A better shade of green
“I’ve changed the way I think about farming,” says John Tidy, owner of Wharenui Avocados. “I’m absolutely convinced that spray free farming is the way to go in the future,” he says with passion. “Future generations need to realise that if we continue to poison our soil, we’ll never grow healthy food. We won’t grow food full stop! I’ve seen what chemicals can do, not only to produce, but also, the effect they have on humans. It’s not healthy.”
Wharenui Avocados, John’s business, lies on his 50 acre property in the picturesque Mary Valley, near Amamoor. He grows his chemical spray-free avocados using biodynamic methods. These methods focus on nurturing healthy soil. The soil is rich in living microbes, organisms, nutrients and trace elements that plants need. From this foundation, John’s avocados grow into robust trees and are more resistant to pests and disease.
Non-chemical liquid fertiliser (which includes molasses, worm juice, seaweed and trace elements) is put through his irrigation system, a process known as fertigation. Annual soil and leaf analysis testing is a vital part of John’s farming practice. From these tests, he can tell what his avocado trees are lacking or if they have an excess of anything. Along with ensuring the soil is healthy, John applies a non-chemical foliar spray, which is another form of liquid fertiliser, similar in make-up to that applied during fertigation.
The farm operates with a sustainable, non-chemical system. In conjunction with healthy soil, healthy leaf foliage, and healthy fruit, a combination of brush cutting and mulch helps to keep weeds controlled. John also grazes sheep under his trees to control grass and weeds, and to add extra fertiliser. Pruning the avocado trees in a specific way to open them up, yet providing enough leaf coverage to protect the fruit from too much sun, is another practice John employs. Rather than using toxic chemicals, this practice helps to control the fruit spotting bug, a common pest in many orchards.
John’s 30 year background in sheep, beef and crop farming in New Zealand has given him a wealth of knowledge and experience. It wasn’t until he came to Australia 13 years ago and bought an avocado farm, however, that he says his interest in healthy food and sustainable farming practices started. Over the past 10 years in which John has been experimenting with non-chemical and biodynamic farming, John has seen a significant improvement in his avocado orchard. The avocado trees are healthier, they have less disease, the soil is rich and fertile, the avocado fruit are bigger and, as anyone who buys John’s avocados can vouch for, they are delicious! John gets regular feedback from family, friends and customers about how creamy, rich and tasty his avocados are. He puts this down to his farming practice and because he picks them when they are ready to be picked, not when the prices are high.
John says, “I’ve learned so much over the past 10 years, and I can honestly say that a system of farming that promotes healthy soil, healthy plants and trees, and therefore healthy fruit and produce, is a win for everyone and for future generations. Customers know they are eating avocados that are healthy. They are full of the goodness they were created to provide, with no toxic chemicals that can harm you. They taste great too.”
The family business does more than just honour their chemical-free promise. Their sustainable practices also extend to owning and tending 21 bee hives. Because of the absence of chemicals, the bees thrive, and not only do they do their job of pollinating the avocado trees, but they produce delicious honey which is extracted and sold at markets, alongside the avocados. The farm is a member of the Mary Valley Bee group, which is passionate about bee preservation.
The business is a family affair with John’s children, Nicholas and Catherine, who are 12 and 11 years old, making their pocket money by picking other seasonally grown vegetables such as kale, beans and cherry tomatoes, fresh, the night before market, to sell. John’s father-in-law, Don, is also part of the enterprise, as the bee-keeper, and he maintains the machinery. John’s wife, Julia, helps with marketing and book-keeping.
Wharenui Avocados claims the success of their family business is due to their faithful customers who understand the importance of avoiding toxic chemicals. John’s passion is evident when he takes the time to chat with his customers about the importance of chemical-free farming practices. He is proud of his tasty, nutritious avocados, honey and vegetables he grows. Helping his customers be healthy by providing nutritious food is his passion. “I am passionate about being a farmer and growing poison-free food for people who appreciate all the hard work we put into growing it for them. Every customer that buys from our stall at the Noosa Farmers Market, I thank for supporting a farming family. I also urge everyone to ask what has been sprayed on the produce, or what it has been dipped in, before making any purchases,” says John.
John has been selling his avocados and produce at the Noosa Farmers Market for the past 11 years. He is grateful for his loyal customers who support his family, sustainable farming practice and who realise the importance of healthy, chemical-free food. You can buy from Wharenui Avocados in the next two weeks only, before the avocado season comes to an end.