Feedback Organic Recovery: Urban farmer David Sivyer is leading by example

FORWARD THINKING: David Sivyer at the Hunter Valley Research Foundation in Maryville, where the pilot project urban farm crop is being planted. Picture: Chris Brown
FORWARD THINKING: David Sivyer at the Hunter Valley Research Foundation in Maryville, where the pilot project urban farm crop is being planted. Picture: Chris Brown

Four years ago, David Sivyer found life was drawing him back to his parents’ farm at the foot of the Barrington Tops.

Like many farming businesses, the family was looking for opportunities to diversify.

Working in hospitality management, Sivyer had witnessed huge amounts of organic material from restaurants and cafes being thrown away, literally going to waste.

“It wasn’t until I moved back to the farm that I put two and two together,” he says.

“Instead of using synthetic fertilisers we thought that, with a huge organic waste collection, we could potentially improve our soil by converting the organic waste [into compost].”

Feedback Organic Recovery germinated from this simple idea. Sivyer began by collecting waste from cafes around Maitland and later, Newcastle, taking food waste and organic materials such as chefs’ food prep waste, leafy greens, egg shells, paper and coffee grounds and manually turning them into compost at the family farm.

But it wasn’t long before he had almost more compost than he needed, so he began looking for other waste materials to work with, and new outlets for the compost.      

Sivyer’s business, Feedback Organic Recovery, has since evolved from organic waste collection and composting to include designing and installing urban gardens built from waste materials such as pallets and hessian, and leading workshops to teach these skills to adults and children.

“It’s totally focused on waste and the positive impact of being resource efficient,” Sivyer says.

“Now we’re moving on to urban farming as well.

“It just makes so much sense, using vacant urban land. We can completely close that food loop of collecting organic waste, converting it into compost, remediating the soil with the compost and growing local and seasonal produce that can go back to those cafes.”

Feedback Organic Recovery has been given temporary use of land in the grounds of the Hunter Valley Research Foundation in Maryville, where the pilot project urban farm crop is being planted.  A healthy mesclun mix of leafy greens, kale and cherry tomatoes will be the first crop.  A bee hive from Urban Hum will also be installed.

For Sivyer, the next logical step is converting the business into a social enterprise and he’s encouraging the community to get involved.

To become part of the growing change he’s inviting people to enlist Feedback to either set up urban farms in their backyards to become part of the urban farm plot, or pick up some skills by joining him and others at the urban farm in Maryville. Participants will help with seeding, transplanting, growing and harvesting. Head to feedbackorganic.com.au for more information.

“The mission of Feedback is to repurpose waste in an environmentally sustainable, innovative and enjoyable fashion,” Sivyer says.

“The model I’m using is that any profit Feedback makes is reinvested into engaging the community with our human and environmental well-being in mind.

“Some other ways for people to get involved include pallet workshops and kids creative workshops.

“I think it’s a no-brainer that others should be included in this. It’s way too good of a life and I think that this should be replicated for others. If we can get more people involved it’s only encouraging a great future in some way.”

Feedback Organic Recovery will be presenting workshops for adults and children at Transition Newcastle’s Fair Share Festival at Hamilton Public School on November 12 and 13. For more information visit feedbackorganic.com.au or transitionnewcastle.org.au/fair-share-festival-2016/