One Cooperative Mad Professor
Kieran Weston used to be a suit-wearing corporate monkey earning six figures – now he spends his days covered in dirt, scratched and bruised, muddy, sunburned…and smiling with a happiness he has only ever dreamed of.
Owner / founder of One Cooperative, Kieran lost everything from his Asia-based manufacturing company – the big house, the fancy car, the hefty bankroll and all the stresses and strains that went with them. Only then did he realise that no amount of wealth could ever buy true contentedness.
“When my multi-million dollar business in China went belly-up, I ended up pushing a broom in the dunnies in Byron and doing a lawnmower run,” Kieran recalls. “My first nursery was half of a tennis court in Brunswick Heads from a tiny little house – about as small as you can get. We built our way up, getting up to 150 or 200 markets a year and then we spent two years trying to find a property that would let us do what we were doing.”
From these humble, residential beginnings, Kieran finds himself now living on the land, tucked away in Byron’s hinterland with panoramic views out towards the bay over lush forests and rolling hills. An acre of land stretches from the back of his house, meticulously tilled, ruler-straight lines of lush vegetables gently swaying in the easterly breeze. Vibrant green and deep purple leaves corrugate the rich, brown soil that has been carefully mulched and worked to provide optimal nutrition for Kieran’s babies, all of which have been hand-reared and lovingly transplanted from his nearby nursery.
Just as chance stripped him of the small fortune he had accumulated, it was chance that brought him to the land.
“We were lucky,” Kieran recounts. “We got this place from the farmer who used to own it bought it 60 or 70 years ago. He sadly passed away and his four boys had all moved on to different lives, architects and electricians and so on. So they were happy to take us on. We’ve now leased this place for the next five years and, hopefully, they’ll let us stay here forever. The boys come out here every now and then and I ask them what their dad would think of it all. They say he’d be absolutely dancing.”
One Cooperative isn’t your run-of-the-mill farm. Kieran hasn’t just stuck a bunch of seedlings in the ground and hoped for the best. Every plant, every harvest and every inch of topsoil has been thought out carefully, creating the perfect, nutritionally abundant foundation from which to grow his spray-free, organic crop. He came to farming knowing nothing about it, but Kieran has made an exceptional business. Taken from the revolutionary organic farming methods of Paul Gautschi’s Back to Eden project, Kieran’s farm is a precisely constructed balance of soil, compost and woodchip creating a fertile bed similar to the leaf litter of a healthy forest.
“I never wanted to do farming conventionally because I felt that it’s too destructive. A fantastic customer of mine came in one day and said, ‘you must have a look at this’. I had a look, gave it a go but it didn’t really work out because what he (Gautschi) shows is a patch about ten years down the track. So I came up with a technique of creating some space between the soil and the woodchip with a biodynamic compost that we create, and then we plant straight into that.
“Pretty much where we’re at now,” says Kieran, casting an eye across his bounteous crop, “is about as bad as the vegetables will ever be.”
So, time for a little science:
Did you know that the average supermarket fruit and veg is a week old. That means it has been picked a week prior to being put on display and has been slowly dying since that time. The result of this is that these plants have as little as 40 percent of the nutrition they naturally produce. Add to this pesticides, preservatives and pollutants from their transportation across, on average, 1,500 kilometres, and what you thought was good, healthy produce really isn’t so great after all.
Kieran’s produce is day-fresh, sold within 24 hours of picking, and usually a lot less. This, combined with Kieran’s natural, innovative, chemical-free farming methods, makes his produce verging on superfood-healthy, absolutely packed with the vital vitamins and minerals that our bodies crave and, in today’s society, are often so desperately deprived of.
Kieran’s methods are also astoundingly efficient. His property uses a tenth of the water of conventional methods, produces far more prolifically and, due to the layered soil and mulch, not only never dries out but also never floods. He sees our food not as the filler that many of us view it as, but as medicine. We are constantly relying upon expensive supplements, multivitamins and a rainbow of pills to provide the nutrition that our food should supply. But in this age of force-grown over-consumerism, we demand processed foods, crops year-round and a diet that is unsustainable both for the environment and for our health.
Local businesses, including Naked Treaties and The Roadhouse, are taking advantage of this ready supply of incredible vegetables, passing on their wonderful benefits, both in the dishes they produce and the knowledge they share. Tested for nutrient content, Kieran’s One Cooperative vegetables are already well above average and, by winter, he estimates those levels rising to unprecedented levels.
Kieran has noticed significant health benefits within himself from consuming his own crops and, with fantastic films such as Food Matters now coming to light, it is clear why he views food as medicine. But Kieran isn’t satisfied to leave the healing to his salad vegetables. Aspirations for a medicinal garden beckon, echinacea, gingko biloba and chamomile just the beginning of this living apothecary.
“We’ll grow anything thats medicinal and powerful for the immune system and so on. What I’m trying to do now is get people to make their own medicine, to look at their own back yard as a medicine chest.”
The rise of awareness in marijuana and its derivatives as a medicine, for arthritis, cancer, cerebral palsy and so much more, has sparked Kieran’s interest. Of course, as yet he is legally unable to grow the crop, even in it’s benign hemp form, but he educates people as to how they can use hemp seeds and leaves, as well as other plants, for their medicinal properties, supplementing alternative, legal herbs in his demonstrations. He also provides education for individuals and even other farmers on how to emulate his farming processes, acutely aware of the paramount necessity to begin protecting our organic plant life and helping ourselves to heal and remain healthy through superior nutrition.
If you just can’t wait to watch your crop grow from seed, Kieran’s One Cooperative tent can be found at many of our local farmers’ markets, absolutely chock full of seedlings, from tomatoes to herbs to a myriad of leaf vegetables.
With proper nutrition, we greatly reduce the need for drug and chemical-based medicine. After all, if we’re healthy, we won’t need fixing. But even when we do get sick, we are seeing increasingly that a diet comprising up to 80 percent of raw, organic fruits and vegetables cannot only diminish but even eradicate some of our most virulent diseases.
For more information on the nutritional and healing benefits of a plant-rich diet, you can visit: commongroundbyronbay.com.au