Health and happiness

Kim CousinsCountryman

Mimsbrook Farm is experiencing a rebirth. The well-known biodynamic farm in Darling Downs, near Armadale, has gone down a number of paths in its 17 1/2 -year history.

These include running workshops and opening an organic kitchen, but now the focus is back on the farm.

After closing their Victoria Park shop recently, Carmel Bainbridge and her son, Steven Bradtke, are happy to have returned to the farm and their on-site shop full time.

"We found we scattered out energies too much," Carmel said.

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"The attention was taken away from the farm, although there's nothing wrong with letting the cows have a graze. It's the cycle of farming.

"We're looking forward to revitalising the farm this year and getting back into growing."

Carmel and Steven, with help from Skipper the kelpie and other assorted animals, farm five hectares using biodynamic principles and are fully certified through Demeter.

"I read about biodynamics and thought I'd give it a go," Carmel said.

"I couldn't believe the structural change in the soil after (preparation) 500 spraying. After that I was converted.

"We also do a lot of composting and make a liquid tea with various manures and preparation 500 in it.

"As long as you're rotating and resting it's perfect."

About 120 chickens and a few cows play their part providing eggs and manure and helping with pest and weed control, while sheep and a miniature horse make "great little lawnmowers".

At the moment kale, silverbeet and tomatoes are grown on the farm with organic meat, grocery items and other seasonal produce sourced from Canning Vale markets and sold through the farm shop.

The plan is to work at growing more produce on site and hold regular market days, where people can meet, shop and learn more about where their food is coming from.

Carmel is a passionate advocate of the health benefits of organic produce and bought the farm after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I knew nothing when I started, I came here to recover," she said.

"We had citrus but there was a glut and we couldn't get rid of them."

Since that time, Carmel and Steven have gained enough knowledge to attain organic and biodynamic certification, run on-farm workshops and build up the business.

Organics and biodynamics are relatively young industries in WA, with a lot of produce needing to be sourced from the eastern states.

Carmel said although she found there was a lot of support from consumers, there just weren't enough local growers.

"There is a lot of talk but at the grassroots level," she said.

Mimsbrook Farm is also a promoter of Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, another aspect of biodynamics.

CSA is a different take on farmers markets where consumers make a commitment to the farm by pre-paying for weekly boxes of produce and are involved in the upkeep of the farm through busy bees.

"It gives us capital and an idea of what is wanted," Carmel said. "It's a wonderful situation - you get to know the farmer who's growing it. It also saves time for the farmer.

"People working together can do wondrous things."

For now, Carmel and Steven are happy to spend some time on the farm and grow what they can for the local market.

"This little farm needs our full-time attention," Carmel said. "It pays us back 100-fold with the peace and just by being here."

Mimsbrook Farm is open Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 9am to 1pm.

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