Ross and Maryanne have been growing fruit and keeping bees at Quaama on the NSW Far South Coast for almost 30 years. Ross helped to pioneer the process of organic certification of honey and up until he retired several years ago, their SCPA certified organic property has provided their income, and continues to provide the organic produce for Maryanne’s delicious preserves business.
In the 1990s, they trialed exporting their honey to Japan, a market that prefers dark coloured honey, such as the Australian Stringy Bark that they produce. Ross built a specialised labelling frame to hold each jar precisely, ensuring each and every label was applied in exactly the same place, as per their Japanese client’s specifications. He also built a specialised loading dock to assist with transport for their pallets of honey. But the export process was not without problems, one of which was that the international standard for honey is to have a 9% sucrose content, but dark Australian blossom honey’s normally have up to 14% sucrose. When their first export shipment was tested, they were accused of adding sucrose to their product, which of course they hadn’t and this unique property of our sweet honies had to be pointed out.
They worked very hard to meet all export requirements for their certified organic product, but decided not to pursue this international market when his customers couldn’t understand why, when seasonal supply ran out, they couldn’t just ‘make more’! It was decided they would keep the product local, where their ‘liquid gold’ has been much appreciated.
SCPA organic and bio-dynamic produce is legitimately certified via a peer inspection and assessment scheme which adheres to the current Australian National Standard, and Ross and Maryanne’s home has been part of this scheme since its inception. They built their home as chemical free as possible, and boast a septic tank (which Ross proudly lifted the lid on to show off), the content of which has no smell, and has actually become a healthy, organic worm farm. If you have ever had anything to do with a septic tank, you will know that this is a pleasant surprise!
Like all Australian farmers, Ross and Maryanne are clever and resourceful in the operation of their property. They have converted a couple of old caravans into accommodation for WWOOFers, raise chickens for eggs, and goats for meat and milk. Although considered a weed, Ross slashes the patches of tussock on the farm to use as mulch for the orchard trees and gardens. What you and I might call a ‘junk pile’ is Ross’ ‘hardware store’, where throwaways are converted into useful objects, such as a wheelbarrow, made using an old washing machine barrel.
Maryanne had a purpose-built, commercial kitchen built into the home for her preserve making, and uses the berries and fruit from the farm to make her product here. Growing up on a farm in England, where the hired help’s name was Mr Digweed (seriously!), she is no stranger to being able to convert the land’s abundance into something delicious.
Ross and Maryanne would like to see the process of SCPA certification of food production expanded, as it is a simple, cost effective way to help promote and support the production of clean, naturally farmed food. Their long term commitment to this process means that there is no doubt that this couple are certainly a good example of ‘clean living’.