t one of those kids who knew what I wanted to do. I still think to myself I wish I got in to it earlier. I could be so much better at what I do. When I go to schools I try to get kids excited about growing their own food.
Q. How did it come about?
A. I did a permaculture design certificate and there’s a subject called Creating an Alternative Nation. I went to the Samford Show and came across Millen Farm trying to get volunteers. I met a couple of people and they said you should come down to a meeting and meet Peter Carney. He was a major instigator to get Millen Farm going. We just hit it off straight away.
Q. Can anyone grow fruit and vegetables at home. Can you offer a tip for beginners?
A. Yes, 100 per cent. Soil, compost and mulch that’s the number one tip. They’re the three main ingredients for life. Build it with up compost and keep it covered with mulch. Every one of our rows is covered with mulch, that’s what makes plants grow — soil biology.
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