THERE isn't much you can't grow in the Manjimup and Pemberton region, and the Three Ryans farm is testament to that.
Since its inception, the farm has grown everything from canola, onions, apples, pears, cauliflower, broccoli, sweetcorn and pumpkin to potatoes, while also running sheep, cows, chickens and marron.
The family business, which covers about 161 hectares of land near Manjimup, was started by John Ryan and his two brothers, before it was handed down to John's sons, Ian and Gary, with his third son, Peter, managing the distribution side of the business in Perth.
After Ian and Gary parted ways about six years ago, Gary continued the Three Ryans operations with his wife, Tracey and their son, Jake Ryan.
Cauliflower, broccoli and kale now form a large part of their cropping rotation, and business seems to be going well for the family.
Reflecting on the past few years, Gary said the onset of the pandemic in early 2020 saw a dramatic increase in the profit margin of their crops.
"When COVID first hit, we went from seven bins a week of kale to 57 bins," Mr Ryan said.
"We reckon they started buying kale when they ran out of toilet paper.
"It seemed like people were trying to get healthy all of a sudden, and because everyone was cooking at home, there was probably a lot more wastage."
While their most profitable crops vary from year to year depending on the market, cauliflower is the farm's main breadwinner currently and, prior to that, it was their cabbages.
"Cauliflower requires the highest labour content, but it also has the highest return if you get it right," Gary said.
While their bottom line hasn't been affected, the farm hasn't been immune to the worker shortages that continue to plague the State's agricultural and horticultural industry.
Thankfully, six backpackers they already had on their books when COVID first hit, continued working for them until harvest that year, getting them through their 2020 season.
"After that we got onto the Pacific Islander scheme, so we've had Tongans working for us during our growing seasons from November to May each year," Jake said.
"We have a cabbage harvester, which picks our cabbages for us, but the Tongans are such good workers that they pick them quicker than the harvester and they prefer that, so they ended up picking them by hand this season."
Only putting in the ground what has already been contracted, Three Farmers has operated in good faith over the years, weeding out those customers who don't do the right thing by them so they continue to only have genuine and fair deals with their clients.
"Our customers put in their order for next season and we will sometimes have to modify our price to make up for the higher price of our inputs," Gary said.
"They don't always take what they contract and we don't always supply what we're contracted for - but it's an indication of a set volume and a set price and there's no penalties either way.
"If they don't play the game fairly though we won't deal with them the following year - we stick by those that are genuine and loyal to us and do the right thing.
"It's taken 40 years for us to get to that stage."
Proud of their sustainable farming practices, Three Farmers moved away from conventional tillage to stripped tillage for their vegetables, which Jake said was horticulture's most viable version of no tillage.
"We looked at no-till, but the technology is not quite there yet, so this is our next best thing," he said.
"We've gone from five tillage passes down to one and saved about 10,000 litres of fuel in one year.
"That's a big saving - especially with fuel prices the way they are at the moment."
As the price of farm inputs continue to rise, Three Ryans has found ways to control costs, reducing its fertiliser input by about 60 per cent and making all of its own foliar fertilisers from scratch, with the results successful so far.
Also running about 1000 ewes and 40 cows, the farm embraces holistic grazing practises, moving livestock daily so it is on fresh grass, resulting in an increased stocking rate.
"We had 700 ewes at one stage and now we're up to 1000," Jake said.
"The sheep are mated for fat lambs, so half of them are Merino and the other half are multi-meat, which is a composite gene breed that has a high fertility gene it in, so they have a lot of twins and triplets,
"Last year we marked about 140, so we are trying to beat that again this year."
Three Ryans' cropping rotation consists of one year of vegetables and then four years of pasture, to help regenerate the soils for their next vegetable crop.
With their vegetable crops covering about 30 hectares this year, the farm also has 34 hectares of canola planted as well as an additional 26ha that is shared with other farmers in the region.
"While it's not a whole lot of canola, it yielded about 3.1 tonnes per hectare last year, so its high yielding, high rainfall per soils," Jake said.
In regards to the farm's income, vegetables account for about 70 per cent, with the rest made up between their cow, sheep and chicken operations.
Supplying their vegetables to both Coles and Woolworths, through the months of summer, Three Farmers produce can be found within the bagged coleslaws in each supermarket's aisles, while its premium cauliflowers are supplied to Bunbury Farmers Market and Gilberts.
While Three Farmers cauliflower rice and eggs have their own label and are found in the more upmarket IGA's in Perth, Jake said it had been too hard a task to get their own label onto their vegetables.
However, in an effort to try and spread the word about the importance of buying locally, Three Farmers has continued to take part in various agri-tours over the years.
"Genuinely Southern Forests were the original organisation that really kicked off the whole agri-tour group thing in our region, and then we also started doing agri-tours with Matters of Taste cooking school in Perth as well as Donnelly River Cruises, so in one year we could have up to 20 different tour groups visiting our farm," Jake said.
"It's always nice to teach people where their food is grown, how it's grown and to make conscious decisions while they're shopping to buy local food where they can.
"You don't make too much money out of it but you get a lot of good feedback and those people obviously help spread the word."
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