Business is blooming for McMahons Point local Jordan Sly.
First published northsider magazine Autumn 2019
When it comes to growth strategies, Jordan Sly, aka the Vegie Cowboy, is the man to talk to.
As ‘Head Tickler’ at Wormticklers nursery, he prides himself on nurturing the best quality organic, chemical-free seasonal seedlings – growing everything from herbs, vegies and greens to companion plants and edible flowers in biodegradable pots. And what started off as a few seeds under a tarp in his carport has grown to be a fully-fledged wholesale nursery in Sydney’s Kenthurst with a blossoming offshoot at The Farm in Byron Bay.
“More and more people care where their food is coming from and are wanting to have a go at growing it themselves”
“I never really came up with the idea of Wormticklers, it just sort of happened…organically,” permaculturalist Jordan laughs. “I wanted a sustainable approach to living and a connection to the process of growing quality, seasonal organic produce at your back door. It was inspired by how I wanted to live myself.”
Over the past six years, word has spread about Wormticklers’ produce quicker than a bee on lavender.
“More and more people care where their food is coming from and are wanting to have a go at growing it themselves,” Jordan, 40, says. “I think there’s a place in everyone’s heart for that.”
Jordan’s interest in nurturing fresh produce was planted when he was a boy, spending hours in his grandparents’ vegie patch with his grandad, Stan.
“We were surrounded by lavender, bees, strawberries, potatoes, broad beans…you name it, he grew it,” Jordan remembers. “Back then if you didn’t grow it, you couldn’t have it. Grandad fed the whole street! He’d have loved Wormticklers.”
Going on to work in the kitchens of some of Sydney’s best restaurants, including Sean’s Panaroma and Icebergs, and seeing how quality produce created delicious dishes cultivated Jordan’s love of fresh produce even further.
“For me, a perfect tray of seedlings is like baking the perfect tray of biscuits or the best loaf of bread,” he says. “The soil is the flour and the moisture is the yeast.”
It’s this passion for quality, coupled with Jordan’s infectious enthusiasm for all things organic, that has been the root of Wormticklers’ success.
And with new projects in Byron on the go as well as more farmers wanting stock, a regular slot on Channel 9’s Weekend Show, a recipe book and a preschool programme to get kids into growing veg, there’s no slowing down any time soon.
“It’s bloody hard work but it’s bloody good fun,” Jordan grins. “People have bought one pot of herbs from me and have loved growing so much, they’ve now got market gardens! People having a go and getting results, that’s what it’s all about.”
It’s clear that Jordan totally digs what he does and visiting local markets is one of the things he loves the most.
“Lisa and the team at the Northside Produce Market in North Sydney are a top bunch,” he says. “They’re passionate about the market, the stallholders and the community. From day one they’ve been a huge support to me and Wormticklers.”
As well as the market on Miller Street, Jordan, who’s lived in McMahons Point for six years, names the The Coal Loader as one of his top local spots, along with the Blues Point Hotel for a couple of cold ones after a long day tending to his plants.
“I can’t imagine where else I’d want to live,” he says. “The view, the community and 100% the people… everyone’s been right behind Wormticklers, supporting me on this journey. I can’t thank them enough.”
WORDS: Anna Gordon MAIN PHOTO: Luisa Brimble