Vlog coming soon!
Want to know more about our farming operations, and why we do what we do?
In 2019, much of Australia was impacted by one of the worst droughts we have faced in our history. During that time, Hosanna Farm was impacted in ways we have never experienced before. It's quite easy to be a farmer with climate such as ours, so when the rain didn't come, we were unprepared for what came next.
We've learned some hard lessons, but the biggest lesson we've learned is that we must change the way we farm to ensure that those impacts will never be experienced as severely again.
We've been learning about Regenerative Agriculture for years, and our implementation has been slow, but now is the time for us to make some big changes in the way we farm and put into practice what we've been learning.
In a nut shell what is regenerative farming and how is it applied at Hosanna?
At Hosanna we seek to achieve this by increasing pasture quality through strategic no-till seeding, carefully managed high density strip grazed cattle rotations and symbiotically using free range pasture feed chickens to eat the fly larve from 3 day old cow pats and spread this valuable compost over the ground. We also carefully use pigs to optimise soil health, milking goats to graze through our scrub, market gardens to grow in house produce, bees to help pollinate and produce honey and diverse orchards for seasonal fruit.
Behind the scenes at Hosanna. Discover our victories and follow our challenges and we learn the ways of working with the nature and journey into the regenerative word of symbiosis.
Compost and Vermiculture at Hosanna
At Hosanna we have 3 levels of both composting and worm farming operations which showcase how compost and worms can be scaled from the suburban household to the commercial garden. Our aim is to use both custom-built, large scale processes and equipment as well as off-the-shelf, small and medium home-based setups so that you can see first-hand how these integral components to waste management and food production can easily fit your circumstances. Whether you’re a couple in an inner-city apartment, a large family with a big back-yard, a homestead with huge veggie gardens or a market-garden on acreage, compost and worms should be a part of your life and we want to show you not only how, but why.
Our smallest composting setup is an off-the-shelf compost tumbler. These units range in size and price but can be purchased and setup quite easily on your balcony, or in your back yard. Suited for the small home, we use a tumbler here at Hosanna adding only waste created by the equivalent of a household of 2-3 people. That includes garden waste and lawn clippings from a small back-yard, collected leaf litter from a handful of trees and some kitchen scraps as well as the odd newspaper, cardboard box or shredded paper from the office. The only extra piece of equipment used is a lawnmower to cut the grass clippings and to mulch the leaf litter to speed up the process. A 120L tumble composter, used correctly will yield approximately 0.06m³ every 3-6 weeks. If you had two 4x1m raised veggie garden beds you’d be able to top these with the required 4cm of compost in spring and autumn and still have some left over for your houseplants and dwarf fruit trees in pots.
For each of our compost setups we try to maintain a 2-3:1 Brown:Green (or Carbon:Nitrogen) ratio. Browns being things like leaves, wood-chips, sawdust, shredded paper, cardboard, pine needles and straw. Greens (which are sometimes brown in colour – now that’s helpful!) include; kitchen scraps, lawn clippings (fresh or dry), coffee grinds, pulled weeds (as long as they don’t have seed heads) and manure from herbivorous pets and animals such as the bedding from a guinea-pig cage or bag of horse manure from a nearby hobby-farm.
Our medium sized setup is actually one we used for many years here on the farm because of how cheap and versatile it is as well as being incredibly scalable. It’s the classic DIY pallet-bin and can suit anything from a small family back-yard to a market garden. Constructed out of compostable materials itself, being wooden pallets and jute twine we keep these bins filled year-round with home garden waste, groundskeeping waste from our business, some kitchen scraps, straw and old bedding materials from our animals. Since moving to windrow composting for our market garden (more on that in a minute) we’ve scaled our pallet-bin setup back to just 3 bays so you can see how they function and how much work is involved in maintaining them (not much). At one point we had a 6-bay rotation going for our gardens and they would produce anywhere from 6-12m³ of compost per year depending on how well we worked them. At that scale you’d probably consider building them sturdy enough and wide enough to allow your small tractor to get in and turn the piles, but with just 2-3 bays and a good quality compost (or mulch) fork we spend less than half an hour a week managing them and yield enough compost to keep a 50m² homestead garden growing strong healthy plants – enough to feed a family of 5 most of their fruits and veggies in a year, as well as extra for building soil fertility back into a small goat or house-cow paddock. Extra tools used in this setup include a mulch fork ($40), a small garden mulcher/shredder ($150) and a basic sprinkler or watering can.
