Budgee abundance

Budgee abundance


Life & Style
Joan and Rod Kambouris are proud of their small patch of land where they farm their Budgee Garlic and Herbs products. - <i>Picture: SARAH COULTON.</i>

Joan and Rod Kambouris are proud of their small patch of land where they farm their Budgee Garlic and Herbs products. - Picture: SARAH COULTON.

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GENTLY rolling slopes, crystal skies and crisp, fresh air - when you visit Budgee Garlic and Herbs, time slows and you are captured in a moment of pure serenity.

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GENTLY rolling slopes, crystal skies and crisp, fresh air - when you visit Budgee Garlic and Herbs, time slows and you are captured in a moment of pure serenity.

Rod and Joan Kambouris have undergone a complete lifestyle change in the seven months since they began working full-time in their Budgee-based business, 30 minutes' south, south-east of Toowoomba.

The couple produce chemical-free, sustainably grown garlic crisps, herb and spice sachets, potted seedlings, as well as recycled timber planter boxes and spice racks.

It's well and truly been a learning curve, with Joan previously working in community service and Rod working as a public accountant for more than 30 years.

The couple purchased the 2-hectare (5-acre) property, which was formerly the Budgee State School, in December 2006. A friend had told them the property was being valued for sale so they drove out to take a look.

"We just fell in love with it. We had no specific aim; it was just about loving this place," Joan said.

"We knew we were meant to have it, so we put in an offer way below the asking price, thinking we would negotiate it from there, but they accepted it."

Ever since they have been married, Joan has grown vegetables and herbs. Their friends and family knew she had a real passion for planting but were quite shocked when Rod decided to step in to the business full-time.

While they had contemplated a couple of ideas for the property, in March 2015 they planted 12,000 cloves of mainly Australian White garlic on 0.1ha (0.25ac).

"Australian White has a little purple fleck in it, which is really nice; it's a beautiful, strong, hot garlic," Joan said.

"We have to separate all the cloves and we soak them in a solution of sodium bicarbonate to make sure it has no fungal issues and refrigerate it for a couple of weeks.

"Then we plant it out, putting in just one clove."

Rod said their "retirement" so far had been more like "full-time employment", but it had been a lot of fun.

He also commented on the complexity of farming, particularly when it came to soil preparation.

The couple firmly agree they want the business to be sustainable, and have used organic compost and worked to put organic matter back into the soil.

One of their philosophies is to try to keep whatever is on the land and invest it back into the ground.

"When we bought the block, we knew this was going to be where we retired to and we were going to do something along the lines of farming," Rod said.

"Because it's so labour intensive, it's become a full-time occupation.

"Whether it's pulling out weeds, or planting or building stuff or ploughing up more land - there's so much to do."

Garlic is an annual crop so the couple also produce dried garlic crisps to sell throughout the year. The herbs are dried as quickly as possible after harvest to ensure they stay fresh, and lock in the colours and flavours.

They frequently attend local markets across the Darling Downs and Lockyer Valley, and some of the larger events such as the Felton Food Festival and Toowoomba Farmers' Market.

The response to Budgee Garlic and Herbs and rapid growth of the business have blown them away. With interest from retailers, restaurants and exporters, the prospects are exciting, but the couple are also very conscious of maintaining the quality of their product and don't want to commit to something they cannot deliver.

"We get an enormous amount of enjoyment out of this and it's still very much a learning process for both of us, particularly for me, but it's just such an enjoyable lifestyle," Rod said.

Looking ahead, they plan to plant four times the amount of garlic next season and live on their Budgee property.

The couple's heart for outreach is clear when they talk about Rod's role as a prison chaplain for close to 15 years and Joan's community service work.

This passion has carried over to Budgee and they hope to someday be able to employ people from migrant backgrounds or the long-term unemployed, and equip them with skills and confidence.

"It's been an amazing journey and we really feel it's been a blessed journey, too," Joan said.

"This business has its own beautiful, little life that's taking off.

"Every time we come here, we feel like we belong."

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