From a handful of plants in some pots, Palisa Anderson’s dream came true when she was able to expand her harvest of home grown Thai vegetables to an entire farm. Boon Luck Farm at Tyagarah, in northern New South Wales, now supplies vegetables for her family’s nine restaurants in Sydney, including the popular Chat Thai restaurants.
There are more than 20 different crops on the property including brassica, shallots, parsley, Chinese celery, corn, beans, and snow peas.
It also grows aromatics such as kaffir lime, galangal, rhizomes, as well as herbs for the restaurants, such as coriander and basil.
Ms Anderson is a young woman with a passion for growing organic Thai herbs and vegetables, and she has further expansion plans for the farm.
“Basically anything that if I stick it into the ground and it grows, it just stays. It gets propagated and expanded,” she said.
“So hopefully we’ll be a hugely diverse farm [so] that one day I won’t have to go shopping and buy anything anymore.”
While Thai vegetables may be the name of the game, Ms Anderson also grows a number of other varieties, including European crops.
“It’s a real mix bag, actually,” she said.
“It’s predominantly varieties that we want to grow for our menu. However, because I want to promote a lot more biodiversity, I also grow a lot of European varieties, a lot of hybrids, and I also grow lots of tomatoes.”
Biodiversity was of particular importance to Ms Anderson, who said that it was essential for plants to grow well.
“I think the thing is, with the biodiversity, it really promotes plants to do well. Where they shouldn’t do well, they do well. They can’t help themselves because the soil’s so good here,” she said.
On top of supplying herbs and vegetables to their Sydney restaurants, Boon Luck Farm also supplies to a handful of local restaurants in the Byron Bay region.
The farm has also recently applied to be certified organic. This is of particular importance to Ms Anderson, who wishes to preserve the cultural significance of cooking with traditional Thai vegetables.
“I think it’s also becoming really lost in Thailand even,” she said.
“With the bill being lifted for GMO in Thailand and a lot of the varieties getting tainted, it’s very hard to go into a village, like a remote village anywhere and find non-GMO vegetables.”
“I itched for a week after that… I was so red.”
Ms Anderson said a lot of visitors who came to the farm from Thailand or other areas of South-East Asia were pleasantly surprised to see some of the vegetables that were grown there because it had been so long since they had seen or eaten them.
“I think when you eat food that’s cooked with these vegetables it gives you a sense of history,” she said.
However, Ms Anderson has also set her sights on promoting Australian native crops with her farm recently hosting a native food tour group to inspect her finger limes, lemon aspens, and quandongs, among others.
While Boon Luck Farm may strive to preserve traditional varieties of vegetables, it certainly still keeps on top of the latest innovations and technology.
The farm has recently installed ‘the igloo’ — a computer-generated system with the ability to filter out UV rays in summer, and control air flow and humidity.
Ms Anderson said she felt privileged to be able to share her passion for Thai cuisine.
“I feel really glad and grateful that we’ve got this opportunity to kind of expose, I guess, to the mainstream what Thai food can be,” she said.
However, she admitted there were selfish reasons for her work, and joked that Boon Luck Farm was really an elaborate project to feed her family great food.
“Having the restaurants is a really good filter for it, so I see this as a means to an end,” she said.
“This is all really for our family to eat really well, and hopefully if people are interested then they’ll buy from us later on.”