Laura Pennington, Candlarah Farm

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Share our Journey…

What led you to leave Sydney and make the tree change?

Twenty years of life on Sydney’s beautiful Northern Beaches was fantastic. However, the feeling that some kind of plateau had been reached nibbled away at us, and we were keen for a chance to stretch ourselves. The children, 12 and 10 years old at the time, loved animals, creating and being outside. It was March 2010. We made a rather rash decision to move and start a new life by July.   

I watched my English grandad cover his vegetables with cloches and loved hearing stories about my Aussie grandparents’ vegetable gardens in outback South Australia. Childhood memories of sitting around a farmhouse table shelling peas with the family and staying up late to help harvest honey eventually lured us out of our city cocoon. 

We hankered to connect with the land.   

Tell us a little bit about Candlarah Farm?

Candlarah is an acronym of our names. Discovering 100 acres of undulating land in Firefly, we set about building a house, farm and garden simultaneously, along with exploring ways to make an income and settling into life in a new place.   

Currently, we grow Aloe Vera, edible flowers, succulents, herbs and vegetables, and run a handful of cattle, a dozen chooks and several adored pets. A stall at Nabiac Farmers’ market, selling Aloe Vera plants and products provides a great outlet each month. Succulent arrangements commissions, together with providing edible flowers directly to local cafés help promote the farm.

Starting with a tight budget, the four of us built nearly everything ourselves, along with help and support from amazing friends and local trades. It makes us proud to see the benefits of our hard work and passion. We pored over many ideas and attended courses and workshops.

Our children have been fully involved with building, cattle handling, digging and many moons of fencing. Whether it’s pitching a tent in the back paddock, splitting firewood or breaking in a newborn foal, the farm has equipped our children with a wide range of skills.

Friends and family loved to visit and be a part of the evolving farm. This led to the catch phrase, “Share Our Journey”.

 

What where the major challenges when establishing the farm?

Soil, weather, time, and money. We found that farming is multi-faceted, changeable and far more complex than we had envisaged.  

A knowledgeable and wise farmer ran the local Dyers’ Crossing Landcare group. We learned so much from him, and being a part of Landcare has been an integral part of our journey. Attending a Holistic Management course with Inside Outside Management has been influential in helping to shape our progress, educating in goal-setting, land management and decision making. I highly recommend this course. 

What have you learnt about life on the farm?

  • Creating and nurturing healthy soil is key to healthy nutrition.  
  • Learning how it satisfying it feels to grow and enjoy fresh produce, and create home remedies.
  • Be open to ideas and receptive to new knowledge. Each time we learn something new, it broadens our perspective.
  • Learn from mistakes and document your progress.
  • How great it is to be a part of this wonderful community, where people support each other, network and share ideas.
  • Life on the land is fun and once your hands are in the soil, everything else fades away.

The farm consists of an edible garden, succulents, animals and your love for the Aloe Vera plant. Where did your passion for Aloe Vera originate?

The interest in Aloe stems from a personal lifelong interest in natural health and nutrition and also from an elderly neighbour, who stated Aloe Vera as the answer to every ailment!

What are some of the health benefits of Aloe Vera?

The inner leaf gel from Aloe Vera (Barbadensis Miller), has been long known for its skin healing properties and is widely used throughout the world for a variety of skin and gut ailments. These healing benefits are due to Aloe’s antiviral and antibacterial properties. It contains 18 Amino Acids and Vitamins A, B, C and E. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can improve circulation. It is water-based and naturally soothing, therefore is great to use in beauty remedies. 

Tell us about your handmade Aloe Vera products.

Wound Warrior is the most popular product. This is Aloe Gel, with turmeric and raw local honey, for extra healing. It’s an all-rounder for minor skin abrasions, burns and insect bites. 

Blemish Blaster has been developed by my daughter, for young, sensitive skin. This Aloe gel with rosewater and Vitamin E provides a soothing toner, which can be applied on its own, or before a moisturiser.

The latest product is our nourishing Body Butter, with shea, rose-hip oil, honey and Aloe.

Do you have any tips for growing an edible garden?

Invest time in preparing the area; the most successful garden bed we have was first improved by running chickens to dig it over. Set up worm farms/composting systems and a good water supply. Ideally, have varied spaces in terms of shade and sun. Read up about soil, rotating crops, companion planting and natural pest management. Include edible flowers – delicious, pretty, nutritious and perfect for bees. 

What are your plans for the future of Candlarah Farm?

To hold small-group workshops for people with mixed abilities and interest groups. Running pasture raised pigs is also in the plan. We’ve started building a pigsty in a Cordwood structure, with areas for their pasture and wallowing.

How can we find out more about Candlarah Farm?

www.candlarahfarm.com

Book a visit – 0409 997 309.

Visit our stall at Nabiac Farmers’ Market – the last Saturday of every month.

Products are also available at the Greenhouse Café, Nabiac, and Go-Vita, Forster and Taree.

Thanks Laura.

Interview: Bronwyn Davis

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