Home' Smart Farmer : April 2010 Contents APRIL, 2010
BY LOUISE McBRIDE
THERE are many people out there
with seeds of good ideas, that just
need somewhere to plant them
and watch them grow.
Without the land or the resources,
people with ideas about getting into
growing small-scale commercial
vegetable, fruit or flower crops are faced
with a tough decision.
They can take the plunge in buying
land only to find that their green thumb
is maybe not so green, or that the idea of
growing a commercial crop was only a
Before making the big commitment of
purchasing land and giving up day jobs,
budding growers can work
cooperatively with smaller farmers and
landholders to utilise under-used
resources and space.
Kim Syrus, ABC gardening guru and
owner of Corporate Roses and Southern
Plant Market, Myponga, is part of one
such cooperative venture.
At the back of the rose plot and plant
market behind some sheds, a bountiful
crop of bright red truss tomato vines
climb toward the roof of a rudimentary
"I was approached by my cousin who
was looking at buying land and growing
some organic tomatoes," Kim said.
"After speaking to him a bit more we
realised that what he really wanted to
could do it, but he was thinking that he
had to buy land first."
Kym had a spare glasshouse behind his
rose and plant market, which had been
sitting empty for years, and he offered it
to his cousin Paul McPherson, to have a
try at growing cocktail tomatoes.
The result has been a successful crop
of tomatoes for market without a
significant outlay of finances to get
"To me it was just a dead patch in the
yard, and now it is something useful. And
we get a few tomatoes for rent" Kim
Paul, an accountant by profession, is
able to come through every few days to
tend the crop and pick tomatoes.
"It is not his full-time job but he is able
to produce a bounty of organic
tomatoes, which he sells through the
farmers markets, including Myponga and
Willunga markets," Kim said.
"What it has done is give somebody
the opportunity to make a decision
about whether he wants to get into it in
a full time capacity".
Kim said that even though he knew
Paul, he would be just as inclined to
offer the space to someone he didn't
know very well.
"It is like being able to dip your toe in
the water.There are a lot of properties
around that may be able to be utilised --
it is all about working cooperatively".
With strong consumer support for
healthy, enviromentally friendly local
produce, there are many opportunities
for anyone to grow for the market.
There are also many opportunities for
those with the means but not the desire,
to offer areas for others to have a go.
"I think that there is a great
opportunity for other property owners
to look at under-utilised areas," Kim said.
"There are people out there that have
some really fantastic ideas, and can
improve the quality of a property".
Try before you buy
USEFUL SPACE: Kim Syrus with the crop of cocktail tomatoes, grown in a cooperative venture
with Paul McPherson.
By MEG MURDOCH
SHIRLEY Smith signed the contract for a
bare 20-hectare block of land 12 years ago
and has since changed it into a successful
vineyard and Dorper property.
But for Shirley, who runs the Two Dragons
Vineyard and Farm with her partner Silver
Moon, it is not all about having a successful
business, but building up the biodiversity and
value of the land.
"Our approach to farming is that you have a
commercial operation in the middle of a
revegetation area," she said. "The two
principles of managing your actual
environment and working the land quite
intensively go hand in hand."
Shirley is also a member of the Finniss
Catchment Group. The region is facing
problems of over-allocation of water that will
negatively affect her farm.
"For my property, we are now limited to a
nominal allocation," she said. "We have to
keep using water at the same level as 2003."
Shirley started her vineyard after she retired
from working in regional development in the
McLaren Vale area.
"I spent quite a bit of time with some of the
grapegrowers, in the wineries and studying
the tourism, and I met a whole heap of
people who had a fantastic outlook on life,"
Sheep then came second, as a weed control
measure for the vineyard.
"I had an opportunity through one of my
neighbours who had a few sheep that
needed a home, and I had a lot of grass,"
She had a mob of 'scrubbers' to start with,
before deciding on breeding Dorpers
because of their easy handling and
"If I had a meat sheep and I didn't have to
worry about wool, then the infrastructure that
I needed was much simpler. My current drop
of lambs are F4s (87 per cent) Dorpers," she
Shirley and Silver have a mob of 40 Dorpers
and run two Maremma sheepdogs.
"We have 150 per cent lambing, but it's
always been like that and that's because of
the dogs," Shirley said.
Shirley and Silver have also built their own
house on the property, created their own
garden and planted a number of trees that
have improved their vineyard.
"We have planted about 4000 trees," Shirley
said. "If there is something for the native birds
to eat, then they tend not to worry the fruit as
And the proof for Shirley and Silver came this
year when there was next to no damage to
Although Two Dragons Vineyard and Farm is
not yet organically certified, Shirley and
Silver prefer not to use chemicals on the
"It's been a philosophical and ideological
position. I like eating food that is good and
well grown and tastes nice, and I wanted
what comes off my farm to be the same way.
"I don't have to use chemicals, I don't have to
spray them, so I don't need all this spray
equipment," Shirley said.
The vineyard and Dorpers integrate well
together and Shirley says the Dorpers
controlling the weeds results in the
production of finer wines.
"The winery that takes the fruit stipulates that
I can't put any artificial nitrogen in, so I have
to find a way of naturally preparing and
maintaining the soil, which is where the
Dorpers come in," she said.
Two Dragons Vineyard and Farm has
produced a number of good drops which they
sell online, including a 2002 shiraz, but
Shirley said it is the 2009 tempranillo and
shiraz that are best.
Shirley and Silver plan to become as self-
sustainable as they can in the future, and
may also expand their flock of Dorpers.
"We're now starting to see the benefits of the
trees with the approach we are taking,"
Shirley said. "We will plant more trees and
build our soils which will benefit the vineyard,
and maybe we'll lease a block of land to run
Sustainable farming suits Two Dragons
GOOD LIFE: Shirley Smith started her
vineyard after she spent years
working with wineries and
thought the people
had a lifestyle she
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