The Flower Farm: Picked Locally and Owned Locally
Here at Rock ‘N’ Soil, we are all about supporting local business and sourcing local produce, which is why we love collaborating with business that do the same. You might notice that we often feature the iconic Birkdale Flower Farm on our social channels or mention our special relationship with the growers there. We have been supplying the Birkdale Flower Farm with premium soils, fertilisers, mulches and other landscaping materials for decades. While they may have opened their doors in the early 80s, the history behind the farm spans back even longer with generations of growers honing their skills.
Owners of The Flower Farm, Tarsem and Harbans Sihota both have ‘growing’ in their blood. Tarsem Sihota was born in 1939 in village in the northern India Punjab region – an area known for it’s focus on farming and agriculture. Tarsem always had an interest and knack for science, so he decided to complete a Bachelor in science in 1961. After working for a few years in England as a television technician, Tarsem returned to India and married Harbans in 1968. Harbans had family in the same region of India but lived in Dunbible in Australia. No stranger to farming, Harbans came from a family of established banana growers who had already made their mark on Australian soil.
Harbans grandfather came to Australia in late 1880’s working as labourer and with cane growers while her father came in 1925 working odd jobs towards the Cairns/Gordenvale area, but soon got into the banana farming market. The current Flower Farm workhorse, the 1975 Toyota Land Cruiser, was used to grow and transport these same bananas at their farm. When Tarsem moved to Australia he worked hard splitting his time between working at a saw mill in Murwilumbah and helping out in his wife’s families’ banana farm on weekends.
Wanting an exciting new adventure, the couple decided to give Brisbane a go in 1978 and have not looked back.
The Flower Farm – First Farm (Bailey Road)
Rather than getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of city life, Tarsem and Harbans much preferred the pace and lifestyle of the Redlands area. When first arriving in Brisbane, Tarsem worked on a gladioli farm at Thornlands which inspired him to buy his own little piece of farming land. Though it needed a bit of work, the couple purchased a farm on Bailey Road in Birkdale in 1978. The 5 acre farm had previously been used as an grape farm when the area had a large Italian population. Working and living out of a caravan until their house was built on the land, Tarsem and Harbans established a strawberry farm. They sold their strawberries to markets in Brisbane and Sydney whilst also supplying Brisbane with their first crop of white cucumbers. This new product was so popular that it was often sold out before it even reached the market. During this time they were also experimenting with growing carnations and chrysanthemums. Their first crop came just in time for Mothers Day, so it was all hands on deck to cut the flowers (without buckets) and learn how to bunch them up.
In 1980, a new flower market opened in Brisbane, giving the public access to some of Tarsem’s coveted chrysanthemums and his new crop of carnations. At this time The Flower Farm was selling their flowers for $2 a bunch.
The Second Farm – “The Flower Farm” (72 Birkdale Road)
In 1981, Tarsem The Flower Farm was re-established at the iconic current home at 72 Birkdale Road which had a bore at the property, and lots of established fruit trees on site. After installing a 20,000 gallon cement tank to collect the water, electricity, and underground irrigation systems Tarsem planted a crop of Chrysanthemums and this first crop would be (to date) the best crop he has ever seen – perhaps due to the rich virgin soil. Soon after The Flower Farm was supplying flowers to dozens florists across South East Queensland and interstate from Sydney to Perth.
The Flower Farm – The Third Farm
Continuing to expand the Sihota’s bought a further 10 acres in Birkdale. Unfortunately within a year Birkdale Road was upgraded to 4 lanes which separated the two farms. The installation of new street lights affected the timing of the bloom for the flowers, with a whole crop of chrysanthemums lost. Going back to their roots in banana farming they decided to plant lady finger bananas as a barrier between the flowers and the street lights. This farm was mainly for wholesale flower production although the organic lady finger bananas (at $2 a hand) were a real hit.
The Flower Farm: Continuing to bloom 40 years on
A couple of decades on, the Sihota’s began to move away from large scale wholesaling, deciding to focus on providing locals with their version of “paddock to plate”; with farm grown quality direct to your kitchen vase. In 2005, their daughter Sharon returned from a corporate accounting career to manage the day to day operations of the farm and steer the new direction with her older brother Ashok. As an authentic family business, mum and dad (Tarsem and Harbans) are still involved with daily operations at the farm while their other daughter Hardeesh helps out from time to time – especially during the Mother’s Day period where it is all hands on deck (even the grandkids).
Their son Robinder is also a regular fixture at the farm, finding his was back to his roots after a working in the corporate sphere both as a lawyer and barrister. He found it refreshing to find some grounding in the farming world he grew up in and was able to further explore that connection to the earth that has been passed down through the generations of his family tree. Robinder also runs Rock ‘N’ Soil, bridging the gap between landscape suppliers and client. This close connection has helped Robinder address many of the problems he saw with the disconnect between the two and reimagine our landscaping yard. Robinder and the great team here has shaped Rock ‘N’ Soil into what it is today.
With three generations still working at The Flower Farm, it just goes to show how much of an impact, small business can have on a community and how that even through the hard times you can come out the other side with ‘everything coming up roses’.
Looking for more information about rocks, soils, mulches and anything else landscaping-wise? It’s easy to keep in the loop by following our blog page. Remember, if you’ve got any questions you can contact the friendly team at Rock n Soil anytime. We’re here to help!