Q&A with Steve Doo – How to go off-grid with Beverley Exley?

PhD candidate Steve Doo speaks to Beverley Exley about going off-grid, polyface farming and why she ditched urban life to live sustainably.

Image by wonderfullyrich, Sourced: Flickr CC

I recently had the opportunity to stay on a farm in a little town named Woodhill in the Upper Kangaroo valley, NSW. There I met an environmentalist, sustainable farmer, and raw food enthusiast named Beverley Exley. Beverley was once a Sydneysider, climbing the corporate ladder, involved in boardroom meetings and international events such as the Sydney Olympics. She left all this behind to start a farm near Kangaroo Valley. There with her chickens, pig and 3 huskies, she currently lives an idyllic lifestyle that is completely off the grid. I wanted to ask her more about her life and her journey to where she is now.

Why did you decide to leave the city life behind and move to a farm?

Spanning 18 years, I embraced over 600 boardroom meetings; was involved with 10 iconic Queensland and New South Wales Shopping Centres; worked beside 1,700 local, national, international retailers; lived in 3 countries; published an international best-selling resource book; executed 50 international events; spent 10 years attending international fashion weeks; created 1,000’s of TV commercials, radio, magazine, newspaper advertisements and editorials; chaired over 60 government tender panels; delivered the world’s best retailers at Sydney Airports International Terminal for 2000 Sydney Olympics; and all whilst buying, renovating and selling 5 properties. During this time, I also struggling with reoccurring glandular fever, self-doubt, chronic fatigue, miscarriages, preeclampsia, peri-menopause and menopause.

In 1992, I was stung by a Box Jellyfish while in Malaysia. Specialists said I needed skin grafts and that my kidneys would eventually fail. I was also hospitalised for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during this time. Instead of listening to these specialists, I used green pawpaw and aloe vera plants to heal my skin, and had colonic irrigation treatments supplemented with raw vegetable juices to heal myself in 10 short months. I used yoga, raw foods and ocean swimming to heal my mind, and overcome PTSD.

At 43 years of age I took control of my health and life, moving with my then 5 year-old daughter plus 4 Husky Rescues, to a beautiful mountain property to simply grow and forage our food and medicine, generate our own electricity, rediscover my passion for art and practice yoga. That was seven years ago. My body is now younger, stronger and fitter than in my late 30’s. My days are now spent busily studying and acquiring degree’s to academically support what I have taught myself. I am currently devouring advanced studies for additional bits of paper in: Yoga Teaching, 3D clay works, Horticulture, Nutrition, Wild Traditional Medicine and the art of Raw Food Culinary.

How did you build your house to be completely off the grid?

I purchased my property that included my home and covered orchard. I designed it so that all hot water was either heated by solar or wood. The entire house and farm water pumps are now run on electricity generated by solar power. As time went on, we added more tanks to collect water not only for ourselves, but also for watering crops. The toilets we installed in the house are a swiss composting toilet that in turn feeds the earth.

Your farm practices Polyface Farming. Can you describe what that is and what it’s benefits are for us? 

Polyface farming uses animals to do the farm work for you. Each animal has a purpose and task. We currently use pigs for clearing large root masses and aerating the ground, cows to fertilise and clear the grass, chickens for eating bugs and fertilising the ground. The animals are rotated through different paddocks to ensure the ground stays healthy and fertile.

What can people in the city do or be aware of be more sustainable in our daily living?

People in the city can also benefit from homegrown vegetables and fruits. Many think it’s impossible while living the city life in a big, crowded apartment, but urban farmers globally are changing the way the land is used and in turn growing and providing food for their neighborhood community’s. You can plant vegetables and fruits in a window box, on your roof, in the footpath or even in a football field! What matters is the fact you know where your food comes from and that the soil is nutrient rich. Many people are introducing chickens into their back yards as well as inner city roof top beehives. In addition, homes are adding water tanks for collection of rainwater to grow vegetables. If you are challenged for space, try a vertical garden!

Steve Doo is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney studying the impacts of changing climates on animals in the Great Barrier Reef. His research centers around a group of important, but vastly understudied organisms named large benthic Foraminifera (LBFs), and their role in sand production. Steve’s fieldwork is mostly based at One Tree Island, the tropical marine station owned by the University of Sydney, and involves many hours walking around the intertidal reef flats sampling. His previous research endeavours have lead me to places around the world including Taiwan, Japan, French Polynesia, and Puerto Rico. Steve is a California native and completed his undergraduate studies in Biology and Music Performance at the University of California, Davis and masters in Marine Biology at Northeastern University with the Three Seas Program.