Meet our Chemical Free Community members, Robin and Kay Curtis from, The Oaks at Kooroongarra. They have produced accredited organic grain and cattle since 1976. With a focus on sustainable living they continue to organically farm 2200 acres of rich country on the Darling Downs in Queensland through droughts and floods.
What do you do?
We grow a wide range of grains including cereals, oilseeds and legumes.
The farm produces organic food, free-range, grass-finished beef from the Poll Hereford breed of cattle, and we also grow watermelons, rockmelons and pumpkins.
What got you started in the industry?
We have always been interested in farming and agriculture. Robin grew up on a family farm, where he learned his farming skills from his late father. He then went on to study science and engineering and also studied at the College of International Business. In his younger days, Robin had a career in international tennis. Kay was educated in Brisbane and went into banking before marrying and establishing a family of five children.
What makes your produce different?
We grow our produce and raise our cattle using organic/biological production systems and have done so for many years. We chose this pathway because we believed that one day there would be a worldwide need for food that was certified free of man-made toxins. The awareness of the impact of chemically grown food is definitely growing as the number of health issues continues to increase across the globe. Food produced using biodynamic agriculture is in harmony with environmentally sustainable management systems.
We were growing biodynamically for 15 years prior to the emergence of 3rd party certifiers, with Robin being involved with the organic movement since the early days. He helped write the national organic standards for certified growers. We continue to have a research and development area on the farm where we trial new varieties so we can decide if they fit in with our ideals. We’re constantly enhancing our processes and product.
What has been your biggest obstacle growing food?
One of the challenges for organic growers is the requirements is that they keep their own seed. When growers use hybrids this leads to the future generations being not true to type, so Rob overcomes this by using open pollinated heirloom varieties. Some of the varieties that he grows, including red wheat, are hundreds of years old.
Another challenge is the cost of organic certification. We were one of the original families that set up the BFA, now known as ACO—this was in January 1987. Over the years, there are times when we choose not to be certified by a 3rd party certification body, to be transparent we verify our organic status by signing a statutory declaration.
Rob would like to see a simplification of the certified organic system and symbols, similar to Switzerland with their government organic regulations.
Of course the weather is a constant challenge….. Our range of grains and products vary and not all are available at any one time – pending varying weather conditions such as varying rainfall, droughts, floods etc…
What is your most interesting/best TIP to help families reduce their chemical exposure?
For families who focus on economical organic living, we recommend buying direct from farmers or farmers markets. However, a word of caution, sometimes companies wrongly call their products organic when they aren’t. As any company can put ‘natural and organic’ on their product label which may mean that some or part of a product is organic or natural but there’s no guarantee that the whole product is organic.
If you are buying from farmers markets ensure you ask questions on their procedures, inputs and ground management. Ask…
“How do you manage weeds on your farm?”;
” What pesticides & herbicides do you use on your farm?”;
” Is your whole product organic – certified organic?”,
“What hormones and antibiotics do you use?”
If possible have your own veggie/fruit garden, and use organic gardening techniques and products – soils and fertilisers. Above all eat seasonally, if not eating fresh and of course check your labels for additives and preservatives.
We sell directly to the public, although we are still working on our website, please call us for information – we love a chat!
Is there another organic/non-toxic business that you think is great & would recommend?
Recently we sold a small consignment of both of our heritage wheat to the Crystal Waters Bakery. This is not the first sale we have made to this business. Recently the business has changed hands, but I feel the new owners will carry on with the same standards as the previous ones!
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