Learn how to be an organic, urban farmer in just one hour

CLOSED LOOP: David Sivyer, left, and Karl Nyman at the Cardiff site of Organic Feedback Recovery. Picture: Melinda McMillan
CLOSED LOOP: David Sivyer, left, and Karl Nyman at the Cardiff site of Organic Feedback Recovery. Picture: Melinda McMillan

FEEDBACK Organic Recovery has been operating in Newcastle since 2015.

In that time the small business, operated by David Sivyer and Karl Nyman, has gone from strength to strength turning waste into soil for the production of food. 

The production system sees food scraps, collected weekly from about 20 cafes and restaurants in the Hunter Valley, turned into compost.

 The organic material is then used to grow food, which is resold the same cafes and restaurants who supply the waste. 

“It is a closed loop,” Mr Nyman said.

“The waste is an input for us. Farming organically is all about soil management and soil conditioning.

“You have to keep augmenting that soil and that’s where the waste becomes really important for us.” 

The small-scale farming operation has plots at Cardiff, Wallsend and the University of Newcastle. Together they cover about about half a hectare, and produce about 80kg of veggies each week. 

“We grow tomatoes, rocket, tatsoi, radish, beets, carrots, coriander, mustard greens, rainbow Swiss chard, and kale,” Mr Sivyer said. 

Bio-dynamic farming practices are used to grow the food and to manage pests. 

“Aphids still come and say g’day, but that’s just part of running a small farm,” Mr Sivyer said.

“It’s a battle against cabbage moth, as well as galahs and cockatoo.”

Mr Nyman said they let “nature do its thing”, but that made management of the production system “labour intensive”. 

“We use manual interventions, weeding, nets … organics means we can’t spray, so all our practices use nature or our hands,” he said. 

To meet that end, they have introduced the “One Hour Farmer” program. 

 “People come and volunteer and they get some produce for doing that,” Mr Sivyer said. 

“It’s the most worthwhile part of this, to engage the community, to encourage behavioural change about where your food comes from. 

“We get some help and they get some great experiences about how to grow organically and how to close their own food loop. 

“We have had a couple of hundred people come through in the last year or two.” 

As well as supplying restaurants, they also provide veggies boxes to the Beanstalk Organic Co-op and sell produce direct to the general public at Newcastle City Farmers Markets every Sunday. 

To find out how to become a One Hour Farmer visit the website: feedbackorganic.com.au