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Byron Shire
November 30, 2022

Farmer ‘grew up in banana shed’

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Victoria Cosford

Between the waterlogged soils of the cane fields and the inland porous soils lies the fertile property of Everest Farm. At the back of Murwillumbah, close to the caldera, bordering Mount Warning National Park and facing north, its rich red soil has for five generations guaranteed an abundance of beautiful produce, providing employment for the extended family. ‘It’s why my ancestors started farming there – they’d seen the potential’, Will Everest tells me. ‘It’s how our family has stayed profitable.’

Will is describing it all to me almost lyrically in a slice of sunshine at New Brighton Farmers Market, behind us the long trestle tables stretching back beneath their burden of fruit and veg. Crimson beetroot, fat leeks, glossy slender eggplant, chunky zucchini: I want to buy it all and cook it up. Then there are the bananas. ‘I grew up in a banana shed,’ laughs Will, but he’s quite serious. Those bananas win awards regularly and it’s because of the soil in which they’re grown, the belt of loam that imbues a richness of flavour unrivalled.

Nothing is under cover; it’s all grown outside. They were lucky during the March floods in that the level of the Oxley River – on whose alluvial plains the crops grow – did not rise dangerously high, although the absence of sunshine and the ‘long wet’ made things challenging for a while.

I can’t of course buy everything but my eyes have snagged on that perfectly formed tight-skinned beetroot, and I know exactly what I’ll do with it. Some I shall roast and serve with rocket, candied walnuts and fetta; the rest I shall pickle in a cider vinegar simmer of coriander and mustard seeds, bay leaves, dill, peppercorns, and orange zest. Divine! The recipe is on the website. 

Everest Farm is at New Brighton Farmers Market every Tuesday 8–11am.

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