Busy mum Penny Brown, 35 is an organic farmer and lets us in on her life and work habits.
Tell us about the farm …
We farm seasonal organic vegetables and natural bush foods. Farming involves enriching the soil, sewing seeds and planting seedlings, weeding, protecting crops, dealing with farm pests and diseases, harvesting, and distributing or selling the produce.
We have a 25-acre farm located on the Shoalhaven river flats, east of Nowra. We employ 3 part time hands and work 3 days a week on the farm. The remainder of the week is spent in Sydney. I work approx 30 hours a week doing farm stuff.
I operate a stall at Paddington markets every Saturday. I also do the North Sydney Growers market every third Saturday of the month. The rest of my week is devoted to looking after my 3 daughters.
Where do you sell your produce?
We sell the produce from the farm mainly to the central coast market at Flemington and also to organic shops. We also sell to local restaurants in the area straight from the farm.
Is there a big market for organic produce?
The market for organic produce is constantly growing, it is a very exciting industry to be involved in.
Is it difficult to compete with big suppliers?
Competing with other big suppliers is not a problem, providing we maintain our quality. There is never enough organic produce available.
How did you get into this, and was it difficult to get started?
We got into this industry because we were looking for something to get us out of Sydney. We are in the interim stages of making sure that this is a viable business. Currently, we lease the farm. I’ve been a horticulturist for 15 years, with experience in nursery work, landscaping and bush regeneration.
It would be difficult to start an organic farm from scratch. It’s a lot of hard physical work. We took over the lease of our farm after it had been run as an organic farm for 10 years, so in some ways, a lot of the hard work had been done. Nevertheless, it’s never-ending, unrelenting work, and you really need to love it.
What is a typical day for you?
My children are the priority of my day – I have to meet all their needs before I can consider work. If I am at the farm their father or other family help out, and when I’m doing the markets their father has them. Days on the farm or at the markets start as early as 4:30am and often don’t finish till 7:30pm or later.
What’s the best part of your job?
The appreciation you receive from customers. They often say they have never eaten produce like it, they are totally blown away by the difference. At the market stall we sell produce that is picked the afternoon before, so it’s always wonderfully fresh.
What’s the worst part of your job?
When the exhaustion catches up on you, and then having to hold it all together because being a mum comes first.
What’s the average salary from small-scale farming?
There is no average salary. We have a comfortable life and really I’m not in this for the money, I do it because I love it.
For more information on where to buy Penny’s organic produce, call Earth Care Organics on 0413 627 587.