newspaper and magazine news media for jamberoo valley farm





AS farmers, food growers and land managers, we are reluctant to ask the real questions: where has our topsoil gone and how do we get it back?



The importance of fresh fruit,  vegetables and fish in our diets  a few times a week cannot be overstated.

It makes perfect sense, then, to  grow your own fruit, vegetables and fish in your backyard.

This is not as silly as it sounds because there are now  aquaponic systems that can produce quality fresh food  and fish in a relatively small area.

Aquaponics is increasing in popularity and the systems are becoming much more simplified and easy to maintain.

They  can be installed just about anywhere and can be upgraded to produce even more fish, fruit and vegetables as your expertise develops.

Aquaponics adapts the technology of aquaculture and hydroponics to establish a sustainable production system that  needs  a 10th of the water required to grow vegetables in the ground.

The basic principle is to re-circulate the nutrient-rich water from the fish tank through the growing beds of the vegetables; the plant roots act as a filter extracting nutrients before water drains back into the fish tank.

A simple grow bed consists of a mixture of gravel or expanded clay pellets. There are certain bacteria that live on the surface of the grow bed mixture and they convert the ammonia-rich waste from the fish into nitrates, a readily available source of nitrogen for the vegetables.

The type of fish used to stock an aquaponic system is as varied and depends on climatic conditions, but for the Illawarra, the native silver perch is an excellent choice.

Other species such as trout can also be cultivated successfully and the yabbie – or fresh-water crayfish – is also a popular and tasty choice.

As far as vegetables go, if it can be grown in the garden it can be grown in an aquaponic system.

Plants should be at various stages of growth for two reasons.

Firstly, to ensure that you always have some produce available when you need it, second, to maintain the filtration properties required in the aquaponics system.

So if there’s something fishy going on in the gardens of your neighbourhood, it might just be aquaponics.

If you would like to learn more about backyard aquaponics, a weekend workshop is being conducted next weekend at Jamberoo Valley Farm. For details, contact Tass Schmidt at info@jamberoovalleyfarm.com.au

John Gabriele is head horticulture teacher at TAFE’s Yallah Campus.


Farm program gives a taste of the simple life




When Tass Schmidt gave up an international business career two years ago for life on a Jamberoo farm, she swapped Vogue magazines for seed catalogues overnight.

“I was at a point in my life where I was scratching around thinking about what I was to do next,” Tass says.

“I was driving back to Sydney from the country thinking it would be wonderful to stay and grow vegetables, keep animals and live a simpler life.”

Friend Peter Barge had owned Jamberoo Valley Farm since 1994.

“He suggested I come and look after the farm and see what I can turn it into, knowing I had a business background,” Tass said.

Her first foray into seed catalogues raised eyebrows.

“I basically ordered a whole lot of stuff that looked beautiful and sounded interesting, including many heritage varieties,” Tass said.

“When Peter saw my first seed order, he said, ‘Are you kidding?’

“I had 130 different plants, including 16 varieties of tomatoes and 15 varieties of lettuce, every sort of brassica, umpteen flowers, and several different types of celery, eggplant, capsicum and beans.”

With the farm a stone’s throw from the rainforest, the initial plantings proved to be a smorgasbord for the local birdlife. Then there were the insects.

But two years later, lessons have been learned. The farm is full of interesting produce and animals, from white eggplants to miniature pigs.

Tass says she has been given a charter to find out how to make a decent living out of life on the land – and there will probably be a book about the many experiences that come with sustainable farming.

She says she wants to set an example that encourages other farmers and land owners to “think laterally” about their assets.

Part of that is to make sure fertile, food-producing land is secured and urban sprawl is restricted.

The farm generates income through the sale of products at local produce markets, the Green Box co-operative and open days.

Tass also runs workshops in permaculture, sustainable living and cooking, and runs the “Farmer for a Weekend program”.

According to a recent positive review in the Sydney Morning Herald it “offers visitors a chance to indulge their McLeod’s Daughters fantasies”.

“Mucking out a pigsty might not be everyone’s idea of a relaxing holiday, but Tass’s cookery and entertaining stories are worth the hard graft,” the review said.


Illawarra Mercury November 28, 2012

Forget the pooch: pigs are the perfect pet




When Babe thought he was a sheep dog in the film of the same name, the other animals on the farm made fun of him. But the little pig was on to something.
Pigs make great pets and behave in similar ways to your pooch. More than just a cute face, they can be taught to sit, come when they’re called by name, be toilet trained and learn to walk on a leash, all due to to their high intelligence.

Though pigs can be stubborn at times, they learn faster than dogs and can remember a higher number of commands.

Tass Schmidt, who owns several of the inquisitive animals, says she even had one piglet who would roll over to get his belly scratched.

“And another one I had observed this and started doing it too. She seemed to be getting a bit jealous I was paying attention to him,” she laughs.

“I also had one here and she learnt to come when I called her within two hours and after that it didn’t stop.

“I could call out to her in the paddock and she would come running.”

Schmidt has owned her pigs for only about three months, since she took over a property in Jamberoo, and was shocked at how quickly she fell for them.

“I was surprised at how nice they are. It was my idea when I came here to get rid of the pigs, but you see how sweet they are and now I really like them.”

At the moment there are close to 20 pigs in her garden, but she is planning on selling most of them to people keen to call one of the intelligent creatures their own, and keeping only six for herself.

Pigs are touted as great pets because they are loyal, social, relatively easy to take care of and are very clean animals when given enough space.

Schmidt says pigs are social creatures that get on well with other animals and children, but can get lonely if isolated for extended periods.

The ideal situation for your pet pig is to let them roam free in your yard so they can exercise their natural instinct to forage, which makes them excellent gardeners.

The Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 says pigs can’t be kept within 60 metres of a dwelling or public place and some councils, including Wollongong City Council, don’t allow pigs to be kept in suburban backyards, so you need a decent-sized space to be able to adopt one.

“Like with anything, there is a responsibility, but they are extremely cute and you can do everything with them you can do with a dog,” Schmidt says.

“Sustainability Through Involvement”


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