What’s been a tragedy for many at the start of the year has been a blessing for some farmers, like Neville Singh and his banana plantation, like Frank Boyle and his brown rice.  All that rain and all those fertile floodplains are precisely what enable the latter to produce his dryland crops, a perfectly sustainable and environmentally friendly way to grow rice.

What used to be known as Nimbin Valley Rice and Pecans has morphed into Marlivale Farm, the name of the homestead. The one-time dairy farm at Goolmangar, near Nimbin, has been producing pecans for the past few decades and for half that time the rice. The Northern Rivers is unique in Australia for growing dryland rice – sometimes referred to as ‘upland’ rice – thanks to its abundance of rainfall (we know), its pristine clean green environment and its subtropical climate. And Frank’s brown rice has been a much-in-demand feature at the local farmers markets for a long time now. Not only the rice, but also the brown jasmine rice, the brown rice crumbs (an excellent gluten-free way to crumb foods like fish) and the very popular brown rice cakes. ‘They’re very healthy’, says Mac. ‘They’re literally just rice with nothing added –  no preservatives.’ As I crunch into one I realise it’s a far cry from the cardboardy ones from supermarkets I’m used to (and avoid).

And the pecans. While they’re not a dryland crop, the farm’s dams are used to irrigate them in the spring. They’re blended into a gorgeous spread which, Mac tells me, is ‘more versatile than peanut butter.’ (Think pestos and smoothies…) Gluten-free , it’s made of nothing more than the nuts lightly roasted and then blended with their own natural oils.  ‘There’s some caramelisation’, Mac says, ‘but it’s not overly sweet.’ And of course, it’s perfect smeared onto the brown rice cakes!

Find Marlivale Farm  every Tuesday at New Brighton Farmers Market 8 – 11am and Mullumbimby Farmers Market, every Friday 7 – 11am

Victoria Cosford