About 25 years ago, Leakkhena 'Laks' Ma's family started farming on a site that was once a zoo. She tells about how it was growing up there and how they run the farm now.
"There'd be monkeys in the trees and emus running around – sometimes they'd break through the fence and try to chase us in the cherry-tomato rows," says Leakkhena 'Laks' Ma.
In the mid-'90s, her family relocated its Goldenfield farm to Wallacia in Western Sydney, at a site that once belonged to a zoo: lions, giraffes and tigers used to walk on the land they planted on. The family ended up with this unusual location because Bullen's Animal World had subdivided its grounds and her parents had taken over one plot – but a few wild animals remained as neighbours. The Bullen family had kept part of the original zoo as a private menagerie (with some lions once famously escaping into the public – and ending up on the news).
"They had zebras next door as well, and buffaloes. The buffaloes were raised as food for the lions – so every day they'd shoot one, just to feed the lions," says Ma. "I never realised how strange it was." She was six years old at the time.
Ma admits that it sounds like "the weirdest childhood", but being on the farm didn't phase her. It helped her family pay the bills and she wanted to contribute. Ma recalls her mother teaching her which tomatoes to pick ("if it's red, pick it, put it in your bucket") and which snowpeas were ready. Over 25 years later, Goldenfield is still based on the site and remains a family-run operation – although Ma needn't worry about emus running her down nowadays.
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