About Our Farm 

Leatherwood Farm is home to Craig and Caroline Hind. Our 680 square metre (0.17 acre) urban farm is only 1.7km from the centre of Smithton, North-West Tasmania, Australia. A town with a population of about 4,000 nestled on the Duck River and Duck Bay leading out to the Bass Strait.

We are advocates for sustainable foods (and environmental sustainability in general) and are strong believers in knowing and trusting what you eat. Leatherwood Farm is an extension of this philosophy, where we practice what we preach, growing as much food as we can for the table. We’re not vegan or vegetarian, however we do not raise livestock for meat production. Our philosophy when it comes to meat is that the animals we consume should ideally have only had one bad day in their entire lives, the last one. And even then the treatment and subsequent killing of the animal should be done in as humane a way as possible. It’s for this reason that we minimise meat consumption and try to identify as best as possible where our meat comes from, and choose farms to supply us that, in our opinion share our ethics.

We’ve always tried to eat healthily, but after a health scare we decided to step it up and eat as healthily as we could. Our diet these days is one of a slightly modified Mediteranean diet. Lots of vegetables and fruit, and meat being more of a garnish than the main ingredient. Aside from vegetables, we eat mostly seafood (fish & shellfish), followed by chicken, and leastly red meats such as beef, pork & lamb. Almost no processed foods are eaten these days, and high glycaemic carbohydrate foods are minimised.

As things stand now, we’re in the process of purchasing the property, it has a house, a large garage, a fair sized front yard, and a pretty decently sized back yard. At the moment both the gardens are lawn, but there are a few trees dotting the border with the neighbours. Our plan is to convert the entire back yard to a permaculture vegetable garden with veggies, herbs, fruit and bees, and the front yard will be for the chooks (Aussie for chickens). While we’re calling ourselves a farm, we won’t be selling our produce commercially, rather it will be for our own use, and any excess will be made available to neighbours for a “pay what you can” donation which will be used to buy new seed and garden supplies.

How it started…

When we moved to Australia in 2011 we settled in the harbourside city of Sydney, and lived for many years (quite happily I might add) in rented apartments on the north shore and inner west suburbs. We were happy to explore the city, take the train and ferries, and buy our food from the supermarket. To be fair we always made sure that we purchased free range eggs, and tried to be as good as possible with what we bought.

One year we went on holiday to southern Tasmania and fell in love with the place. We dreamed of moving to a large property south of Hobart, but as often happens in life, you go home and get back into work-life and all the dreams get pushed to the back of the mind. While we still love Sydney, we felt that it was starting to get a little overpopulated. Trains, buses & ferries were cramped, and services like the train lines that we depended on started to have many service interruptions. Even driving 9km to work would take 45 minutes, and getting out of the city for a day trip to the country would take so long and be so frustrating that it was hardly worth the effort.

Eventually we started to dream about Tasmania again and started looking for jobs around Hobart, but pickings were slim and we started to think that it would be easier to find jobs in Tasmania if we were actually there. Since that wasn’t possible without jobs we found it to be a bit of a catch 22 situation. One day on a trip to Canberra, Australia’s capital city we realised that while Canberra was a city, it was a much smaller city than Sydney (about 1/10th of the population of Sydney), we could drive only a few kilometers and be in the bush. We found jobs in Canberra, and moved there, and stayed in Canberra for three years.

In Canberra we rented a house and for the first time we had a garden. As it was a rental we couldn’t rip out the grass and turn it into a giant garden bed, but luckily it did have three already constructed raised beds. We tried to grow veggies in these beds, but they were poorly constructed, not very deep, and not well separated from the lawn. Eventually we gave up trying to grow veggies in the raised beds, and bought a hydroponic tower garden. We successfully grew quite a few different vegetables in the tower garden. We still have the towers and will set them up again in the new place.

During our stay in Canberra we went on holiday to New Zealand’s South Island, and again fell in love with the raw beauty of the place. It was like Tasmania in many ways and we liked it. We decided to look into moving to New Zealand, but then the COVID-19 pandemic started and that precluded moving there as the borders between Australia and New Zealand were closed. COVID however did permit us to work remotely and without the requirement to find jobs in Tasmania we were free to move anywhere we wanted within Australia as long as we had a good Internet connection.

In early 2021 we moved permanently to Tasmania, and lived in a rented house in Beauty Point on the banks of the Tamar River. The garden was small and would not support a vegetable garden, but we did buy a raised wicking vegetable bed on a stand that would take up space on the patio, but would not require any actual garden space. So far using that system has been well worth the effort.

