Albion Park’s organic growers
Being certified organic is no easy feat. Just ask Chris Bridger, co-owner of Mahbrook Organics. Together with his brother Adam, Chris took over the Illawarra’s largest certified organic farm four years ago, and managing the 22 hectares of lush green pastures nestled among the sprawling suburb of Albion Park is a fulltime commitment.
“Being certified organic means you’ve jumped through a lot of hoops to get there,” explains Chris. “We are audited every year, and there’s a substantial amount of money that gets invested into the process. For a lot of smaller growers, it’s not really feasible.”
Without synthetic chemicals or pesticides, Chris and Adam have to be innovative in how they protect their crops, which range from leafy salad greens like kale, lettuce and silverbeet, to herbs and purple garlic that thrive in the alluvial soil.
“We try to deal with problems on a cultural basis, which means removing the habitat for the pest,” says Chris. “That might mean opening the area up to more air flow or sunshine, or just ploughing things up and just starting again. Sometimes we’ve suffered big losses and unfortunately, there’s just not much we can do about it.”
Luckily for the brothers, who both wholesale and sell directly to markets in the Illawarra, people are increasingly recognising the benefits of buying organic and are willing to make the investment.
“It’s not just being organic; it’s being fresh. People are becoming more conscious of where their food comes from, realising that if something is grown in South Australia and sold in New South Wales, it’s at least four to five days old,” says Chris. “Can we replace the supermarkets? No. Can we educate the supermarkets and their shoppers? Yes.”