Cash for compost a growth market

ORGANIC compost is the latest addition to the agricultural operation of young Karangi farmer William Archer.

The 28-year-old, who placed second in the 2005 Nescafe Big Break competition for his development and promotion of hives for native stingless bees, now also grows organic blueberries and vegetables.

When he lost a crop of blueberries and some of his plants to flooding rain and an infestation of Argentinian scarab grubs, he looked for another cash ‘crop’ and hit on organic compost.

Mr Archer uses the compost, based on horse manure and cooked at a temperature of 70°C, on his own blueberry orchard and vegetable garden and knew it was effective but he said he had been surprised by the enthusiasm from customers and the level of demand for the product.

He sells the compost directly to gardeners at the Hilltop Organics farm gate on Coramba Road and at local markets.

“I didn’t think it would sell all that well, but it is really popular,” he said.

“People can’t believe the veges they can grow with it and it is good for retaining moisture.

“People are getting results, that is the main thing”.

The blueberries and compost operations are keeping the dedicated young organic farmer so busy he has not had time to further expand his stingless bees operation, with all his spare hives hired out to other North Coast blueberry farmers for pollination or in use in his own crops.

He is now looking to expand his compost sales to nurseries up and down the Mid North Coast.

Not one to step back from a challenge, Mr Archer said one of the aims of his blueberry orchard was to prove the pundits wrong.

“I was told by the experts that you can’t grow blueberries organically,” he said.

“Most people are usually wrong.”

He admits there is a lot of hard work involved, including finding a way to deal with the problems of the introduced Argentinian scarab, which he said he was the first to identify and report in the area several years ago.

He now combats the root-chewing pest with the use of beetle-attracting light boxes with water to drown the beetles and the introduction of benign native nematodes to his orchard soil to combat the grubs.

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