With the pandemic not showing many signs of slowing down, and the booming rental property market, which meant the possibility of raised rent and the possibility of not being able to find a replacement rental (particularly since we have pets) if the owners wanted to sell, we sought to have some property security, and paying off a mortgage is always better than paying rent. One of the requirements of finding a property was that we were able to grow our own produce. We had always wanted a property that was was around 20 hectare (~50 acres) in size, but soon realised that with soaring property prices that these properties would soon be out of our price range, plus after visiting a friend who lives on a much smaller piece of land we realised that large block sizes would be much harder to maintain. We revised our ideal land size down to 1-2 hectare (2.5 – 5 acres), but again realised that we really didn’t need a piece of land that big. We looked at a property that was on 2,000 square metres (0.5 acre), but the Internet access was poor. The garden would have been great, but without good Internet we would not be able to maintain our paying work. We cast our net wider, with the requirement of good Internet, and eventually found a nice looking property at a decent price on the outskirts of a small town with a good flat garden. What we found met those conditions and the Internet requirement and here we are now. The property purchase is still in progess, but if all goes well we should be able to move in during March 2022.

Why Smithton?

Actually we had no specific area in mind. We knew that we liked the north-west corner of Tasmania, but really anywhere that had good Internet would have been acceptable. Property prices in the north and regional areas tend to be less than in the south which naturally skewed our search north. We actually lucked out finding the place we did because it was only the second place that we looked at, and it seemed to be everything we were looking for, just on land that was slightly smaller than what we wanted.

A little bit before finding our place we had a weekend away in Stanley, a quiant holiday town not too far away from Smithton and loved it. Stanley being a popular place is quite a bit more expensive, but it is a place we will be able to visit easily.

A few months before that we did a tour with Woolnorth Tours and stayed at their accommodation in Smithton and greatly enjoyed that too. The tour of the Woolnorth area is highly recommended too.

Smithton was first populated in 1873 and was called Duck River. In 1895 Duck River was renamed to Smithton, and in 1905 it was declared a town. Smithton High School was opened in 1937 and in 1951 a Kindergarten and Public Hospital were opened, and the town began to flourish.

The economy of Smithton is agriculture based, consisting primarily of dairy and beef farming. Other major industries that contribute to the local economy are fishing, aquaculture, crop farming, timber plantations and tourism.

Smithton has a Mediterranean climate, with January and February’s rainfall data bordering an oceanic climate. The average temperature range in summer is 9.8-21.9°C (49.6-71.4°F), while the average range in winter is 4.8-13.7°C (40.6-56.7°F). Average annual rainfall is 913.8mm (35.98″), with most falling in winter, but a consistent fall throughout the year.

Northern Tasmania has some of the cleanest air in the world. The Roaring Forties (40° south latitude) deliver some of the world’s cleanest air to Cape Grim, a relentlessly windswept spot, where a weather station has allowed scientists to measure air pollution and atmospheric changes since 1976. The nearest landmass to the west is Argentina, to the south Antarctica.

Growing Food in Tasmania

Tasmania’s bountiful supplies of fruit are renowned for their delicious flavour and are recognised by food connoisseurs across the world.

Our mild temperate maritime climate provides the ideal environment for slow maturation and flavour development. The state’s topography and geography allows for micro-climates throughout the state and provides a diversity of produce to be harvested from early summer through to late autumn.

Tasmania is renowned for it’s apples (we are the apple isle after all), and cherries, and more recently berries.

Tasmania’s temperate climate provides the essential winter chill followed by a long, mild, growing season to support fruit development and enhanced flavour.

Aside from fruit, Tasmania is well known for it’s potato and onion production, as well as daisies for pyrethrin (a natural insecticide), and poppies for their alkaloid material used in pharmaceuticals, as well as more recently industrial hemp.

As the land is so fertile, particularly in the north and north-west of the state, many vegetable growers have great success.

Farming Organically

All of our food is grown organically, which means no synthetic fertilisers or pesticides are used, and where possible no pesticides at all. Fertilisers are essential, so only natural forms are used.

The benefits of organic farming, and growing your own food are:

    • Knowing what is in your food
    • Knowing where your food has come from
    • Health benefits of organic food consumption
    • Environmentally friendly
    • Natural farming methods
    • Healthier crops and livestock
    • Locally grown foods, no vehicular transport of the food using fossil fuels
    • Minimal processing of foods

Environmentally Friendly Organic Farming Methods

We really admire the environment around us and love the way organic farming flows with the natural balances. For our farming we use compost and manure to naturally fertilise our gardens and enrich the soil life. We also plant nitrogen fixing crops when beds are fallow to further enhance the soil.

People seldom give much thought to the worms, other insects, fungi and bacteria living underground in the soil going about their daily activity, it is a whole living world beneath your feet! Our gardens have an abundance of worms, and other beneficial insects which are strong and healthy in the rich soil. These worms and insects assist our plant life by providing natural fertilizer and soil aeration for the roots.

 

Physical Health & Wellbeing

We are very health conscious therefore we are very aware about what we are placing on our plate. In our experience eating healthily enables you to maintain and strengthen your immune-system, resulting in enhanced health and minimal sicknesses.

We believe an active lifestyle and healthy eating is very important to an individual’s overall health and wellbeing. Being outdoors also enhances one’s mental health, there is nothing like taking in the scenic views, hearing the birds sing, and the frogs croak to make us feel alive.