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Unconventional Organic

Nov 21, 2019
Article by Dr Julie Sladden

“I never imagined we would be doing this!” Clare Jackson seems almost surprised as she surveys the acres of organic farm in front of us. “We started off with the idea of self-sufficiency when we bought this place back in the ‘80s.”

Now, York Town Organics is one of the longest certified organic farms in Australia and a thriving producer of more than 50 different crops to over 70 outlets across Tasmania. From restaurants to your local greengrocer, you don’t have to travel very far to come across the highly recognisable ‘happy scarecrow’ logo.

“We were living in north-western WA and spotted this land for sale in one of the local magazines,” says Clare. “It looked perfect, so we bought it ‘sight-unseen’ and headed down to Tasmania. Initially we just started growing stuff, and pretty soon we were trying different crops and selling to the locals.”

As Clare shows me around, I can see the hard work, passion and dedication that has gone into building this farm. She tells me about the early days, the long hours, the experimentation with crops and growing methods, and the ongoing refinement and development of the farm over the past three decades. The fascinating tool shed is a treasure-trove of ingenious tools that help streamline planting and harvesting. The most recent acquisition, the paper-pot planter, means they can now plant out in 15 minutes with one person, a process that would have taken 40 minutes and three people to do in the past. Like all the techniques and tools I see in use around the farm, the theme is of ingenuity and resourcefulness.

York Town Organics is a family affair. Clare carries around a new baby, granddaughter Coco (AKA farmer-intraining), as daughter and dietician Erin and son Ben inspect the new crop of micro greens. They are coming along nicely. Along with Clare’s husband Bruce and daughter Jessica (chef), it’s apparent that a love of good food runs deep in this family.

Ben walks me uphill to the greenhouse and we talk about soil health and its importance in producing a quality organic product. Ben returned to York Town in 2011 to take the role of operations manager and it is clear he knows his stuff.

“We use a minimum tillage method to help preserve the nutrients in the soil, and add kelp, mycelium and organic fertilisers to ensure optimal nutrient density. Weeds are controlled with flame torch and no harmful pesticides or herbicides.”

Coffee grinds are recycled from local cafes and restaurants and also added to fortify the compost.

At the top of the hill Bruce takes me through the huge greenhouse where I am met with a sea of spectacular colour made of microgreens and baby salad leaves. My mouth starts to water. Surely it’s lunchtime soon.

Organics – is it really worth it?

When York Town Organics was first certified organic in 1993 Clare and Bruce were definitely ahead of their time. Industrial and chemical farming practices were the norm and the term ‘organic’ was not well recognised. Now, however, increasing awareness of the impact of industrial farming practices on soil health, and links between pesticide and herbicide use and chronic disease are becoming well known. This means organic produce is becoming more sought after.

As it is often more expensive than its non-organic counterpart, people often wonder “Is it worth it?” By choosing organic, we avoid the detrimental effects of pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and antibiotic resistant bacteria. In addition, organically grown foods have been shown to contain significantly higher levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals than their conventionally grown counterparts. These vital nutrients help to ward off chronic diseases, inflammation, cancer and help to feed our microbiome (the bugs living in our gut that help to feed us and keep us healthy). So, when we look at how we Julie Sladden is a medical doctor, born and raised in Tasmania. After seven years abroad she returned home with her husband and two sons to make their life in Launceston. She loves her home state and is pretty sure it is the best place in the world to live for families, food and raw natural beauty. Someday she hopes to see all of it. She is passionate about helping people connect their lifestyle and nutrition to improving health. When not working, writing or studying she can be found either in or on the water (usually in). spend our food dollars, considering buying organic produce is less about expense and more about investing in our long-term health.

At the end of my visit I leave arms laden with lovely organics, and mind laden with ideas for my own vegie patch. I have a heart of gratitude for the Jacksons of this world who have helped blaze the trail for the rest of us with their unconventional lives and courage to bring their ideas and produce to the table.

If you want to find out more, or even take a visit (highly recommended), you can find the Jacksons at – www.yorktownorganics.com

Julie Sladden is a medical doctor, born and raised in Tasmania. After seven years abroad she returned home with her husband and two sons to make their life in Launceston. She loves her home state and is pretty sure it is the best place in the world to live for families, food and raw natural beauty. Someday she hopes to see all of it. She is passionate about helping people connect their lifestyle and nutrition to improving health. When not working, writing or studying she can be found either in or on the water (usually in).

Photos by Julie Sladden

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