A new farmer arrives…

Hi all,

I’m Victoria Meyer and I’m doing a 4-month internship at Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens (MAFG) with Katie and Hugh Finlay. My internship is through the Organic Federation of Australia and it is a great program. I jumped at the opportunity to live and work full time on a certified organic farm, learning about all aspects of successfully running one. Katie and Hugh are wonderful mentors, making sure I gain a wide variety of practical and business skills while mentoring me to start my own enterprise. I have developed many new skills already including grafting, pruning, making compost tea, and using machinery.

Victoria

I have also learnt from MAFG that applying for awards and putting myself ‘out there’ is an important part of professional development. So I’ve applied for the ‘Rising Star’ Farmer of the Year Award as part of National Organic Week. It’s a consumer choice award, meaning it’s up to the public to vote for the winner. Winning this would be a fantastic step forwards for me in developing my own enterprise and making connections in the organics industry.

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Getting to grips with compost tea

It’s been quite a journey to get to this point and I am so happy to have realized I want to be an organic farmer. I feel fortunate coming from a family where growing food and eating seasonal produce is valued. Through that I have become passionate about organics and worked in the retail side of the industry for 12 years. After finishing my degree in science and sustainability, it was clear that one of the most important things for all aspects of human and environmental health is the way we produce food. Since graduating I have completed a Permaculture Design Course, a Certificate III in Horticulture, and have been working on organic farms to expand my skills and knowledge.

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Some chainsaw basics to get started…

I am now ready to start my own organic farming enterprise, which is exciting because there is nothing I would rather be doing. My dream is to have a small-scale, no more than 1 acre, bio-intensive annual vegetable and heritage fruit tree farm on leased land near Adelaide. I will grow a diverse range of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers to provide nutritious and affordable food to the local area. Plus I’ll be sequestering carbon in the soil though caring for my soil and helping to mitigate climate change. Awesome! I also plan to run workshops to help other young people develop skills and find their pathway into organic farming.

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Thinning is my latest skill!

I hope my story inspires more people to get involved in growing food. If you’d like to support me as I begin my farming journey, you could ‘Like’ my brand new Facebook page – called Hum Along Farm https://www.facebook.com/humalongfarm?fref=ts, – and vote for me in the ‘Rising Star’ award at http://www.organicweek.net.au/core/organic-consumer-choice-awards/rising-star-farmer-of-the-year/. Oh, and I’ll be starting my own blog soon…stay tuned, and thanks for voting for me!

Happy growing!,

Victoria

 

Don’t panic – have a party!

Spring on an orchard is traditionally a time of high tension. As the sap in the trees rises, so does the blood pressure, because it’s make or break time in many ways. Fruit trees are at their most vulnerable when they’re flowering, and a frost, or too much rain at the wrong time, or a disease outbreak, can severely impact the crop for the year. On top of that there are a million and one jobs to do, and it always seems to be the season when a crucial piece of equipment goes AWOL. This year the pump has decided to die, a few days before the first hot spell of the year!

Can you tell spring can sometimes not be much fun? We were describing the sense of spring panic to a friend a couple of years ago, and they pointed out that the word ‘panic’ comes from ‘pan’, and Pan is the god of spring! In Greek mythology he’s the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, of fields, groves and wooded glens, and is connected to fertility and the season of spring. So we decided to reframe our panic and to invoke Pan to reclaim spring as a time for gratitude, feasting, celebration, and welcoming in the new season.

METADATA-START

We decided if we were having a celebration, it would be an excellent time to thank the community of people – our village – who help us to run the farm. It’s a long list that includes Katie’s dad Merv who grows our trees for us in the on-farm nursery; the pruning crew of Lucy, Vanessa, Ruth, Peter and Mog (some of whom are also the market crew, along with Tegan); a different Lucy, who has been working with us on designing the new farm shop; Mel and Sas who have added a whole new dimension to the farm’s production with the Gung Hoe Market Garden; Lizzie and David, who lend us their car once a month to do markets on that tricky weekend where we have three markets on the same day; our fabulous intern Victoria; and Evan, who takes our fruit to the wholesale market each week.

It’s a long list, isn’t it? Then there’s all the people who do one-off or occasional things, like Katie’s mum Marcie who acts as our reliable proofreader, all the lovely people who have volunteered for our working bees or donated plants for our new farm shop, and Tom and the other lovely Wwoofers who share our lives. And of course we’re also very grateful for all our Grow Great Fruit members, our appreciative and loyal customers, and the thousands of people who follow us on Facebook. It’s a pretty big village!

In keeping with the spring theme we had an egg-based feast, with eggs appearing in entree, main and dessert, and oh boy, it was delicious. We also had a bonfire (which was just as well, because the evening was freezing cold), so the evening finished with wine and marshmallows around the fire while we were entertained by Victoria’s angelic singing. It was a great night, and a satisfying way to declare season 2015/16 officially launched!

METADATA-START

 


RIRDC Victorian Rural Women’s Awards – week 28

Meanwhile my RIRDC project has been marching on. The past fortnight I’ve:

  • been on the judging panel for the Rural Ambassador Award for the Victorian Show Association
  • ended the competition for stallholders to see who could get the most new Facebook ‘likes’ and win $300 of stallholders at their market
  • been working on stage 2 of the project, getting feedback from the Farmers Market strategy, and also developing the model of how to implement social media at farmers markets for the most effective outcomes
  • been talking to some other women who are interested in applying for the award

My project, called “Growing Communities Around Farmers Markets” has been made possible by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Rural Women’s Awards.  Nominations for the 2016 awards have just opened.