by Carol Hopkins
We all have dreams. Some of us get to realise them, some not. For Sharon and Phillip Martin, owning their own rural property and living a self-sufficient lifestyle
had been their long-held dream. Even as a teenager, when riding his horse in the Victorian High Country, Phillip remembers yearning to purchase his own piece of land. However, as with many people, life got in the way.
As Phillip explains, “I met Sharon, we had two boys, and it was essentially
‘head down, bum up’ for 30 years.”
But the dream never went away, and when their sons finished school and started tertiary studies, the time felt right to re-ignite their passion for a sustainable, off-the-grid lifestyle. The Yea area had always been a favoured location for Sharon and Phillip, and while it took some time to find the right property, they finally moved from the Mornington Peninsula to a 65-acre farm near Yea in late 2017.
Even before they moved, Sharon was busy laying the groundwork for their new venture by completing a six-month, hands-on permaculture design course. The principles of permaculture – which emphasise managing land and resources in an integrated, sustainable and self-sufficient way – have become the guiding force for Twin Creeks Farm, the name of their property. Sharon also developed a passion for herbs during the permaculture course.
“One of the facilitators on the course just loved medicinal herbs, and it
was due to her that I got completely hooked,” she says.
Sharon began studying herbs in earnest. Over two-and-a-half years and 2,500 hours of study, she completed the Herbal Immersion Program. This course covered all the medicinal herbs and their identification, propagation, foraging, blending, and producing herbal products. Even now, Sharon is continuing with studies in advanced herbalism, naturopathy, and forest therapy.
At first, Sharon wasn’t sure how she would use her herbal studies, but Twin Creeks Farm quickly proved
to be the ideal setting for growing and developing her herbal products. Currently, she grows 37 medicinal herbs and 15 medicinal tree species along with plants for food. She uses 18 of these medicinal herbs in a range of specially blended teas and combines these with herbs, and even mushrooms, from other Australian organic suppliers.
The Twin Creeks Farm range of herbal teas is impressive – over ten different blends, each one designed to enhance your health in a particular way. There’s Immune Boost, Ultimate Detox, Mind Focus, Sweet Dreams, Feminine Vibe, and Energise, to name a few. Each blend contains between five and nine herbs, all in carefully measured proportions. The ingredients in each blend, and their medicinal properties, are clearly listed on the website. Sharon also makes a coffee substitute from roasted chicory and dandelion roots.
Although Sharon has only been producing her herbal tea products for less than a year, she has developed a loyal following.
“The teas are like a pot of gold. Not many people know about them, but once people do know, they keep coming back to the pot,” Phillip says.
If the teas sampled by the writer of this article are anything to go by, this is not surprising as they taste amazing. Customers also vouch for their health benefits. However, Sharon and Phillip are keen to point out that medicinal herbs have the potential to interact with other medicines, so if you are
on medication, you should check with your doctor before consuming herbal products.
Sharon sells her teas online through the Twin Creeks Farm website as well as through local outlets such as The Grant Street Grocer and Wildcrafted Beauty in Alexandra, the Yea Wetlands shop, and High Country Hampers in Taggerty. Sharon donates 50 cents to the Yea Community House for every online sale as she is a strong believer in supporting the local community.
The road to a successful herbal tea business has not been easy. When Sharon and Phillip first arrived on their property it was nothing but bare paddocks. Phillip has spent the last four years putting in a driveway and bridge, building an energy-efficient house, erecting sheds, fences and animal enclosures, planting over 500 trees and shrubs, establishing garden beds, laying an extensive watering system, and raising a small number of niche cattle, sheep, chickens, Peking ducks and geese.
Phillip admits he hasn’t always gotten it right. “I made a lot of mistakes, but you learn from those mistakes and push on.”
He also says that “nature didn’t welcome us with open arms”. In the first few years, they battled a grasshopper plague, destructive gangs of cockatoos, a local drought and the biggest flood in the district for 100 years. Nonetheless, the Martins now have a property that is completely off-the-grid, organic, self-sufficient, and carbon positive.
Everything produced by the farm, or brought into the farm, stays on the farm. The only exception is plastic waste, which Phillip takes to the tip in Yea every so often. Vegetable scraps are fed to the chooks, cuttings go into the compost, weeds into the worm farm, paper and cardboard are used as mulch, and manure from the animals helps to fertilise the garden.
“Everything works in together,” Sharon says.
captions – Twin Creeks has hand crafted a loose leaf herbal blend, to relax the mind and body, and assist in a rejuvenating, sound sleep. Ingredients (below) include chamomile, oat straw, calendula, passion flower, skullcap, St Johns wort and valerian.
Although much has been achieved, Sharon and Phillip say there is still much to do. In terms of her herbal business, Sharon plans to expand into making herbal balms and salves. She is also interested in running education sessions and farm tours. At the moment, however, Sharon is happy producing her range of herbal teas and is confident that as more and more people try her products, the business will continue to grow. With both the business and the farm, Sharon and Phillip Martin have proven, beyond doubt, that it is possible to pursue your passions and make long-held dreams come true.
To order herbal teas, or obtain more information, you can visit their website www.twincreeksfarm.com.au or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.