AS a youngster, Hayden Bogicevic got a taste for growing on the family farm at Pearcedale on the Mornington Peninsula, riding along on the tractor and watching his dad in action.
That passion for growing never left Hayden, even while following his football dreams, playing in Cairns, and working as a landscape gardener.
For two years now, Hayden has been back in Victoria, managing the family business, Coolibah Herbs.
Spread over spread over 12 properties and 2500 hectares throughout the state, Coolibah Herbs grows salad greens, bunched herbs and some seasonal vegetables like cauliflower, pumpkin and zucchini.
They produce roughly 5200 tonnes of product per year, selling domestically while also exporting to Malaysia, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.
After his nine year stint playing football, it was a no-brainer for Hayden to take a nursery manager's role which opened up when he returned.
"I would do casual shifts as a teenager, before I moved to Cairns," he said.
"I moved back to Pearcedale in 2017 and have been running our nursery since then."
Agriculture is one of the most important industries in the world. So as the population grows, we need to find more sustainable and productive ways to produce nutritious food.
"My duties include ordering fertiliser, chemicals (mostly organic), seeds and equipment; completing our spraying and feeding programs; organising varieties and quantity of seedlings; maintaining both conventional and organic hothouses; and managing our nursery staff.
"I learned from my father who has been in this business now for over 40 years, so anything I need help with, I go to him.
"I also discuss any changes we may need to make in pest and disease management, or any new innovations with our agronomist.
"I am currently moving across to become more involved in our operations team as well.
"I want to help the business excel in growing organic produce, and look out for new and innovative ways to keep improving in this area.
"Agriculture is one of the most important industries in the world.
"People need to eat, so as the population grows, we need to find more sustainable and productive ways to produce nutritious food that people want to eat."
As with any growing operation, soil health is of vital importance to Hayden and the team at Coolibah herbs.
"We have our own composting site where we turn our green waste along with local council's green waste into a compost that contains beneficial organisms that help rejuvenate our soil," Hayden said.
"We also use a blend of green/cover crops throughout our growing cycles to introduce more organic matter into the soil.
"We prioritise the use of organic sprays and fertilisers over conventional ones whenever we can."
An eye on the sky
PARTS of Victoria are well-known for their interchangeable weather and the Mornington Peninsula is one of them.
Hayden Bogicevic's role at Coolibah Herbs is not only nursery manager, but informal weather person as well.
"The main issue we have is trying to anticipate the seasonal changes in the weather like from autumn to winter, then winter to spring and so on," Hayden said.
- Design firm calls on developers to include food spaces
- Tasmania's "Harvest Moon" says it all | OPINION
- Two Victorian border food charities will benefit from donated fresh produce
"Also being on the peninsular, the rapid change in weather and vast difference in weather and temperature from summer to winter is a bit of a challenge as these changes make it harder to predict the cycles of pests and diseases."
"We use integrated pest management along with weekly monitoring of all crops to help determine the best approach in reducing pest numbers.
"We have conventional and organic farms, so have different procedures.
"Organically we use eco oils, beneficial fungi and bacteria that we apply by foliar sprays or fertigation to combat pest issues such as diamond back moth, cabbage moth, aphids, thrips and leaf miner.
"We plant flowering native bushes and plants to help promote ideal living conditions for our beneficial bug populations, which keep the invasive pest numbers down.
"Conventionally we use the same approach and only use pesticides when pest numbers get out of control."
Water efficiency is also important with the operation having dedicated dams on each farm.
Sign up here to Good Fruit and Vegetables weekly newsletter for all the latest horticulture news each Thursday...