These days we’ve moved to windrow composting which involves piling compost into long rows of 1m high x 1m wide and turning them using a tractor. Materials that go into these piles are basically the same as the pallet-bin setup but obviously the equipment is more machinery than hand-tools (tractor for turning and a tractor-mounted chipper/mulcher). The primary reason to use this system is scale. Once your compost needs exceed even a 5-bay pallet-bin setup, it’s time to start looking at machinery to reduce your labour time and increase productivity.
We currently maintain a single 15-20m row (depending on the time of year and our material collection) which yields around 40m³ of great nutrient rich compost that we use throughout our market garden and paddocks.
Compost positioning is all about temperature and convenience. Since the idea is to basically cook your compost (actually, the microbial action is what produces the heat, it’s not the heat that breaks it down), you don’t want your pile to be too shaded. We’ve gone with full-sun positions as close to our gardens as possible making them easy to add material into, but even easier to use straight at the garden site when they’re ready. Access to water is also a consideration as you’ll want to monitor and adjust the moisture content frequently – those microbes sure do like to drink doing all that hard work.
Vermiculture (worm farming)
There’s really only 3 main reasons to have a worm farm; 1. Food Waste Disposal, 2. Worm Castings (yep, worm poo), and of course 3. the Worms themselves. And, given the versatility of scale there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t have a worm-Farm at home – even if you live in an inner city apartment.
Again we’ve chosen to showcase 3 sizes of worm-farm setups just to demonstrate how simple and scalable it can be. The first is the kitchen cupboard setup. Because of its size, it’s perfect for your under-sink cupboard, or even out in the garage if you choose to build it up by stacking more levels. We’re using an off-the-shelf worm-farm kit and have it installed in a makeshift kitchen cupboard to demonstrate just how simple and versatile they can be. We feed this micro-worm-farm kitchen scraps from a household of 2-3 and the resulting castings and extra worms get used in a herb garden. Given how worms are masters at improving soil structure by creating airflow and water channels you’d be crazy not to have a worm-farm if you have any sized garden. And even if you don’t, the ability to reduce food waste, which is a massive greenhouse gas contributor, down to a material that will make your houseplants the happiest they’ve ever been, should be reason enough for this small investment of time and money. Our worm-farm kit cost us $150 and takes no more time to manage than using an in-sink garbage disposal unit to mulch your scraps down the drain. The ideal worms to use in this setup are red-wrigglers, available from hardware and gardening stores.
Before growing our worm-farm into the giant bathtub sized operation it is today we began with a simple, stackable DIY setup. The best material to create these stackable units from is polystyrene as it’s well insulated and sturdy enough to contain all that material. There’s two places you can find the ideal polystyrene containers, either a home meals subscription service (or even home delivery butchers), or from a local fruit and veggie market. You may have to ask nicely to score a few. And, you only need one lid – for the top one. You can also use stackable buckets (with lids) to create the same thing, but you’ll want to create a frame or some other structure to prevent them from toppling over. We still have our medium sized worm-farm in operation, again for demonstration purposes mainly. It gets fed with the household scraps from a family of 5 and all the resulting goodness goes into their raised veggie gardens.
Our commercial size worm operation is a custom built poly-tub on a raised platform. Built with a fall and drainage point for collecting excess water (worm wee? Not really, it’s technically a leachate) this worm farm can easily process the scraps from our camp kitchen and café. The castings are used liberally throughout our market gardens. Again, as in all worm compost setups, the species of choice is the tiger worm, or red wriggler as they can tolerate high temperatures found in decomposing food and prefer the diet of food waste over just soil which your common earthworms (or, nightcrawlers) love.
ing your worm-farm is a straight up convenience decision – whatever makes it easier for you to get into the and keep the habit of adding food waste to it on a regular basis. The only climate consideration is heat. Red wrigglers don’t mind a little bit of heat in the decomposing material, compared to their earth-worm cousins, but like most worms, the darker, cooler, damper the better. So in a cupboard, a corner of the garage or under a really shady tree is your best spot. You’re going to be adding to it more often that you’re removing material (the primary advantage being food waste disposal), so don’t worry if it’s a short hike to the garden, as long as it’s close to your kitchen.