Sustainable farmers of the year keep tradition alive

Friday, 22 January 2016

Wallacia couple Joe and Karen Bugeja were named Sustainable Farmers of the Year

The award was presented in a national award ceremony at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre this month.

Run by the Centre for Organic Education and Research, the Consumer Choice Awards are a National Organic Week initiative and recognise outstanding farmers, organic retailers and products.

The Mayor of Penrith, Cr Karen McKeown, congratulated the Bugeja's saying the story behind their success was inspirational and one that every local producer can emulate.

"The family have farmed in Wallacia for 30 years," Cr McKeown, one of Council's Sustainability Champions, said. "Three years ago they were forced to shut down the 40-hectare farm because the soil quality was so poor. But Joe and Karen used sustainable practices to turn the land around and keep the family tradition alive."

The turn-around started when the couple applied a simple mulch of lawn clippings and household and garden organics to their depleted land. "I noticed a big difference in the soil quality within just six months," Joe said.

This method not only saved the farm, it's meant the family now uses far fewer chemicals and has improved the quality of run-off from their land into the Nepean River.

"We now use mainly mulch and an organic seaweed solution. Some of our crops are grown organically with no synthetic chemicals at all," he said.

The farm's water use has also been reduced, but, thanks to the improved soil quality, yields have increased.

"It's more like farming in the 1960s," Joe said. "And most of our produce only travels about 50 kilometres - to shoppers at Sydney markets as well as some produce sold through a local shop where Karen works."

Cr McKeown said the Bugeja's approach mirrored Council's commitment to sustainability.

"Through Penrith's 3-bin system, Council and its community has drastically reduced the amount we send to landfill," she said. "Instead this waste is turned into compost that we use to keep our playing fields and parks in top condition."

"Each of Council's 44 services is led by a set of sustainability practices and all our decisions are balanced against these values. Whether it's reducing our carbon footprint by installing more energy efficient street lighting, running workshops on eliminating food waste, or the 'No Laminating Challenge' run by our childcare centres, we're always looking for ways to be more sustainable."

Information contained within this news release was correct as at Friday, 22 January 2016.