Meet Phil Lavers, owner of Moonacres Farms

Interview by Jennifer Saminathen

“Food is part of the planet – you’re going to put it in your mouth and eat it. You can do it in a way that honours life, or just takes from the planet.”

What’s your name, and your role in the farm?

  • Phil: farm owner and hands-on manager.

How would you describe Moonacres?

  • 150 Acres, 2 main growing areas, 1,800 fruit trees, verdant, high rainfall area, year-round farming – the soil is some of the best in the country. The farm brings me a lot of pleasure, the work is outdoors and varied. I enjoy seeing the kale healthy and alive!
  • It’s also, very spiritual – you’re working with a living thing, that’s frail and delicate. Humans incorrectly assume they can control nature – if they can’t, they often destroy it. You have to let go, and be an accepting participant in this amazing process that we’re all part of. I recognize my limitations and want to work WITH nature. What’s not spiritual about that? It’s just beautiful.

What is the most important thing about what you do?

  • I’m looking after the soil. With agricultural industrialisation after WWII and widespread conventional farming, globally, soil has been neglected and degraded. Soil IS a living thing, and we must look after it, because if we don’t it won’t feed us anymore. I have been entrusted with the care of the soil, and am looking after it on the community’s behalf. Working with something that is alive, like soil, is rewarding – spiritually, physically, and intellectually. What a great job!

Why do you partner Alfalfa House? (We whole-heartedly appreciate this!)

  • I was an Alfalfa House member in 1986, and I’m honoured to be on the Alfalfa team. Lots of Inner West people know what good produce tastes like. When you eat food that is naturally and properly grown, your life can change. Being connected to real food, brings a level of aliveness – you become clearer. Alfalfa House has been a good customer for us, it allows connection to the soil.

One of the core pillars for Alfalfa House is sustainability – we try to reduce our environmental impact through our practices and supply chains. How does Moonacres approach sustainability on the farm?

  • I’m insane about sustainability. Moonacres is organically certified and ferociously looking after its soil. We’re working on a project called Farming the Sun. The goal is to get the farm solar independent, create a virtual battery, and share energy with each other. Energy reticulation will also run our café.

Describe the Soil Project.

  • Soil is a living, breathing, biologically active membrane on the surface of the planet, which provides us with nearly all of our terrestrial food, not just chemical nutrients. It’s actually a LIVING thing, a whole cosmos of life we know very little about. What we put into it affects how alive it is. I want to learn how to grow better food. The aim of the project is to keep the microorganisms, the living system healthy.

What is the one thing you want people to know?

  • Life depends on healthy soil. Picture what I call the upside-down food pyramid of doom, with its point is pushing into the soil. Shops and markets are at the top, with the combined weight of our unsustainable society squeezing down on farmers, and crushing the life out of the soil at the bottom. Consumer choices at the top of the pyramid either support sustainable farming, or contribute to the pyramid of doom, are they are made every time you shop. Food is part of the planet – you’re going to put it in your mouth and eat it. You can do it in a way that honours life, or just takes from the planet.
  • I’m asking you to make a wise choice: help me and help the soil. Because when you do, you lift a tiny bit of weight off the pyramid of doom, and if we do that, we will be healthier, and so will our planet.

When you shop, be grateful you have an opportunity to commune with the planet. People can make a difference, and create a food pyramid of joy instead.

Rapid fire questions

  1. Sustainability = joy
  2. Food = life
  3. Change = what you make it

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