AN affinity with producing something he and wife Johanne can eat, and a history of farming for as long as he can remember, has seen Roger Hobday create Pinerock Garlic at Terramungamine, near Dubbo, NSW.
While Pinerock is largely a garlic operation, Roger and Johanne also produce flavour-infused salts which have proven a popular addition to their product line up.
Roger's family grew garlic when he was young and it caught his interest enough to create a 0.8 hectare (two acre) operation.
Roger and Jo run the operation with Roger doing all the ground work and preparation of the crops, while Jo does the salt infusion preparation and drying of the salts.
Roger does the bagging, bottling and labelling of the salts.
"It took quite a few tries to get the flavours right but we now have a process that infuses the flavours of the garlic, and the other ingredients, into the salt
"I can remember my family growing garlic when I was young, and it intrigued me enough for me to give it a good go," Roger said.
"I can't think of not growing something in my gardens that I can't eat.
"I know two acres isn't a lot of land, but we pack a lot into our raised garden beds.
"We are not big scale farming by any means, but soil is in our blood.
"We sell our garlic in either bags, loose, or in braids.
"We wanted to value add to a product that not only is tasty, but is good for you too and that's how we began the salts.
"It took quite a few tries to get the flavours right but we now have a process that infuses the flavours of the garlic, and the other ingredients, into the salt."
Roger and Jo have grown seven different varieties of garlic at Terramungamine and will be growing at least three this year.
"The first variety is one I have been growing since day one - Dynamite Purple.
"The second variety is called Rojo De-castro, and it is closely related to the Dynamite.
"Third one is Californian Late, a relatively 'standard' variety."
Predominantly, Pinerock garlic has sold its products at local farmers markets and fairs, as well as on the website.
As with any farming enterprise, soil preparation plays an integral part.
"The key to any farming practice whether you are a small backyard hack, or you are a multi-million dollar farming organisation is soil preparation," Roger said.
"I use rotational cropping procedures for my garlic crop, so I am always turning the soil over.
"I use a scarifier to dig down a bit deeper between crops and I also try to deep rip the area at least once a year prior to setting up the garlic beds before planting."
Years of experience has taught Roger what tools he requires to be successful.
"To make the shape of my beds, I made my own bed former which drags soil from around the area where the bed is to go and puts it into a swale type bed," he said.
"Once I have the soil in the spot I need the bed, I start putting some of the fertiliser and other inputs into the soil.
"I either apply by hand, or by liquid pumped directly into the soil of the bed.
"This is generally done at least two to three months before planting is started.
"This timing allows the nutrients to release their goodness into the soil.
"Once I'm happy with the nutrients applied, I run over the mound with the rotary-hoe to make the proper shape required.
"The beds are then left untouched for some time to let weeds emerge so I can eradicate at least one germination prior to planting.
"We don't use chemicals in our garlic production, so all weed control is either done by hand or mechanically.
"We haven't used any post planting mulch in the past, but this year we have already purchased lucerne hay to mulch our garlic after we plant this year."
Harvesting involves a digger Roger has made that goes underneath the bed, and cuts and releases the garlic.
The excess dirt is then knocked off the bulbs which are bundled into piles.
"We then cruise along and pick up the bundles and put them into the tractor bucket," Roger said.
"The loads go to the shed where we tie and bundle them, and hang on racks.
"The garlic hangs in the shed until the curing process has finished.
"We have fans running 24 hours a day to keep air flowing around them so they can dry out properly.
"After they have cured enough, we can then start braiding them or prepping them for sale."
Roger and Jo believe in keeping the soil healthy and microbially active.
"We use a rotational cropping technique at 100 per cent rotation," Roger said.
"Some people use a 33pc rotation strategy, but I find that can be a bit draining on the soil profile.
"I use a 100pc rotation so that I can plant leafy crops as well as legumes and also fumigatory crops to break disease cycles.
"Using this technique, I do not have any bad soilborne pathogens or disease.
"This also allows you to farm in the same area for far longer periods before needing to give the soil a break.
"The joy we get from growing and producing a product that people keep coming back for is what makes it enjoyable."
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