Fame awaits young farmer after trading city for Kyogle
KYOGLE organic farmer Sasha Welker grew up in suburban Santa Fe, but that hasn't stopped her going "back to the land" to become one of Australia's leading young organic food producers.
Ms Welker, 27, is on a shortlist of two to win this year's young organic farmer of the year award, which is an initiative of October's National Organic Week to encourage new generation farmers.
She and partner Rhys Minton bought their two-hectare property seven years ago with a dream of living a sustainable life and have since become fully-fledged organic farmers.
Today they grow 40 different varieties of herbs, vegetables and flowers on the picturesque property and sell directly to their loyal customer base at Lismore Organic Farmers' Market.
The pair make a real living from their business - enough to pay off their mortgage.
"Originally we just wanted to have a sustainable lifestyle - we hadn't planned what we're doing now," Ms Welker said. "But it just sort of grew. We started at the local Kyogle market, then got (organically) certified, and one thing led to another.
Focus is on local markets
"We focus on local markets, so we build relationships with our customers - we're not trying to wholesale everything.
"I really love the satisfaction of feeding people good food, people coming back and telling me each week about what they made. It's a beautiful feeling to be able to have that relationship with our customers.
"It's definitely more work but it's worth it."
Ms Welker said the business couldn't be viable without local support for the farmers' market movement, which is going from strength to strength in the region.
"It's growing every year, and that's great," she said. "I think there's a real movement back to eating local food."
Getting organically certified took the business to another level, allowed the farm to join not only the organic farmers' market but also sell to local organic specialists Fundies and Santos.
For Ms Welker, it's a hard working life but also a dream come true.
"I really enjoy working on the land, having a physical job, and the challenge of being self-employed - always trying to be better at what you do," she said.
"I'll never stop learning."
Sasha's Tips for a great organic veg garden:
- Start with the soil: Think about feeding the soil first, not the plant. Always be adding more mulch and compost to your soil to maintain its fertility.
- With this in mind, have a good home composting system.
- Grow companion plants such as flowers like marigolds to attract bees and beneficial insects to kill pests.