April 2014

The April visit by Women on Farms West Gippsland was to Devon Meadows.  Here, on the Schreurs’ vegetable property, members learned how leeks, baby cos, endive, parsnips, radicchio, kohl rabi, wombok and other bunched vegetables are grown.

When Peter Schreurs migrated from Holland in 1954 he worked on his uncle’s vegetable farm.  By 1958 he was able to purchase his first 20 acres. Over the decades his holding subsequently grew to the 525 acres he and his three sons work today.

The Schreurs family works in harmony with the environment so that the farm is sustainable.  They have reduced the amount of chemicals used and concentrate more on soil biology, introducing  integrated pest management. It is no surprise that they have won awards for sound farming practices.

Healthier soils present less problems, with use made of pest-specific biological sprays to avoid harm to beneficial insects.  With the help of an entomologist they determined that eliminating certain insects was detrimental.  They use mostly liquid humus and seaweed for plant growth.  All green waste from the vegetables is composted and spread back onto the soil along with green manure crops,  all being ploughed back in before seedlings are planted.

The 400 megalitre dam took three years to complete during which time they suffered a flood and had to cease work.  Peter suggested that it is easier to cope with a drought. They are able to store plenty of water but in a flood water doesn’t drain away.

Of the seven vegetable varieties produced most are planted as seedlings while the others are direct drilled into the soil.  Crops are rotated annually and ph tests are  conducted yearly. Recently, cosberg lettuce, basically a cross between an iceberg and cos, was added to the products grown on the Schreurs property.

The workforce needs vary with about 35 staff employed permanently, increasing to 60 employees during peak times. In summer 600,000 leeks per week are harvested. Distribution of such vegetables, locally, interstate and to Japan is by contractors.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. There is no need to be actively farming to participate.  For more details contact secretary, Jean Irvine, ph. 0429488156, or go to our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the monthly program.

For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.