Farmers of any kind will understand the joy that their beautiful farms can bring. At Yarramalong Turf in Wyong NSW, they have opened their doors to the public, diversified their business and are providing more than just turf for sale at their very own slice of paradise.
Alan and Renai Doggett had big plans for the Wyong, NSW turf farm when they took the helm in September 2018 and less than a year later, they were breaking new ground.
After purchasing the farm, the Doggett’s invested what they could in new machinery and infrastructure. Yarramalong Turf joined Lawn Solutions Australia (LSA) and were able to utilise their newly formed relationship for information and LSA members Greener Lawn were able to help with supply while they were low on stock. Being able to grow relationships with other members has been a blessing, “we love the fact that people in the industry are so willing to help each other” Alan said.
Glen and Paige, a family that the Doggett’s know and love also moved in at the turf farm, where Glen would soon begin helping make the farm what it is today.
In 2019, it was time to start renovating paddocks after turf had been harvested. During this time, Alan and his team learnt a lot about the importance of good soil testing and understanding their inputs.
In 2020, the farm undertook their second major paddock renovation, turning four older paddocks into one laser graded paddock, on a scale unheard of for their little farm to date. Supply was still coming from partner farms during this time, with a lot of advice flowing freely and learning the depths of the trade. Alan realised they would never have enough turf supply with the current farm size, so he planted the seed within his network for ways to expand supply.
In December of 2020, Yarramalong Turf took delivery of their first auto harvester, upgrading the older Kesmacs for a JD Brouwer, which was of great excitement for Alan and his team, “600mm rolls were finally coming from our farm!”
The seed Alan had planted earlier in the year had started to develop and an opportunity to purchase some neighbouring land was also showing some positive signs.
“To begin with Renai started our Turf Hut Espresso,” Alan said. “That has been a great way of starting to open the farm to other opportunities and a great way to get to know more locals and tourists alike.”
Having a farm that is not only productive as a turf farm, but one that could also be a place where people could come and hang out seemed like a good idea to Allan and his family. The open space, the country feels and yet literally minutes from the M1 at Tuggerah (75kms south of Newcastle) was just waiting for new avenues to be explored. The farms rear boundary is Wyong creek and follows its twists and turns, so there are many areas that may not be great for growing turf but are perfect quirky little spots for growing other things and community activities.
Coffee may have started conversations, but what’s really got tongues wagging is Yarramalong’s sunflower harvests.
“Initially there was an idea by a staff member for a green manure crop before replanting in paddocks that were in fallow,” Alan said. “It was suggested millet, ground-breaking radishes and for a bit of fun a strip of sunflowers.”
Alan had drawn a positive response with sunflowers in the past.
“When I was younger there was a house on the main road at Lisarow,” he said. “They have a little roadside store set up that I used to buy my girlfriend – now wife of 22 years – sunflowers on my way home from work. So, I thought as a surprise for Renai and my kids, definitely throw the sunflowers in.”
“Unbeknown to us people were stopping on the side of the road, jumping in the field and taking selfies,” he said. “This became known to us as they started appearing all over Facebook and Instagram, along with comments thanking us for putting them in.
Social media surprises suggested sunflowers were a solid selection. That is when we decided that if we were going to do it, we should do it properly and create an environment that was not only fun but safe for people to enjoy.”
Interest in the January harvest was “overwhelming.” Social media may have played a part again by the second harvest day on the Mother’s Day weekend.
“We had a car counter and averaged out over 1000 cars an hour for the eight hours, so I guess that means there was a lot of people who got to enjoy the day,” Allan said. “Some stayed just long enough to grab a big bunch, others just got some pics and others hung out on a picnic rug and soaked the atmosphere for hours.”
Alan said his whole family got involved with the entire operation.
“The crops have all to this stage been planted by hand mostly by Renai, the kids and I, also Glen and his family that reside at the farm and are also a big part of the harvest day,” he said. “We deep rip the paddock, run the tynes, rotary hoe, plant, and then roll the seeds in. It is a fun thing to get out in the paddock, enjoy family time and the results speak for themselves.”
“On our most recent harvest we had the sunflowers, a turf display showcasing our newest grass varieties, the turf hut espresso, barbecue, live music, local beekeeper selling their honey, local fresh produce grown at Kulnura, Trader Vic’s stand (local surf shop), jumping castles and even pony rides.”
The enterprising farmer said Yarramalong had received positive feedback from local businesses who had benefited from the harvest days through increased trade, and the events brought people from not only Sydney and Newcastle but also further afield.
Alan said charities had also benefited from the events and money is being reinvested.
“We have made some direct donations to charities on behalf of the harvest, as well as donating flowers and time to multiple, smaller, more personal events,” he said. “It has been an absolute pleasure to be able to do this. We are now reinvesting into attaining all the appropriate permits for an event this size and are in the process of working with the council to make “YTs (Yarramalong Turf’s) Central coast Sunflower Harvest” a must-do for locals and tourists well into the future. We also have other farm events in the making so it’s definitely an exciting time for the farm.”
The Doggett family hasn’t stopped there, earlier this year preparations were put in place to bring what was known as Wyong Creek Produce in under their umbrella. Plans were set in motion and the final major renovation at the existing farm was put on hold to allow resources to be available for works on the new venture.
The produce shed is now named ‘Yarramalong Farm Supplies’ and has been a successful addition to an already diverse product offering.
In May the Doggett’s were honoured to be given the go ahead to be a Ringers Western country clothing supplier. A lawn store was also added to supply Lawn Solutions Australia lawn care products and Husqvarna Automowers, with an indoor display and a working 80m2 plot of their three premium grasses. They have even enjoyed being able to remodel the produce shed to include an express drive thru, which has been beneficial throughout COVID restrictions.
Alan has been pleased with how well things have come together. “I guess for us although it seems like there is a lot happening, the way the businesses integrate with each other sometimes even surprises myself.”
“Our staff from each side of the business really want each to succeed and they work in together so well. Stock food deliveries are being taken by the turf team and unloaded with Moffets; the produce team are picking up fertiliser along with the feed runs, the girls in the produce shed are learning to load trucks. It’s a real team effort across all areas.”
“I feel the diversification we have undertaken, although at times has some hurdles helps create its own form of peace of mind. It certainly also keeps things exciting!”