Damper Gully Farms, located on Diamond Tree Road, is a family-owned and operated farm run by the Falcinella family. Andrew Falcinella has been farming in the district for over 20 years, continuing on like his father and grandfather before him. Along with his wife Lisa, and the help of parents Paul and Avis, Andrew is committed to supplying nutrient-dense produce to his customers.
The farm focuses on potatoes, but they also grow pumpkins and manage a heard of Black Angus cattle. Historically, they have also grown capsicums, tomatoes, plums, and avocados in a previous partnership. Their potatoes are a standout product, with 12 different varieties grown on the farm, producing an average of 1000 tonnes per season.
The farm's yearly schedule keeps them busy, as there’s always work to be done. The cycle starts in the winter with soil preparation before planting cover crops and then the potato crop in the spring and early summer. As the potato plants grow, they need to be tended to by hilling the rows, sometimes multiple times. Potatoes turn green if they come into contact with sunlight, rendering them unfit to eat. Hilling the potatoes ensures the tubers remain covered and offers more space for growth. After flowering occurs, the potatoes need to be irrigated regularly to make sure they receive ample water to encourage the tubers to grow.
Soon after flowering, the potatoes go through senescence, which is when the vines above the ground yellow and die back as the tubers mature underground. When the plants have fully died off, this means the tubers have matured and the potato skin has set and hardened. 100-120 days after planting, the potatoes are ready for harvesting. Damper Gully Farms harvest through summer and autumn, using specialist machinery that digs up the tubers before workers hand-grade and pack for delivery. Potatoes from the Southern Forests region are in stores from January – May during the year.
One of the things that Damper Gully Farms is most passionate about is regenerative farming practices. Andrew has seen firsthand the toll that farming can take on the soil over the generations and set out to find a more sustainable way forward. They have introduced methods such as multi-species cover crops, and have even trialled planting potatoes with buckwheat, field peas and fava beans as a companion mix. They have also made two Johnson & Su Bio-Reactors, which produces a no turn, fungal dominant compost. The liquid from this is used to inoculate cover crop seeds and is added to the furrow at time of seeding. Before planting potatoes this year, they have planted two types of Caliente mustard for bio fumigation – a practice that uses naturally produced plant compounds to manage soil pests. This agronomic trick helps the Falcinellas avoid using additional pesticides.
The Falcinella family love living and working in the Southern Forests, as it is a supportive community where they can connect and celebrate the unique offerings of the region. The variety of produce grown, and the enthusiastic support from other farmers makes the region like no other. The Falcinellas are active in the regenerative-ag community of the South-West, sharing their discoveries on various trials they’ve undertaken with other farmers.
Damper Gully Farms supplies potatoes to local markets and also sends them to Beta Spud for washing and packing, before they are sent to retailers in the major cities. Andrew and Lisa are committed to connecting with consumers through social media, agri-tourism, and events, as it allows them to share their farming journey and educate people about the elements of farming, bringing more value to their products.
At home, Andrew is known to get fancy on Sunday mornings by making his ‘Farmers Breakfast', a dish that uses their Prince of Orange potato.
Image via Will Cook For Smiles.com
ANDREW’S FARMERS BREAKFAST
• 2 Prince of Orange potatoes, diced with skin on
• 1T Vegetable oil
• 5 rashers of bacon, diced
• ¼ cup chopped spring onion
• ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
• 4 eggs
• ½ cup milk
• Salt & pepper
• Sauté diced potatoes in a skillet with vegetable oil until softened.
• Add diced bacon and spring onion, fry until crispy.
• In a bowl, combine eggs and milk; whisk, then add to the skillet.
• Top with grated cheese and stir slowly until cooked through.
• Season with salt & pepper and serve with toast.
To find Damper Gully Farms produce locally during their harvest season (February to May), head to The Naked Pantry, Falci Spud Stall (at the Pemby Crossroads), Galloway Springs Stall, or the Manjimup Farmers Market to stock up. Further afield, you can purchase from The Peoples Produce markets in Fremantle and Subiaco. If you’re shopping online, check out The Backyard Pantry for available potato varieties.
Photography by Genuinely Southern Forests.