I just re-watched the video interview we made with Madeline 4 years ago when she was 21.  It’s still amazes me how grounded and focussed she was back then especially when I compare her to the rocket-head I and most of my peers were at that age.Four years on I caught up with Madeline to see how things have changed from those early days when she decided to leave university after a year and become a garlic farmer.  I called to her in Hobart where she has almost finished a bachelor of science at the University of Tasmania majoring in Botany.So does this mean you’ve stopped farming?No not at all.  For the last three years Mum and Dad have been keeping things going and I’ve been coming home for the key times; planting, harvesting, selling that sort of thing.

When are you coming home for this coming harvest?
I’ll be home in November when I graduate.  My two younger sisters, Talsy and Jacklan  will also be there to help out with harvest and cleaning, y’know the bad jobs, but they’re paid well (laughs).  And my grand parents Ian and Val will help out again with deliveries.

So now you’re about to harvest your 5th crop what’s your view of farming?

It’s not easy – I enjoy it – producing a good product that has the least impact on the property.  I thought I’d be a full-time farmer and farming is a love but I’m interested in other things.  We do need to develop organic farming more but conservation of plant communities and threatened species is also important which is what I’m learning about through botany.

What’s been hard about farming?

Everyone is working off farm so making it all fit it in is the hardest part.   But garlic is pretty flexible and robust which is why we chose it as a crop.

So has your garlic put you through uni?
(laughing) Yes, you could say that.And how’s the crop looking this year?There’s been lots of rain in Murrindal and everything’s well and truly up.What happens if it’s too wet or too dry?

Right now it can rain as much as it likes but if it’s too wet around harvest time our old potato harvester that lifts the bulbs can muck up soil   And if it dries up too early we have a water license to irrigate from the Murrindal River if necessary, but if they’re nearly ready it doesn’t matter.

How about varieties?

This year we’ve dropped white crook neck; it had lots of mould and didn’t store well and we’ve planted more purple and creole – which lasts up to a year.  We’ve also increased the elephant garlic.

The elephant is pretty amazing we had some at Fair Food a couple of months ago it makes russian garlic look small?

Yeah it’s really good but it can be a pain to harvest – the flowers are so big they rip the weed mat when we pull it off.

What else is new?

We’re doing more hops; only rhizomes not flowers for now.  We sell them all online through The Plant Shop – we’re doing cascade, chinook, goldings, hallataur, fuggles and saaz.  They’re bought mostly by home brewers and ornamental growers because they have nice flowers.

How big was last year’s garlic harvest and what’s this year’s looking like?Last year we harvested about 1 tonne of garlic, this years crop is a bit bigger but we don’t want to get too big because of the impact on the land.  It’s a really special country around here and we’re conscious not to ask too much of it.
What happens after you graduate?I’m doing honours but haven’t chosen a project yet.  Hopefully I can find something on the mainland a bit closer to home.


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