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Organic Sweeter Bananas

Nestled in the heart of Carnarvon, Western Australia, you'll find Byron and Sarah Sutcliffe, blazing their trail as organic farmers, shaking up the traditional farming scene. Their journey began in 2015 when they decided to leave Queensland to return to Western Australia, drawn by familial ties and a desire to pursue farming in Carnarvon.


"We wanted to come back to WA because all of Byron's family lived over here," Sarah explained. "We thought we'd return to the west coast and chose Carnarvon."


Byron's background as a fridge mechanic and Sarah's master's degree in environmental science laid the groundwork for their venture into agriculture. Initially, they joined Byron's parents in share farming, gradually transitioning to owning their own plantation.

"We started farming and really enjoyed it," Sarah remarked. "So, we ended up buying a plantation and going from there."


Their focus shifted to organic farming, particularly bananas, which they've been cultivating organically for over two years. "We started growing them conventionally when we first got to Carnarvon and then switched to organic bananas. Organic everything" Byron explained.


Becoming certified organic wasn't a simple feat. Byron elaborated, "To become organic, you have to get rid of all your chemicals. Basically, you can't use any synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or synthetic fertilisers. You have to do a lot of paperwork and get certified by bodies like ACO (Australian Certified Organic)."

The transition period to organic status spans three years, during which farmers must adhere strictly to organic practices without the ability to market produce as organic until full certification is obtained. "The first 12 months of it, you have to do everything to the organic standard," Byron clarified. "But you're not allowed to market it as organic produce at all. You just have to do it all organically."


Their commitment to organic principles extends beyond avoiding chemicals. "We have buffer zones and dedicate a portion of our land to native plants for biodiversity," Sarah added. "We also rely on natural methods to manage pests, attracting beneficial insects rather than using sprays. Sweeter Banana already use bugs so we didn't have to change much in the way of pest management"

"We like working with nature and feel it's better for our health, our family's health, and the environment."

Transitioning to organic farming came with its own set of challenges. "Lower yield and weed control are significant challenges," Byron admitted. "But we believe in the environmental benefits and the health advantages."


However, organic farming entails higher costs and lower yields compared to conventional methods. "Organic bananas cost more because they're a lot more work, and we're not getting the volumes that conventional growers might get," Sarah clarified. "But we believe quality always costs more."


Despite the challenges, the Sutcliffes remain steadfast in their organic farming journey. "It's a labor of love," Byron remarked. "We like working with nature and feel it's better for our health, our family's health, and the environment."


Their story serves as inspiration for aspiring farmers and environmental enthusiasts alike, showcasing the transformative power of sustainable practices in modern agriculture. As consumers increasingly demand transparency and accountability in food production, the Sutcliffes stand as pioneers in the quest for a greener, healthier future.

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