Written by Kerrie Alexander
Community Composting initiative to start
Terra Tribe Farm is a place where the Pohlmann family’s passion for sustainability, permaculture and nature is shared with children and the community.
With bare feet and a massive, big smile, Elizabeth Pohlmann welcomed us to the 12.5-acre Howard property that’s open to Earth Kids School Holiday Programs and a Forest Kindy.
It’s also home to her husband Matt and their five home-schooled children, who all live in a Jayco caravan, shed and a bus fitted out for their 15-year-old, the eldest of the four boys.
There are also pigs up to 300kg, 40 chickens, 30 ducks, goats, sheep and a plethora of home-grown fruit and vegetable gardens dotted all around the land.
And let’s not forget Porky, their daughter’s adorable pet piglet who barks like a dog and sleeps in the family bed at night.
I was initially invited to the farm to find out about Elizabeth’s unique Community Composting program.
But what I also found was also a truly inspiring story about a family who gave up life on a half-acre suburbia block in Dundowran to provide an earthlier upbringing for their children.
Elizabeth said it wasn’t at all easy to give up the luxuries of a modern home and move to a totally bare block off the grid, with not even power or water.
The children went cold turkey on electronics with no TV or gaming devices to be found now.
However, two-and-a-half years on, she said she wouldn’t change a thing.
“It is so much hard work and I tell my husband all the time this is the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life, but I feel so content,” Elizabeth said.
“We just wanted a whole lifestyle change.
“It was a big decision, the first three months we were in tears and doubted that we made the right decision … it was minus three degrees in the caravan, and we had to cart the water.
“But what we have now is amazing, and we’re in the middle of building a house and that will be the most amazing thing ever!
“Starting from scratch, we really appreciate what we have now.”
The two still have a source of income with Elizabeth running the farm and her photography business and Matt being a self-employed plumber.
But the permaculture lifestyle they adopted appealed to them from the get-go because, while money still has value, life isn’t centred around acquiring it, Elizabeth said.
She said the move also provided a valuable life lesson for their children on the circle of life, and where their food comes from.
Many of the pigs they have hand-raised have later become a meal, as do the roosters and the chickens.
“I know it’s sad that we eat them, but I know what we are eating, and I know they are raised with love.
“I go in there and scratch their bellies and they roll over … it was sad when we killed the last one but if you looked into factory farming you would literally never eat meat again.
“There would be three adult pigs to a small cage on concrete and they would never dig, run around or play; they live and die on concrete.”
Elisabeth describes the move to the farm as her “revolution”, with an intention of leaving their land better than they found it, while educating others on a life of sustainability, low waste, and permaculture.
The Community Composting Program plays in integral part in that vision.
Elizabeth is calling on the community, and any interested restaurants who would like to take part, to donate their food scraps.
The waste would then be turned into compost to help continue to grow the vegetables and feed some 300 fruit trees, nut trees and about 60 natives.
In return for a $10 delivery fee, participants could choose from either a litre of worm juice, a bucket of compost, or a small vegetable box once a month.
It’s a win for the environment and those who take part, Elisabeth said, adding that about 7.3 million tonnes of food scraps go to waste in Australia each year.
That’s enough to fill 13,000 Olympic size swimming pools.
The only waste not allowed to be donated by regulation is dairy or meat.
“There’s a need in the community for something to be done with food waste and this program is like a circular economy.
“You sign up to the program, we collect your waste from your door, we turn it into compost and then we give back to you.
“A fifth of household rubbish is wasted, even the tops of things like zucchinis. Imagine if you could take those things and save them from going to the rubbish dump.
“I can grow more food with the compost … we grow a lot of food in our market garden, and to feed the pigs and the chickens.”
Less than five minutes from the town of Howard and backing on to the Burrum River, children and their families can meet the animals up close, pat the pigs through the fence, feed the chickens and even cuddle a duckling at the farm’s open day once a month.
“There’s no other farms you can visit on the Fraser Coast,” Elizabeth said.
“It’s not a petting zoo farm because that’s not what I intended … I want people to see a real farm.
“We are honest with all the kids, and I do tell them we eat the animals, and I think that’s important for the next generation to know where their food comes from.
“This is my revolution.”
To sign up to the composting program, you can contact Elizabeth on 0418 873 503 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For all open day dates and enquiries about the Forest School, visit http://www.terratribefarm.com.au