A productive holiday

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                                                                                                                        » By Adam Birkby

A productive holiday
         have made contact with Leyland
                                                           The story of Leyland Minter
     I   on the phone. After leaving Port
         Macquarie he is passing through
                                                           insect and disease control.
                                                              “These were major problems because
                                                                                                           Leyland is in the middle of his trip
                                                                                                       across the eastern seaboard, which will
the mountainous tropical coast of Coffs                    one, Mum did not like spending money,       take in a total of 36 Bunnings stores. It’s
Harbour, taking in the ocean air on his                    and two, there was not much you could       the latest step in Organic Crop
way back to the Sunshine State. If you                     really find to control mites, powdery       Protectants’ foray into the home garden
follow the old adage “Find something                       mildew and the dreaded Monolepta            sector – a step that will see OCP at the
you like to do and you’ll never have to                    beetles,” he recalls.                       forefront of its industry once again.
work a day in your life”, it’s been a                         “I was given the job of pesticide            As Leyland reaches the peak of St
productive holiday.                                        manufacturer, formulator and                Helena’s Hill and its breathtaking view
   “It is very fortunate in one’s life that                applicator,” he explains. This involved     of Byron Bay, he can picture the trips in
you are able to work on projects you                       developing a homemade insect spray.         the old Holden panel van. He and Ada
really enjoy,” comments Leyland.                           For the small insects they used a mix of    used to drive along this very road on
Technically he has been working. He                        tea tree oil, soap flakes and peanut oil.   their trips there years before.
tells me of his successful meetings with                   For the larger insects such as                  “Whenever there was reported to be
Bunnings over the last few days,                           caterpillars, grubs and the dreaded         rough weather down at the beach, we
developing Organic Crop Protectants’                       Monolepta beetles they went for a more      would take Mum’s trusty Holden panel
(OCP) home garden range. As he edges                       toxic brew of nicotine and arsenic –        van and get a load of seaweed. This old
closer to familiar childhood surroundings,                 made from brewing up cigarette              Holden never rusted as she had painted
                                                                                                       it inside and out with mutton fat, a
                                                                                                       coating that dust and blowflies seemed
                                                                                                       to like.”
                                                                                                           Though he might not have
                                                                                                       recognised it at the time, Ada’s
                                                                                                       innovations and her use of natural
                                                                                                       products to overcome problems were
                                                                                                       developing Leyland’s organic mindset.
                                                                                                       Another important influence would
                                                                                                       shape this further.
                                                                                                           A year or two before Leyland left
                                                                                                       high school – towards the end of his
                                                                                                       tenure as ‘unpaid farm hand’ – Ada had
                                                                                                       picked up a book by Dr Steiner on
                                                                                                       biodynamic farming. He recalls that the
                                                                                                       knowledge gained from this book led to
                                                                                                       a few changes in their farming practices
                                                                                                       and a great deal of skepticism from his
                                                                                                       mother’s friends.
                                                                                                           “I remember one of my jobs was to
                                                                                                       collect cow’s horns from the local
                                                                                                       abattoir, bring them home and stuff
                                                                                                       them with fresh cow manure, bury them
Leyland Minter with Dr Doreen Clark, co-founder of OCP.                                                for a few months, then retrieve them
                                                                                                       and empty the contents into Mum’s
Leyland begins to tell me of his days                      butts collected from the 14 pubs            liquid fertiliser,” he says.
growing up on a small farm on the                          around Lismore.                                 Leyland relinquished his position as
outskirts of Lismore in Northern NSW.                         Fertilisers were also homemade           unpaid farm hand to attend university
   His mother Ada had embarked on a                        recipes. To get the flowers to perform to   and spent time in New Zealand and
flower-growing project which involved                      their genetic potential they were           Papua New Guinea before “falling
Leyland as the ‘unpaid farm hand’ and                      liberally doused with a concoction of       into,” as he explains, “the development
the growing of about five acres of                         liquefied cow manure, dead fish and         and application of agricultural
gladioli, gerberas, statice and various                    rotting Lucerne hay. “This brew had a       chemicals. “It was a very interesting
other flower species.                                      great odour so was only applied on          time with many interesting and unique
   It was this flora culture farming                       Friday afternoons, when no flowers          products being developed. The first
background that led to Leyland’s early                     were picked. This gave time for the         modern synthetic pesticides were being
interest in insects, plants and sundry                     smell to disappear before the Monday        discovered. At one stage I was the only
other living things – particularly                         pick of flowers.”                           ‘industrial agronomist’ in Australia – my

36   AUSTRALIAN Certified   Organic MAGAZINE Summer 2007

                                                                                        Above: Gary Leeson, OCP Executive
                                                                                        Director and General Manager.

                                                                                        registered insecticides, fungicides and
                                                                                        spraying oils with the Australian
                                                                                        Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines
                                                                                        Authority (APVMA). This is a major
                                                                                        achievement for such a small company
                                                                                        when you consider the expertise and
                                                                                        research costs required to satisfy the
                                                                                        APVMA and Department of Health that
                                                                                        your product is safe and effective for its
                                                                                        intended use.
                                                                                           “The recent introduction of our eco-
                                                                                        organic garden range has also been a
job was to develop weed control             I wanted to research and develop            great adventure. We never realised the
practices and programs for the              products that had minimal impact            level of interest for organic products in
Australian railways, main roads, airports   on humans and the environment – for         the home garden sector until we started
and power companies.”                       quality produce at an economical            dealing directly with home gardeners.
   Leyland eventually found himself         price. This is how Organic Crop             However, it also opened our eyes to the
working with and developing                 Protectants commenced.”                     level of misuse of the word organic. It
application methods for insect                 Dr Doreen Clarke was a big part of       has been a real education process for us
pheromones, insect contraceptives and       this – her knowledge of formulation         to teach home gardeners that there’s a
aspects of modifying and controlling        chemistry and analysis saw her become       great difference between products that
insects by interfering with their           an equal partner in the business.           are registered as inputs for organic
hormonal system. Leyland studied how        Leyland also praises other staff            gardening and those that simply use the
to get a slow release mechanism,            members James Gardner and Melissa           word to sell products. Organic
especially in cotton, so he could attract   Ryan, as well as fellow directors Liz       gardening really connects consumers
or confuse the insect over the whole        Lucas and Gary Leeson. “Without these       with the organic industry and it’s
season. This started his interest in        committed people OCP would not have         this experience that needs nurturing
emulsifiable vegetable oils as pesticide    survived. In a small company such as        and protecting if the organic industry is
carriers. It was this interest and two      ours, people have to multifunction and      to prosper.”
very bad poisoning accidents that would     all the people at OCP have achieved the        As Leyland continues his journey
secure his future.                          ‘Everest’ of multifunctionalism.”           north he says he has another call
   “This helped me to realise the future       Over the past 17 years this multi-       coming in. Before long, he returns to
– for me at least – was to start my own     skilled team has researched and             me. “Its Bunnings in Cairns, I’d better
business in the area of what I call         developed over 25 products. Eight of        go,” he issues, and hangs up. Lucky
environmentally sustainable farming.        these products have been approved as        bugger – a holiday in Cairns...

                                                                                      Summer 2007   AUSTRALIAN Certified   Organic MAGAZINE 37

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