Two years ago we profiled John Olliff from Freshwater Creek Garlic with an article about the four most valuable lessons he’d learned from scaling up a business growing certified organic garlic.
We thought we’d visit him again and see how he’s been going, this time as part of our video series.
John told us about his slightly nerve-racking eight year journey going from an office job and passion for growing a few veggies in the backyard, to growing over 170,000 bulbs of certified organic garlic a year out in Freshwater Creek.
Below we’ve also included the original story we wrote about his journey in 2016 in case you missed it.
Grower profile: John Olliff, Freshwater Creek Garlic
Originally published April 2016
John Olliff got his start by planting a small batch of Garlic on his Fresh Water Creek property. He didn’t have commercial growing experience but he was enthusiastic and persistent.
6 years later he’s growing in commercial quantities and has developed a process that yields the most sensational organic garlic in the region, with a strong focus on our environment and sustainability.
The 4 most valuable lessons he’s learned are:
1. Keep soil pH as neutral as possible
2. Keep it well drained
3. Use plenty of organic matter
4. Do not over water
“These tips are valuable for anyone that wants to grow some garlic. We learned through trial and error. They’re tried and true principles for us”
“With a temperate climate, moderate winters and an average rainfall of 22 inches or 550 mm a year, we grow the garlic variety Italian Late, a soft neck garlic with a hot and rich flavour. This variety has a storage capacity of up to 8 months after harvest.”
John Olliff on Compost
John had great success making his own compost in the early years however it was a lot of work and became impractical to make at scale.
“I’d bring in hundreds of kilos of stable waste manure, mix it, check moisture, turn it weekly etc. We had great results!”
“As we scaled up it became hard to monitor moisture, make sure the temp was correct at the right times, that the carbon was breaking down properly etc”
“Garlic is my core business and growing it meant I needed specialists that could deliver the volumes I was starting to need.”
“We use it quite heavily. We have 14,000 sq metres of beds and use about 10 to 12 kg of compost per square metre.”
“It’s quite concentrated however I have a very strong conviction that when applied regularly in a horticultural situation it’s extremely beneficial to our plant yield. We haven’t done trials at this stage but I know my business and I see it in the yield.”