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Local Farmer profile - Lillian Forrest

Local Farmer profile - Lillian Forrest

Lillian Forrest with her Certified Organic flowers

Can you introduce yourself to our Santos Organics Community?

Hello there, I’m Lilli from Federal Flowers – I’m a mother to two darling girls and partner to Josh, a luthier, and all-round flower supporter.

I’m a second-generation farmer from Federal, who in 2021, expanded out from my home vegetable patch and edible flower mixes to bring certified organic cut flowers to the community.

Every bunch is unique, and a reflection of the season at that moment in time (…and how well my succession planting is going). I also make the Organic Forrest Kombucha, which is one of the products our family team bring to Santos Organics
and local farmers markets, as well as our range of perennial and seasonal crops and other product lines like the Davidson plum jam and fire cider.

What are you currently growing on your farm and will be stocking Santos Organics with?

I grow a wide range of perennial and seasonal/annual flowers throughout most of the year – early winter at the moment, is a time where the flowers are paused whilst they are growing nice strong root systems during the cooler weather before they burst into bright joyous colours in late winter. I’ve learnt some new tips and tricks from some generous local flower farmers for improved succession planting and therefore have flowers all through the year.

Summer: Heat loving annuals like dahlias, zinnia, matricaria (feverfew), carnations, celosia, cosmos, scabiosa, sunflowers, chocolate lace, dianthus and gomphrena.
Autumn: We are lucky in the subtropics that summer flowers kick on 'til the weather cools down, Chrysanthemums are also flowering.
Winter: Late winter generally brings perennial joy of jonquils, ranunculus, anemones and cool weather flowers like stock, pansies, and viola.
Spring: Early on it continues with the bulbs, snap dragons, cosmos, poppies, towering larkspur, delphinium, foxgloves, and everlasting daisies before the heat loving annuals come in.

Do you have a star crop?

Anything edible is the star in my eyes. Beware though, I am growing some non-edible flowers as well. Dahlias have really gained a remarkable resurgence of popularity, and chrysanthemums and gerberas are next! The range of colours, forms, and heights is amazing.

Apart from being certified organic, what other alternative methods of farming do you use? ⁠

At my farm, I do mostly everything by hand (I need tractor help to move the hay bales though!).

Forking, adding amendments with as little disturbance as possible to the wonderous soil microbiome, and inter-planting soil conditioners like annual /short lived borage within perennial flower rows to give it a natural oomph as the mulch breaks down. I also practice intercropping and companion planting, use physical defences (shade cloth, insect cloth, trap crops), keep plants healthy and stress free, and encourage beneficial insects - I love seeing the lady birds arrive.

With regards to sustainable business practices; I use natural/recycled Kraft paper, compostable stickers, jute to tie off the flowers, reusable flower buckets for delivery and time deliveries with other tasks, or in conjunction with OrganicForrest deliveries to minimise my footprint on the earth.

What do you love about farming?

I love the impact I can have on someone’s day - having certified organic blooms shouldn’t be a luxury and I aim to make them affordable by having few links in the supply chain.

One of the reasons I diversified into cut flowers was that I was becoming disillusioned by how disjointed the idea of gifting or receiving flowers had become.

Expensive, out of season requests and many imported flowers being used including the epic fumigation treatment they need to be allowed into Australia (helloooo devitalising! Look it up!) as well as poor working conditions, low wages for the workers PLUS the flower miles (Colombia, Kenya, Singapore). Certified Organic farming is a righteous contribution to our community and environment - amplifying the importance of soil, awareness of the seasons, and creating a positive influence on mood (flowers really do make us happy).

Can you share one of your favourite ways to use something you grow for good health or healthy living?

For good health, mood and healthy living arranging the flowers and having a sense of accomplishment (I’m most definitely not a florist – getting more creative though!).

Also, simply using the edible flowers as garnish on cakes and salads, in ice cubes – they contribute to the appearance of food as well as containing biologically active substances like trace vitamins and minerals and are a source of antioxidants like anthocyanins.