Travelling the world on the pro tour, that must’ve been a bit of a crash landing after growing up on homegrown produce?
Yes and no, it depends on where in the world you were. The States were the worst – you’re always eating takeaway, which as a young buck was great for a bit, but it lost its sheen very quickly. You really start to notice the waste, eating out three times a day this pile of garbage would slowly grow around you… that and after a couple of days you’d really start to notice it physically, feeling like crap and finding it harder to perform. That wasn’t the case everywhere though. You’d travel to countries like Mexico, Chile and Brazil and there would be this amazing food everywhere. With all the markets and small farmers you could easily get your hands on an incredible diversity of local, fresh food to feed yourself and you’d feel amazing.
What brought you out this way?
There were a couple years that I came over here, camping and surfing and I loved it. It felt properly remote, no phone service, nice and quiet, more laid back. It felt like it was a few decades behind the east coast, which I loved. I ended up meeting my wife who grew up here, then the opportunity to buy a block of land came up and the rest is history. That was back in 2017.
What was this block like when you first bought it?
Pretty rough. It had one little patch of scrub, maybe 5 or 10 per cent of the whole block. The rest had been cleared and used for growing crops and running sheep for a long time, maybe 80-100 years. It had been flogged. It was hard to get a garden growing; there was just nothing to the soil, but the more time I put into building things up, the more things started to progress. I started by planting out native trees, around 600 in that first year and more every year since, trying to create some shade and shelter in the landscape. I planted an olive tree, a fig, a mulberry and an orange tree as well as 12 fig cuttings. Out of all those fruit trees none survived. It was a hard landing to learn that this was nothing like the east coast country I watched my mum gardening on as a kid. In that first year, it was slow going as I had to focus my efforts on building a home for the family so we could live on the block, but once that went up it allowed me to focus more on the land. I built tin walls to protect the growing areas from the howling northerlies and southerlies that whip through here. I added more organic matter, still am. So far I reckon I’ve added hundreds of big bales of straw, dozens of trailer loads of manure, compost and chicken manure over these past six years. The progress has been amazing. Things seem to get going twice as quickly now as they did when I first got here. There’s life in the soil now and I’ve got earthworms helping me do the work.