25 March 2022

Pick-your-own sunflower fields to show that there is still room for farmland in the ACT

| Max O'Driscoll
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People walking in sunflower field

A strong season has seen the sunflowers grow at surprising rates at Majura Valley Farm Gate. It’s made the farm quite the tourist attraction in recent weeks. Photo: Majura Valley Farm Gate.

Majura Valley Farm Gate’s newest attraction looks like something out of a dream. A strong rain season has left their sunflower field as picturesque as it gets, drawing guests from far and wide.

“Over the weekend, it was nuts … there were people everywhere. It was crazy,” farm operator Anne McGrath said.

“I think sunflowers are just one of those things that people really like.”

Based only 10 minutes out of the city, the sunflower farm allows guests to cut out their own sunflowers. It’s made the farm quite the tourist attraction in recent times.

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They get varying visitors to the farm, from grandmothers bringing their grandkids out for the day to kids dragging their parents along because yellow is their favourite colour and sometimes even pets.

“Because we’re down on the Majura Valley and we feel we’re being encroached on by industry and shopping centres and all of that, we want to preserve the farmland,” Anne said.

“So, I do all of these sorts of whacky things just to draw attention to the potential of the land and how the land should be preserved.”

Anne estimates the farm holds a few thousand sunflowers.

“They’re coming out all the time. My son was panicking over the weekend, saying, ‘everyone is picking everything from the back’ and I didn’t care because, with this weather, they’ll just keep coming out,” Anne said.

Other than that, Majura Valley Farm Gate sells free-range eggs, does composting, has a market garden selling vegetables and had plans to bring in sheep milking before leasing issues prevented it.

“The market only started late last year and because we don’t have leases, the government is trying to sort those out for us, but it’s slowed down a lot of the stuff we had planned, including the sheep milking,” Anne said.

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They still hope to bring in sheep milking later this year after Anne saw an opportunity in Australia following a convention over in New Zealand. She believes with all the fears around methane and dairy farms, sheep may be the next best alternative.

Their views on sustainable practices like this have been a focus of Anne’s “from day dot”. They’ve planted trees to the point where now approximately one-fifth of their land is covered in trees. It’s all about ensuring that farms continue to remain a part of Canberra’s future.

“We’re trying to demonstrate that farms can still exist so close to a capital city and that people are actually craving for this kind of experience,” Anne said.

“The pandemic showed us what happens if they close down our borders. We’d like to highlight the importance of growing local food and making use of our land in that way.”

Majura Valley Farm Gate at 728 Majura Road is open from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week.

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A little bit of Tuscany in the bush.

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