Samantha and Ray Palmer preparing their onions from the Symara Organic Farm
Samantha and Ray Palmer preparing their onions from the Symara Organic Farm Liana Walker

Pick 'n' mix for produce

OVER in The Summit lies Ray and Samantha Palmer's unique Symara Farm.

Unlike some of their larger neighbours, the Palmers are all about working collaboratively.

"It is a terrible shame that a lot more growers don't do this,” said Mr Palmer.

"We have another 10 farmers who contribute to a stall at the Northey Street markets.

"Which we do in collaboration with another two families.

"So we do farmers markets but we don't lose our weekends every week - it means we have a life.”

Ray and Samantha Palmer preparing their onions from the Symara Organic Farm
Ray and Samantha Palmer preparing their onions from the Symara Organic Farm Liana Walker

The farmers markets aren't the only thing the Palmers share.

They offer a pick and mix style of fruit box delivered to Stanthorpe, Tenterfield and Warick. Whichever produce they don't grow themselves comes from other local farms.

"Once a week I'll go out and we'll estimate what's available,” Mr Palmer said.

"We have five or six other local growers and they'll do the same thing

"So they'll go out and have a look and ask them what they anticipate they'll have on Wednesday.

"So our store actually has a limiting function.

"Once all of the onions are sold it disappears from the lists, it's first in first served.”

Out of the 20 different types of fruit and vegetables grown on the farm, the Palmers offer a variety of unique produce.

Candy striped beetroot from the symara organic farm
Candy striped beetroot from the symara organic farm Liana Walker

"We do a candy stripped beetroot which when you cut it open it's pink and white stripped,” he said.

"The other one which is going well for us is our zucchinis.

"We don't just grow the ordinary long green cylinders that everybody else does,

"We grow a whole mix of varieties that are all different shapes and sizes.

"They look really really cute, they're all different textures and sizes.”

A mix of zucchini and squash varieties from the Symara organic farm
A mix of zucchini and squash varieties from the Symara organic farm Liana Walker

Buying from the Symara farm you can expect to see some unique shaped produce as well.

"We don't really grade through our produce,” he said.

"As we pick it, if it's going to taste good and it's not going to go bad we sell it.

"Some people end up with carrots with three legs.

"We've even had things like carrots with two legs twisted around one another.”

Fresh onions from the symara organic farm
Fresh onions from the symara organic farm Liana Walker

Another unique factor is the farms certification. For the past 10 years the Symara farm has been certified organic, but recently has changed to an alternative.

"We have our own certification scheme for local markets and it's recognised that what we do is kind of a grass roots certification,” said Mr Palmer.

"We use the same book of rules as the organic standard,

"But instead of an auditor coming around who just wants to do as many farms in one day as they can, we have a panel of peers with a consumer representative.

"They do two things, one to make sure everybody is doing the right thing as far as growing things organically,

"But also to share information so we can all improve.”

Ray and Samantha Palmer preparing their onions from the Symara Organic Farm
Ray and Samantha Palmer preparing their onions from the Symara Organic Farm Liana Walker

Naturally certified farming is relatively new in Australia, however in the US and Canada it is well established.

"It's low cost certification for small growers that gives assurance that what you're eating has not been grown with synthetics which includes toxins,” said Mr Palmer.

However despite being naturally certified himself, he said organic farming isn't the be all and end all.

"I actually believe that it's more important to buy locally,” he said.

"A big part of what we do is working collaboratively with other farmers,” he said.

"I want to have a good network of farmers to work with.

"I don't want to be the only bidder at the last clearing sale.”

For more information or to order a box go to http://symarafarm.com.au

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