There’s a Lot to Love at Ainslie Urban Farm
Fiona, Michael and their family have been living at their heritage Ainslie property, also known as Ainslie Urban Farm, since 2007. When they moved in, the 1000 square metre block had a 69 square metre house with some red-hot pokers and two fruit trees. The house has since been extended to a modest and energy efficient 100 square metres. The couple selected the block for its generous northerly aspect, perfect for comfortable living and growing lots of produce.
Fiona has a permaculture background, including teaching alongside permaculture co-creator, David Holmgren in Victoria. She has also taught sustainability at Merici College in Braddon for some years. More recently, Fiona was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2020, to investigate urban farm ventures that provide vocational pathways for aspiring food growers.
Since 2013, Fiona has been growing and selling delicious pesticide free micro-greens, for weekly delivery to up to 30 local restaurants & cafes. Fiona explained that their micro-greens are grown in organic soil (rather than hydroponically), which means their shelf-life, flavour and nutrient content are outstanding. Up to 20 varieties are available at any one time. Fiona said that it takes anywhere from 6 to 14 days from sowing to sale, depending on the time of year. Excitingly, producing the micro-greens is a no-waste endeavour – the trays are reused, and the soil is composted.
The micro-greens and any seasonal veg seedlings are propagated in two well maintained glasshouses at the back of the property. Fiona waters them by hand as it gives her better control of how much water the plants get and where it lands, which equates to higher quality plants. The micro-greens are covered with frost cloth overnight during winter for extra protection.
The property is currently home to 54 fruit trees, multiple beehives, chickens and rabbits. Michael takes care of the fruit trees and beehives, and Fiona manages their micro-green enterprise during the week. On weekends, the couple potter in the garden together, including in the large veg growing area.
The family grow enough fruit and veg to last them year-round. Fresh fruit is enjoyed 10 months of the year and any surplus is bottled or sold. Veg is grown in multiple 1-metre-wide beds, which are topped up each season with organic matter, blood and bone, and Organic Xtra fertiliser (https://qldorganics.com.au/qld-product/organic-xtra/). The resident rabbit tractor is put to work, with ‘workers’ devouring any leftovers and weeds, turning the soil and leaving ‘nutrient deposits’. The beds are also tested and treated each year for any deficiencies.
Currently, there are over 17 varieties of winter veg growing and thriving in the garden, which Fiona says we need to plan well ahead for. Fiona uses a planting calendar developed by Joyce Wilkie from Allsun Farm Gundaroo: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwYK27Alu41mSmt1bVMxR3A5bHc/view?resourcekey=0-tvukasjiGA5aTgxiLmVfcg). Two of the beds are covered by tunnel houses, which keeps plants at least 5 degrees warmer. Watering is done by hand as needed during the cooler months and via sprinkler irrigation during summer.
Any garden waste is recycled using open-bay and insulated tumbler composting systems, as well as via a worm farm.