Growing food has always been a part of Ian Cameron’s life.

During his early years in England, his father had an allotment;  a piece of land leased from the council to grow his own veggies.

“Dad was always a pretty keen gardener… in them days they used to have those quarter acre blocks …and you ‘d grow a fair bit of stuff in those for your own use, and swap it with other people for what they’d grown,” he said.

“When we moved to Australia we always had gardens in the backyard even when I got married we always had a bit of a veggie garden.”

In 1997, Ian’s interest grew into something bigger, when he and wife Robin left their long-running prawn trawling business to start their own farm at The Pocket, near Billinudgel.

Ian and Robin started with a worm farm, and then expanded into fruit and veggies, which they now sell direct at the New Brighton and Mullumbimby Farmers’ Markets.

Everything is grown in worm castings and fertilised with worm juice, which they also sell at their stall.

Staples on their farm include ginger, turmeric, galangal, citrus, Asian greens and fresh herbs, but Ian is also known for his love of the exotic and unusual, and he tries out a new crop every year.

Sometimes, these experiments fail completely, like the snake gourds he grew once: “I didn’t take them to to the market they looked so awful,” he laughed… I had a look and chucked them.”

Other times, people just need a little convincing : “like Amaranth,” said Ian, “It’s a sort of summer kale, it’s got the same nutrient value as kale, but trying to get people to eat it, it’s hard.”

Most of the time, however, people at the farmers markets embrace the unusual, and are keen to taste something other than the stock standard produce available in most supermarkets, be it Ian’s purple snake beans, New Guinea beans or Kang Kong, an Asian leafy green that thrives in our hot humid summers..

For Ian, it’s all about growing what works in our climate, keeping diversity and variety alive and the joy of growing something new:  “I just like growing new things to see what they look like.”

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