In this month’s newsletter, we are honing in on Jack Davoren of Chally Bridge Farms! Jack is involved in NACC’s Building a Buzz for Beneficial Bugs project while running his flower farm in Isseka.
How long have you been farming?
I am currently in my fourth year of running my own farm, while having previously been a farm hand and a station hand for others and have grown up helping out on my Uncle and Aunty’s broadacre cropping and sheep property.
What made you want to get into growing flowers?
Prior to purchasing a flower farm, I never had any intention of becoming a flower farmer. My long story short goes I had been looking at buying my own farm for a few years and during this time I had worked at a fruit and vege wholesaler for 3 years which introduced me to the world of horticulture and irrigated production.
After regularly being short on funds and resources to buy much past a large hobby farm, I was able to use my knowledge gained from my time at the wholesaler to know what crops had what demand/prices at the various times from the different major producing regions and began looking for properties with adequate water for irrigation but away from your traditional produce growing areas so that I would be supplying produce out of season and able to command a price premium for it.
Eventually, we came across the property we now call home near Northampton which ticked the boxes for water and location, which happened to be set up for native tree cut flower production and for cash flow purposes we harvested them in our first year and quickly realised their profitability and haven’t looked back to where we now grow a range of native and non-native annual cut flowers to compliment the tree-based crops that came with the property.
Where did you grow up? Where is home for you?
I was born in Adelaide but grew up in Perth since I was 2. So I spent my schooling years in the big smoke however with my grandparents living and formerly farming down in Esperance and my Uncle and Aunty at Burakin, it was rare to spend the school holidays in Perth.
This meant I spent a lot of time growing up away from town and in the bush and I dare say had a very big influence on the life and career I now have.
What is your role in the Building a Buzz project?
Being one of the landholders/farmers involved in the Building a Buzz project, I’m one of the lucky few who is getting to plant the seeds amongst our crops to try and encourage beneficial bugs in to eradicate/manage the pests in replacement of pesticide usage as well as getting to trial a multispecies tree/shrub windbreak to act as not only a benefit of the crops but to also try and get a harvest from, and to aid in proving to many out there that you can get a direct financial reward from having tree-based windbreaks in your farming system.
What have been some highlights of your career in agriculture?
Aside from all the different sights, experiences, and bits of knowledge you get to see and gain along the way (which I believe is far greater than what you get to see in a lot of industries out there), from my own personal business side of things, last year we took a stab growing a flower crop that was not only new to us but also tried a variety that no one else in the state grew to try to get a point of difference.
Come harvest time we pick our first lot, send it off to a wholesaler in Perth who after receiving it posts it up on their Instagram story and within 20 minutes of this, they are completely sold out. Not only that but about half were bought by one of Perth’s most highly regarded wedding florists, who a day later posted videos and pictures of one of the most stunning floral chandeliers we’ve ever seen hanging from the roof with our flowers as the main feature. Admittedly, I might be slightly biased towards that piece but it was amazing and you get a pretty good kick out of trying something different and seeing your hard work rewarded and shown in such a way.
What do you love about the region you work in? What makes it such a special corner of the world?
Where do I start? Before purchasing a property up here I hadn’t had much to do with the Mid-West outside of driving through it to get to work at a station in the Gascoyne, and the Geraldton-Northampton area would have to be one of the few areas of the states where I did not properly know someone from there, to then come to the area and to first be one of not many making their living from horticulture but to then be one of even fewer to make my living growing flowers can make having a common ground a little tricky but to be so happily accepted and welcomed by not only the community I live around but then so quickly the broader community and established businesses buying my produce from me so willingly and happily is certainly nice.
Also how well supplied with products and services Geraldton and surrounds are definitely makes setting up and running a business a lot easier, and for the products that aren’t available locally, to only have Perth 4 hours away keeps everything still readily accessible and affordable.
One of the most amazing things is how diverse the area/region is. Even though my business is growing flowers and vegetables, I do still have a vested interest in both cropping and livestock, so with station country less than an hour away, all the cropping and grazing which I have been doing some work in the last 12 months post-cyclone and throw in all the seafood, mining and tourism-based things going on it makes for an exciting and ever-changing place to live.
Tell us about a project or long-term goal you’d like to see come to fruition within your field of work.
A lot of what I aim to do is be different and improve on the industry standard. Whether that is by being able to grow spray-free produce by encouraging good bugs into the crop and thus saving on inputs, showing that money can be made from things that people quite often see as no good and in the way (EG windbreaks), being the only person in the region to grow a certain crop allowing me an easier time selling it due to a lack of competition, or to take an existing crop and either be able to supply it out of season or find different and more efficient ways to grow it (EG I have some crops that I can grow using only 25% the amount of water that the Dept of Ag says is required to grow it, with little to no yield penalty).
To then be able to share this knowledge as a community of growers as everyone finds little improvements along the way so everyone can improve their businesses and become more sustainable overall would be great to see happen.
Building a Buzz for Beneficial Bugs is supported by funding from the Western Australian Government’s State NRM Program.