Headlam Farm 'Oakbank'

Name - Lucy and Philip Headlam

Location - Pipers Brook, Tasmania

Size of land - 184 hectares

Crops - Asparagus and lamb

Lucy and Philip Headlam, owners of Headlam Farms have been growing asparagus since 1989. They recently purchased a property at Pipers Books where their vision is to live at their farm and be proud of what they have achieved and developed; which is a farm that is aesthetically pleasing, financially viable and environmentally sustainable. Lucy and Philip would like to develop a succession plan which is acceptable for them and their two boys. Ultimately they wish for good health so we can enjoy what they have created and have quality time with family and friends.

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Our background: We started farming in 1986 at Waterhouse in North East Tasmania. We have always run a diverse range of grazing and cropping enterprises. We now farm at Pipers Brook on our property ‘Oakbank’. We have owned this property since 2008.

We planted a crop of asparagus on our Waterhouse property in 1989. We branded and marketed the crop as Waterhouse Asparagus working closely with Chefs, Caterers, Gourmet Delicatessens and Greengrocers. We also supplied Purity Supermarkets. Our Waterhouse Asparagus was a fantastic product and highly sought after however we were continually battling downward price pressure from mainland second grade produce. We decided not to replant when our twelve year old crop was no longer reaching commercially viable yields. The main reason being the difficulty we had to achieve an acceptable price for our product.

We have had a long break from asparagus production and have decided after closely watching the market, that the time is right to enter the industry again. We will be producing with same passion and commitment of old however with a new set of eyes concentrating on supplying markets and consumers who truly respect our product, that wish to know where the product has come from and the story behind our asparagus. We also wish to develop a more holistic production system to enable us to the best of our ability produce a product which is fresh, locally produced, genuine, ethical, and delicious to eat.

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Our philosophy: Is to manage our farm to the best of our ability using best farming practices to develop a system which is profitable, environmentally sustainable and aesthetically pleasing.

We have developed our farm with an Integrated Property Management Plan. Riparian and strategic corridors of bush have been fenced off to provide shelter for livestock, protect threatened vegetation and create a habitat for birds and frogs which in turn feed on insect pests. About 25% of the farm has been retained in this manner.

Asparagus is a perennial crop with a commercial lifespan of 12 to 15 years. It has minimal or no irrigation required once established. We endeavour to employ people from our local community for the asparagus harvest which puts money back into the local economy.

Where are we at now? Our current crop of asparagus is nearly two years old and ready for a first small harvest this spring. We are preparing a new area for a further asparagus planting. We are currently branding our product, working out our packaging. We are putting in the required infrastructure required for harvest and packing, ie packing shed conversion and cool room.

Likewise our farm is very new. We are undertaking an annual pasture renovation program using pasture species which are proven to persist in our production environment. It also incorporates annual fodder crops to finish our Corriedale Prime lambs.

What we are learning through the Sprout Producers Program: As our asparagus enterprise is so new we have much to learn about the growing, harvesting, packaging and marketing of our asparagus. Sprout has been invaluable with the amazing range of support, ideas and advice in all of these areas which will hopefully reduce risk and allow for a greater chance of long term success.

Soil management and gaining a greater understanding of our soil is an area we particularly wish to focus on. Ultimately we wish to move away from using artificial fertilisers and chemicals to a more holistic growing system.

Our focus for the next 12 months: To get our asparagus enterprise up and running. To develop our Headlam Farms Brand which tells our story and creates our point of difference. That is for Headlam Farms to produce Tasmanian Fresh Asparagus, which is the best asparagus, produced with passion and commitment.

Our biggest challenge: To successfully grow, package and market our asparagus crop. Asparagus is harvested and packed by hand so we have to monitor this cost very closely to stay within our cost of production.

Weed, pest and disease management are continual challenges and potentially cause significant yield reduction.

Generally managing the unknowns of the season is a continual concern. Competition from interstate asparagus is potentially e a price risk for us. Carefully marketing our asparagus and creating our point of difference is critical.

What is our goal in the next 3 years: To build a house and live on the farm. To be well on the way to developing a holistic sustainable production system. For Headlam Farms to be recognised as a producer of fabulous Tasmanian Fresh Asparagus.

To explore value adding our existing enterprises and new enterprise opportunities which can be undertaken using the Headlam Farms Brand.