July 23 – Mallyon’s on the Murray- Bush Cafe and Organic Farm

Today we left bright and early for our departure from Calperum Station and made the long journey to Broken Hill. On our way, we made a stop at Mallyon’s on the Murray, a solar-powered organic farm.

After having some morning tea and rolls with some homemade organic jams, we met Nick, the owner of the farm and he spoke with us about running an organic farm “off grid”. By being off grid, he has to supply all of his own power from his own solar panels.

At the time he had purchased the solar panels, there was no  incentive for using solar power so it had been rather expensive. However, he  said he wanted to do it because he wanted to farm sustainably. As a result, he had to think very carefully about how he manages his farm and the equipment he uses. For example, he has special efficient appliances to ensure that his solar panels can meet the demand of his home and cafe.

As a result of his efforts,  he’s had a really successful farm. The organic market of Australia is only 5%, and this is not enough to meet demand,  so there’s plenty of demand and room to expand.

Among the difficulty of being off grid, Nick had to tackle other farming obstacles in Australia. A key one includes watering. His watering  system pumps water from the Murray Darling but is closely inspected to and regulated to ensure there is no water being wasted. He also has to deal with  the poor quality of the soil, in which he solves this problem by building up  the organic matter.

Nick really opened our eyes as to how rough of an environment Australia firstly, and how to do it sustainably. But what was most  important was that he was still able to do it. I found this to be quite an inspirational example of a true living/working sustainable lifestyle.

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8 responses to “July 23 – Mallyon’s on the Murray- Bush Cafe and Organic Farm

  1. Rhonda Sienkiewicz

    Wow…Going off the grid is very admirable! Not sure I could do it…

  2. How does he market his organic products….co-op system, or ship to market…etc? Does being “off the grid” pose problems in making contact with potential customers and his marketplace?

    • Jean to answer your question about being off the grid, the farm seemed to be thriving, so it did not seem to be a problem. The farm had a huge pannel of individual solar panels that supports their activities. The farm even has wireless internet!

  3. Jean, good questions, those are important thoughts to consider when discussing an organic food operation. This points back to the theme of our trip, sustainability, and what that means not only for the health of the environment but also for the strength of the economy and viability of small businesses.

    The business model of the farm seemed very sound; the farm caters to visitors like ourselves with a lovely cafe/shop setting. The produce itself is shipped to large-scale distributors who then transport the food to various retail outlets: farmers markets, grocery stores, food service, etc.

    There also seems to be a sense of commraderie and profitable networking amongst the small farms of rural Australia, helping more operations to reach tourists and other patrons. And of course, our wonderful guide Flick shares the word about her brother’s farm with travel groups that she encounters in her line of work.

  4. Nick also emphasized also that before you start growing anything, you should research the market and find out what the buyers really want and then grow it. He also said there weren’t any formal contracts made between the growers and the buyers. It seems that because it’s such a close knit community of organic and off grid farmers, the buyers tend to look after the growers. This seems to ensure continual business for farmers like Nick. It’s almost like a family…

  5. I really liked how Nick discussed how the organic farm was economically and environmentally sustainable. It definitely was a good example of the intersections of sustainability. He was able to make a living doing something he believed in, that also helped the environment. Something maybe eco-friendly, but if there is no purpose for it, it cannot be sustained.

  6. I thought it was really interesting to learn about WWOOF which stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. It is a program that Nick is a part of where you volunteer 4-6 hours of work in exchange for a place to stay and food accommodations. You would not only learn a lot of cool things about organic farming and Australian culture, but also be a part of a family. Sounds like fun to me.

  7. I also thought that the idea Nick had for going off the grid was extremely admirable but he was offered some form of incentives for his efforts, the entire cost of his solar pv (photovoltaic) panel array was around A$70,000 and the government funded nearly half of it leaving him to pay only around A$35,000 for the entire system. This system is enough to power the entire cafe and farm operation. I also found it extremely interesting that all of the watering/irrigation was accomplished through the use of a 500 watt solar pv panel system which powered a 3/4 horsepower motor that pumped water from the river through the estate. When the solar pump was not sufficent Nick also used a combination with the old diesel powered tractor that he had on site to pump higher volumes of water up from the river to the gardens. I thought that Nick had a firm understanding of what the meaning of being sustainable and organic really was and i was extremely impressed with his operation, I am sure that he will continue to prosper in the years to come great work Nick!!!

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