Located 10 minutes from Maitland and 30 minutes from Newcastle, the beautiful landscape of Phoenix Park Flats is pocket of food growing heaven. The fruit and vegetable phenomenon of Phoenix Park Farm has an abundance of opportunities sprouting right out of the ground and is regularly open to the community and featuring at markets surrounds.
Phoenix Park Farm came into the family 40 years ago and second-generation farmer Jesse Clarke has a vision for the farms future. A science school-teacher by discipline, Jesse experienced one of those moments some of us are lucky to have ‘where the lightbulb goes off’ and all of a sudden your path changes to match the rhythm of your own drum.
“Growing up on the farm I’ve always had an interest in farming, growing things, food and I’ve always had an interest in the environment, it’s always been a big part of my philosophy. I listened to this podcast, they were speaking about governments and anachronism; the people that don’t believe the governments are doing the right thing and they go off and do their own. Here I am complaining the government not tackling sustainability, the environment and food security when I could do go out and do something about it myself.”
The beautiful farm spreads over 50 acres so growing and tending to all the fruit and vegetables is a full time job. Part of the farm is sectioned for Lucerne hay which a lot of surroundings farms also grow;
“The farmers will plant what people buy, and the demand now is for hay and livestock feed.”
To get the farmers to turn their lands into produce, the demand needs to be there. Creating awareness around what is available in the local area, create the demand for the produce and the produce will come.
The farm has been growing some incredible beetroot, cabbage and broccoli, lettuce and is currently growing a diverse family of potatoes including the ethereal purple ‘sapphire’ potato. I can say it now, you haven’t tasted broccoli until you have tasted the pick of Phoenix Park Farm’s- it is next level, you can never go back to store bought options.
“When in season, I grow some pretty amazing coriander, I am really proud of it. The aroma is just incredible”.
Jesse is gradually spreading out the vegetable growing space, planting for summer - cucumber, yellow squash, a range of pumpkins, zucchini, watermelon, sweet corn, lettuce, radish and basil.
“I want people to feel like they can get their weeks shopping with me”.
Jesse is turning the wheels on creating a self-sufficient farm that allows for the plants to interact with each other, using their benefits in sync with one another so that the wheel of the farm compliments as its own ecosystem, its own environment.
His tertiary skills have resurfaced as he has teamed up with Culture Tech to launch his own educational program ‘Growing Future Farmers’ the perfect combination of hands on experience and technology for kids in the community to visit the farm and partake in the practice of sustainable living and growing. Appealing to the community the addition of a coffee cart on the weekends (yes we said COFFEE!!) out at Phoenix Park Farm and the hopes of introducing long lunches to truly embody the ‘paddock to plate’ mantra.
Where: McFadyens Road Phoenix Park
What they grow: Beetroot, lettuce, broccoli, lettuce, potatoes, coriander, sweet corn, radish, cucumber, pumpkins, watermelon, yellow squash, basil, zucchini, lettuce, cabbage, pasture raised eggs, silverbeet, Kale, fruit trees, rose bushes, coriander, mint and parsley. How they grow it: Everything is grown on the farm without the use of chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilisers. What is currently in season: Check out their profile on our CommuniFood page Phoenix Park Farm or on their Facebook for regular updates.
Average Cost: Goods from as low as $1! When: Regularly opening a market stall on site. Like their facebook page for regular updates on times/dates and we will also post these to the @CommuniFood page.
Average working day?
Anywhere between 10-14 hours. Generally, sunrise to sunset, sometimes longer. If I am attending a farm stall or market in the day or night so it changes a lot.
Favourite thing to grow?
Coriander and the potatoes. I’m pretty proud of them.
Hardest thing to grow?
I had a really bad experience with tomatoes last year. They got attacked by fruit flies, in combination with the hot weather and no rain, they proved to be a lot of work for no return. Then maybe the brassicas (cabbage), they require a bit of extra work, the cabbage moths tend to hang around.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting their own veggie garden at home?
It’s all in your soil! Good healthy soil and COMPOST! Compost, compost, compost! Worm farms are great for small backyards too.
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