Tucked away down the end of an unsealed road in the Southern Flinders is a hidden gem which I had been told was well worth checking out. A small rural holding, home to Jackie and David O’Reilly.
Michael: Jackie this is quite interesting, you’re in the middle of a pine forest in this orchard, how big is it?
Jackie: Our orchard is around 17 acres or so, about 1200 fruit trees, very diverse.
Michael: It’s not just the orchard of course, but you get tourists here?
Jackie: Absolutely, we want to share something of what we’ve got, we really want to get people connected to the landscape and to the food, fresh food and show them that we can eat well, we don’t have to buy everything in a packet.
Jackie’s Paddock to plate philosophy sees her growing amazing fresh produce for local markets and visitors, anyone who loves to grow veggies or fruit will really enjoy a look around this certified Organic Orchard and see the results of Jackie’s impressive horticultural practices.
Michael: I have to ask you one other question about the fruit trees, in that you’ve got quite wide aisles or alleys and you’ve got vegetables planted in those alleys what’s the idea behind that?
Jackie: Well, traditionally fruit trees were planted much wider apart than they are today. And we’ve chosen to keep that less intensive system going because we do suffer from droughts and dry periods and we do have poorer soils up here so there’s more available food for the trees if they’re kept wider apart. But occasionally we will alley crop, with poly culture with vegetables through the centre of the fruit trees.
Michael: That’s a good idea.
Jackie: And it’s working probably better than we thought it would. It’s feeding both the trees and the vegetables, and seems to have a good result for 2 to 3 years to follow.
This would have to be a lifestyle many would envy, connecting with nature while being self-sufficient and sustainable.
Michael: This is a great example of growing in between the orchard?
Jackie: Italian, purple, full flavoured garlic, yes, which is alley cropped or poly cultured through the fruit trees.
Michael: It looks very healthy and grown in that wonderful compost that you’ve made; now when will these be ready?
Jackie: These will be ready the first week of December, and they’re just looking for a few warm days to shrug off the cold and get moving.
Michael: Well Jackie I’m going to beat all the tourist because I’m going to get up here the first week in December and get some!
Jackie: Very good, very good Michael. You might have to help with digging it!
Michael: You cannot beat Australian home grown garlic. It’s the best.
Jackie: Thank you, it’s good to grow it too.
Michael: So when would be the time people could visit and enjoy the beautiful fruit?
Jackie: We have people come in all year round to be honest with you; we have a lot of produce a lot of fresh produce coming in from November through to June. We welcome people to come into our packing shed and buy whatever is on offer, and have a little bit of a chat to us, if however they would like a broader farm experience they can book and we will take the time to show and tell what we do, and we love feeding people so we’re happy to cook for them.
Michael: And what would you cook for example?
Jackie: It’s always seasonally inspired Michael. Because of our cold winter, spring bud burst has been a little slow but that generally means excellent cropping.
Michael: So Jackie, when will the asparagus be ready do you think?
Jackie: I reckon that’s ready, mmm.
Michael: Okay way you go, nice and crispy. Mmmm… look at that. I suppose it’s got a bit of a (snap) how goods that? Oh yummy. So you let them get about that big?
Jackie: Yep. Michael: Buddle them up, and take them off to market. Jackie: Yes.
Michael: So how olds bed?
Jackie: This bed is 4 years old.
Michael: And that’ll go for years I guess?
Jackie: Looking about 20 years. It’s well looked after, we compost it every winter, put on a layer of mulch over the top and the asparagus as you can see comes up nice and clean.
Michael: Unbelievable taste, fantastic.
Jackie: It’s so nutritious as well. Good bang for buck calorie wise.
Michael: Is that right.
Jackie: Mmm because it’s highly nutritious but very low in calories. Very nutritious, very high in vitamins and minerals.
Allow a couple of hours to really soak up this orchard. Jackie is very open with her knowledge and eager to talk about the things she clearly loves: the slow food philosophy and growing organic produce.
Michael: Hey David and Jackie, you have got an oasis here, plus an orchard in the middle of a state forest it is beautiful and so is this tart. Jackie: I hope you enjoy it Michael, it’s that beautiful asparagus we’ve just been picking. Michael: Jackie and David it doesn’t get any better sitting on this beautiful deck about to enjoy this wonderful organic food thank you. Jackie: Bon appetite. Michael: Bon Appetite. Now salad…