The bright green rows of vegetables bursting from the ground in Michelle and Mario Trovato’s veggie paddock are a picture of health and vitality. Amidst the leafy sea a glimpse of black earth below is the clue to the success of this certified organic farm which produces up 4-5 ton of vegetables per week as well as organic beef and pork.
The once white gutless sand at the Muchea property has slowly been turned a rich black after many years of careful biodynamic farming practice – the legacy of Michelle’s late father Wayne Brock, who along with his wife Margaret established the farm 18 (now 24*) years ago.
Wayne initially used permaculture principles to grow food for his family after he became concerned about the high incidence of cancer and illness amongst broad acre farmers in their then-hometown of Pemberton. Later, inspired by an ABC documentary he began applying biodynamic principles which essentially aim to mimic a balanced ecosystem and only add natural, sustainable inputs to build a healthy soil, and consequently vigorously healthy plants and animals.
The farm, which Michelle now runs with the help of husband Mario, is currently classified ‘Demeter’, the highest level of organic obtainable and is the longest established biodynamic farm in the state. They rely on natural manures, organic compost, crushed limestone and rock dust to give sustenance to the soil – and no chemicals whatsoever are used. Pests can be a big problem and they often use natural products like neem oil and pyrethrum to keep them at bay, but when notorious ones, like the diamond back moth they are currently fighting in the greens, take hold – the best defence is often to turn the lot over to the animals and start again. It’s all part of the natural life cycle.
Selling their end products which include the full gamut of in-season vegetables, including their popular garlic along with cuts of organic beef and specialty sausages and sometimes fruit, at weekend markets, gives Michelle the unique opportunity to connect her customers with their food and it’s origins.
“People tell me that my meat and veggies are sustaining them, helping them beat cancer or recover from illness” she says. Michelle has also noticed that more buyers choose her produce simply because it looks and tastes better – they are not specifically after organic – and now the prices are comparative.
While Michelle is at City Farm Markets in East Perth on Saturdays, Mario is over at Mt Claremont, inundated with customers on gluten-free or paleo diets, who fondly refer to him the ‘King of Green’. They go the Stirling Markets together on Sundays. Spending most of the weekends behind the wheel or the counter and the week hard at work on the land, the couple admit that their sustainable lifestyle is all-consuming. Truly living the ‘good life’ means they enjoy an abundance of healthy home-grown food and an active outdoors day which they share with their two children. “We don’t need to buy much,” says Michelle, “Most of what we need we get from the garden.” A balanced and harmonious ecosystem indeed.
*First published in 2014 by Northern Valleys News