Meckering native, organic cut flower farm blossoms

Meckering native, organic cut flower farm blossoms

Life & Style
> Keen gardener and now a native cut flower farmer, Steph Cutmore, along with husband Luke and daughters Elara, 6, and Indie, 3, has started developing a flower farm on her Meckering property, Indara Farms.

> Keen gardener and now a native cut flower farmer, Steph Cutmore, along with husband Luke and daughters Elara, 6, and Indie, 3, has started developing a flower farm on her Meckering property, Indara Farms.

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Indara Farms is currently in the early stages of being developed into a native, organic cut flower farm, with plantings having recently started.

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TO UTILISE her 44 hectare Meckering property in order to make an income, Steph Cutmore knew she had to get creative.

Like many young families, Steph and her husband Luke wanted some acreage to raise their daughters Elara, 6, and Indie, 3, so they purchased a small rural property in the Wheatbelt town three years ago.

Luke works away in the mining industry and Steph wanted a job that would allow her to be creative, complement raising her girls, be able to work from home and utilise their property, Indara Farms.

Having been studying permaculture for a few years, Steph developed a love for gardening which she had channelled into a vegetable garden.

Now she has found a way to incorporate her studies, love for gardening and passion for sustainability into a small farm business on her property.

Indara Farms is currently in the early stages of being developed into a native, organic cut flower farm, with plantings having recently started.

"A native flower farm is suited to our region, with our climate and soils," Steph said.

"I knew that a typical market garden wouldn't suit and that we needed to do something a bit different, so using native wildflowers made sense.

"The flowers we will be growing are mostly endemic WA species with some annual flowers to get us going right away."

> Elara helping her mum choose tube stock from Westgrow Farm Trees, Meckering, for the native woodland.

> Elara helping her mum choose tube stock from Westgrow Farm Trees, Meckering, for the native woodland.

The flower garden is located behind the family's house and work has begun to establish it, including the garden beds being pegged out.

The property was once a lavender farm and old lavender plants still reside.

Some of the old lavender has already been removed and some will stay.

By this spring Steph is aiming for the garden to be well and truly underway, with the annual flowers that should be ready to cut in just a few months however she is not expecting to harvest any large native flowers until after two to three years.

The garden will be based on permaculture practices, which Steph said "mimics nature".

"Because it will be a polyculture garden (mixed species), that will bring in different beneficial insects and a diverse range of plants will help deter pests," she said.

"Plants will be strategically planted to act as pest deterrents for others and attract beneficial insects.

"Making our own organic compost will also help prevent disease and we have worm fertiliser from our worm farm."

Steph said the beauty about using native flowers is they require very little watering.

"We will need to supplement water for the first year but after that they will use very little water," she said.

"Some annual flowers may need some irrigation, but they are still appropriate to our climate so it won't be too much, and we will install a rainwater tank for watering."

The native woodland will form an essential part of the garden, as it will act as a shelter belt, wind break and attract beneficial insects and birds.

The native woodland will form an essential part of the garden, as it will act as a shelter belt, wind break and attract beneficial insects and birds.

Around the perimeter of the garden will be a native woodland with banksias, which will act as a shelter belt and wind break, and also help attract beneficial insects and small birds.

Planting of the woodland has already started.

"We are using tube stock (seedlings) for the woodland, as they are less likely to shock," Steph said.

"We have been getting them from a local business, Westgrow Farm Trees and Muchea Farm Trees."

The crops will be planted in rotations and also lightly grazed with chickens.

The garden itself is being built in two stages, with stage one measuring 100 metres x 50m, which will be replicated in stage two.

"Designing the garden took months to get right, because it was about determining what will grow well and what the industry wants," she said.

Although the farm is still in its infancy and Steph has no products to sell yet, she has identified a market where there is demand for native cut flowers.

"I know an event florist who was based in the Wheatbelt and she had to close her business because she couldn't get any flowers locally so had to get them from Perth and the cost of travel was not justifiable for her to keep open," she said.

"And because I will have the woodland, I will be able to supply foliage, filler and flowers, so florists could get the whole lot for their events."

> Chickens will play a vital role in the garden, which is based on permaculture practices.

> Chickens will play a vital role in the garden, which is based on permaculture practices.

She said that COVID also prompted more demand for native cut flowers.

"It's called the slow flower movement," she said.

"It's similar to what has been happening with food for a while now, in that people are wanting to buy what's local and in season.

"Australians need to value the native flowers that we have more.

"A huge number of countries grow Australian native wildflowers and Australia even buys our own wildflowers back in, which just doesn't make sense.

"And with that we don't know what chemicals are used and there's biosecurity risks."

In terms of the challenges that lie ahead for Indara Farms, Steph said there are two areas to watch for.

"On the growing side, getting the flowers through their first summer will be a challenge," she said.

"It's a long, hot and dry summer.

"And there's also the market side - I don't know how it's going to go until I have a product to sell and see exactly what demand is out there.

"Using natives means we will have flowers all year round to sell."

She plans to ease into the market by selling bouquets at markets in the Wheatbelt, then as the farm is more established and the business is more well-known, she would start approaching wholesalers and florists.

The lush vegetable garden of Indara Farms. Steph's love for gardening started with growing her own produce.

The lush vegetable garden of Indara Farms. Steph's love for gardening started with growing her own produce.

The flowers that are being grown will also dry well as dried flowers have increased in popularity according to Steph, likely due to the push to be more sustainable.

So she also plans to offer dried flowers and will dry them herself.

"My aim is to be eco-friendly and have no waste, even down to things like not using plastic to wrap bouquets," she said.

"I am looking forward to doing the bouquet design myself and being creative with that."

Steph has always been a creative person and now can turn her creativity towards the flowers.

"I wasn't really a flower buyer until I became a gardener and then I started growing my own flowers and appreciated them more," she said.

"I love having a vegetable garden - it's hands on, I'm always learning how to grow better and how to grow new plants, when to seed, how much spacing they need and how and when to harvest."

Gardening became her hobby the more she studied permaculture, which is a course that she decided to take on a fluke because "I liked the look for the lifestyle".

"I rocked up to my first permaculture class and had only grown a tomato from an established plant and thought why not give it a go," she said.

"My first course was two weeks full-time and I walked away with my mind blown.

"From there I wanted to learn more."

The old lavender farm on the property. Some plants have been removed and some will stay and form part of the garden.

The old lavender farm on the property. Some plants have been removed and some will stay and form part of the garden.

Steph completed her Certificate III and IV and is currently doing her Diploma through Ross Mars at Candlelight Farm, Mundaring.

"Permaculture helped me get an overall design perspective for our vegetable garden and where the chickens needed to go, and all about sector analysis (wind direction, sunrise and sunset etc)."

Along with producing beautiful native wildflowers, Steph said she might look into sharing her passion about permaculture and sustainable gardening with others.

"I'm thinking that maybe I could even hold some education on the farm with the flowers, but that would be a while away," she said.

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