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Hi, I'm Mark Herlaar.
I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and my family who manage and make their living from the land; and I also wanted to share our future plans for sustainable farming (for this generation, and for many more to come).

I was born a city boy from Dutch migrants and, while growing up in Melbourne, all I remember is that I wanted to be a farmer and live off the land.
So, at my first opportunity, when I left school at age 16 (after 9years of schooling), I took my first full-time job on a dairy farm in Ravensbourne.
l acquired the job through a friend of my father who knew the Groves family there. They wanted a farm hand....and that became me.
I worked for a time then left, and a few years later (after I had found my wife Natalie and we had our first-born son Joel), we all moved back to that same farm.
That's nearly 40 years in this area.
After a time, we left and I developed a business that grew to employ more than 50 people at one stage.
It was called The One Stop Insulation Shop on the corner of Bridge, Mort and Belleview streets, Toowoomba - I'm proud to say my business was a success.
We did well and then the insulation rebate came, great at first but proved to be the end of what had taken me 20 years to build up.
It was now heading into trouble with a lack of work and a building downturn I salvaged what I could and decided it was now time to farm, as we had acquired this property while in our last business.

My son was drinking Corona beer at the time and so we decided to plant lime trees (because they obviously go well with a Corona beer).
There are other reasons too, but this is where the lime journey begins as it was a sound investment opportunity.
We acquired a water licence to irrigate from a farm in Cabarlah and had it transferred to our farm - an 18meg licence with allocation. Over the next five years it was a great learning curve and, I must say, an inspiring challenge to be now farming. And then some of the greater realities of farming came to try us as well -drought, pests...and of course, ironically, Corona of a different kind (COVID-19).

But COVID-19 was actually an opportunity wrapped in the cloak of disaster. After losing around 150 tonnes of fruit due to club and pub shut downs (as they were the largest uses of our limes), it made us stop and think: "what is the most valuable resource on this farm other than ourselves". The answer: Water!
We know it is the lifeblood of any property and it must be managed wisely.
We then calculated the losses of crops and income and it soon became apparent that even if we just sold the water, we would be able to at least make some income. So, we looked into the water-selling idea.
A major water bottler visited our farm, took samples and had them tested and said "we had the best water this side of Ipswich".
We were proud of that. As a result, we set out to seek permission for change of use.
While on that journey (and with the process well underway) we looked more into the sale of water to the large bottling companies and it became apparent that their pricing doesn't match the value we place on the water.
We investigated further and decided that we would explore other possibilities and opportunities.
We decided we would pursue the water extraction licence (as it adds value to the farm) but the selling of the water to the bottlers was still undervaluing it.
So, we chose to develop our own product.
We have been making kombucha as a family for more than 20 years and decided kombucha would add far greater value to the water.
So, we constructed a purpose-built kitchen, obtained a food licence and started to produce 'Manifest Kombucha'
Council was very helpful in guiding us through the food licence process and what was needed to make our kitchen compliant.
Currently, we have done two trials at the Cobb & Co Farmers Market in Toowoomba and have sold out each time. That's around 4o litres, which is the same value of 80,000 litres of bottled water.

Having been involved in a few reality TV shows (and still working on one for the English broadcaster ITV), I appreciate the incredible power of positive media exposure.
As such, I welcome the interest from a number of celebrities who are happy to help launch our drink and I'm delighted to have been asked to be interviewed on a program next year regarding
sustainable farming.
The Australian Newspaper has also said they want to run our story Australia wide; as do a few other media groups.
So, as you can imagine, we are now seeing the true value of this water and the value we add to it as well.

Our future plan is to retain the water licence for its value to the farm (in licence only), this value will also help replace some of our losses financially over the years- giving back a balance to our efforts.
Only selling to the bottlers as a last resort in a time of need (not as a primary function), our long-term plan is to reduce water consumption to around 8meg a year in total.
We have already begun and have already saved about 8meg by removing around 2000 trees from our 4000-tree orchard to make it more sustainable and produce less waste.
Every year, as our drink becomes more popular, we will reduce the orchard size - eventually, its sole purpose will be purely supplying our drink and local sales.
Our long-term view also is to reforest the farm with native trees and work in conjunction with wildlife rescue people to make use of the safe haven we will create.
In time, I would like to think we will add some real tourism opportunities, not only for us but for the whole district.

And that brings us to, thank you for having a look at how our story is progressing.
My whole family resides on my two farms - my wife Natalie, my son Joel and my daughter Katelyn - and between them and their partners (and seven grandchildren) they've not only built on our land, but are planning on their children building here as well.
We are trying to create the best life for our family and for those around us.
That's why I hope this letter helps you understand our position in this journey and I wish you the very best and a prosperous life ahead.

As I say, Namaste and be well.

Mark Herlaar

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We have already begun and have already saved about 8meg by removing around 2000 trees from our 4000-tree orchard to make it more sustainable and produce less waste

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