Yep, it’s a business!

Hello out there!
It was Castlemaine’s first frost this week – I almost couldn’t believe it! After our very late summer I didn’t realise but my brain is about 4 weeks behind the calendar month.
18191195_10154361498082797_1088000216_n
As Sas shared last blog, garlic is a massive time keeper for us, and this year not only that. We had a friend come out and help plant and Sas and I were ready for a mega day (as it has been every other year…) but we were done by lunch! We didn’t quite know what to do with ourselves, and so as it was an amazing root day via the biodynamic moon planting calender, we planted bulbs – how glorious. And we got to weed a section that hasn’t been touched since our working bee a year and a half ago…the whole day felt calm and fun and productive. Awesome sauce!!
18191260_10154361497997797_682478590_n
During this turnover season episode in the year, we have been pleasantly finding that pleasantness more often than not. Something has happened, I guess we’re figuring out efficient systems and we’re more in managing the rotations and planting rather than building the bloody beds first…this is really exciting! After a couple of years of hard work work work work it’s nice to be surprised when it feels relatively easy (dont get me wrong though – there’s always a challenge – it’s just not digging right now!).
18191371_10154361498127797_832863961_n
This has made me quite excited about the second patch we’re starting to work on…Sas and her Dad are hitting it with force on Monday. It’s all starting to feel real – in a really great way. Not huge mega size, but a size that will feed our community through several different arms (green grocers, boxes, cafes/restaurants) and pay Sas and I accordingly as we up the quantities we can produce, thus feed you with!
18191488_10154361498247797_270742654_n
Business has stopped being a dirty word to me this last year and a bit- which is weird (the protestor in me wants to yell something obnoxious now…) but really freeing too. Sas and I knew we were gonna do a lot of hard yards without being paid much $ from growing food – especially in the first couple of years. And especially with not having much capital. You all know our reality of working other jobs in order to pay rent and see some music every now and then, but our aim for Gung Hoe is that it doesn’t stay that way. We’re looking forward to getting our financial info back at the end of this financial year to see what that side of it looks like on the cold hard screen… Bit nervous too really, but if we are serious about doing this (which we are) it needs to work as a viable business. Woah, there I said it. So yes, working in the soil, outside for 4 days a week is pretty beautiful, but it’s hard work too, and we’re still figuring it all out time wise, crop wise and business wise. Which is actually rad – cos if we have (sorry for using this word) a sustainable working business then we can continue to feed our community really great food. No fancy pants wanking about it – just plain, decent, healthy, accessible, delicious food.  That’s the plan.
18191195_10154361498082797_1088000216_n

So now I’m off to plant peas and broadies (we’re a bit late – hope yours are already in) and one of my faves – raddicchio….yum!
Our best to you – hope you’re warm both in the heart and out there in the world.
Cheers – Mel x

What’s Slow Money?

Have you heard of slow money? Sounds weird, right? Maybe you’ve heard of slow food though, which is an idea that’s been around for long enough now that pretty much everyone knows what it means – it’s basically the opposite of fast food!

Isabelle-at-market-495x174Slow food is an international movement that got started in 1989 and has spread around the world as an antidote to the insidious spread of fast food and big agriculture. It promotes food that is:

  • good (high quality, flavoursome, and healthy)
  • clean (production that doesn’t harm the environment), and
  • fair (accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers).

We even have an accredited Slow Food Farmers Market once a month at Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne, run by the wonderful folk at Melbourne Farmers Markets (disclaimer: I’m on the board so of course I think our operations team that runs markets is marvellous!) It’s a perfect fit, because Farmers Markets embody all the principles espoused by the Slow Food movement.

But back to Slow Money – how does it fit in? It’s really just an extension of the same ethos, but as it applies to money. It’s basically a movement to organise investors and donors to direct their capital towards small food enterprises, organic farms and local food systems, and through doing so improve the economic sustainability and resilience of farms and farmers, their communities and towns, and by extension our entire food system.

Slow Money was started in the US by a guy called Woody Tasch, and has now spread to Australia, as well as lots of other countries around the world. Since 2010 it’s invested more than $57 million into regenerative farming enterprises!

unnamed-4

It’s on our minds because we’ve been fantasising about attending the upcoming SOIL conference in Boulder, Colarado in October. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to attend a conference called SOIL? It actually stands for Slow Opportunities for Investing Locally, and will explore the links between actual soil and the soil of a restorative economy.

The demands of running a seasonal farm means we’re probably not going to get there, but of course there are many, many moves in the right direction here in Australia, like the new ORICoop Investment Trust that was launched this week. If you haven’t heard of it yet, have a look, particularly if you’re interested in finding practical ways to support and invest in organic farms. The best way to get involved is through their Pozible campaign (which ends in 14 days).

carolyn-suggate-oric
Carolyn Suggate, founder of ORICoop, a new organic farming investment fund

Slowly, gradually, all around the world, people seem to be waking up to the fact that there’s a better way to grow, distribute and pay for our food, and that we – just simple, everyday people like us – have waaaay more power to influence it than we think we do!

 

katie-hugh-serving-wesley-hill-market-480x359

As organic farmers we experience this every day, whenever our customers choose to buy food from us rather than the supermarket. The growing number of people that care enough to seek out food that is produced locally, in a way that improves the environment rather than degrades it, who choose to eat seasonally rather than buying imported fruit and veg out of season, and who choose to buy direct from farmers through accredited Farmers Markets, online platforms like the Open Food Network or from the farm gate – all of those small buying decisions add up to a big influence, pushing our food system in the right direction.

So thank you. You all give us hope!

Garlic time again…

Hi!

It’s garlic time again! This will be our third crop of garlic we’ve planted on our wee patch at Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens. The planting of the garlic is like our marking of time, marking how many seasons we’ve been here, how much we’ve learnt along the way and how much more we have to learn still….

img3805-500x375This week we’ve been gleefully ripping out our spent tomato crops, feeding and reforming the beds ready for the garlic that we’ll plant in there next week. The summer just gone, despite weird climatics and lack of rain, has been great for us. We’ve had our usual bumpers, happy surprises and dismal failures, but it’s been the first season where we’ve really felt like we’ve had lots of produce to get out into the local community and onto local plates.

img3804-500x666

We began doing a small number of mixed veggie and fruit boxes in February as a trial and they have been beautiful. We have now been supplying 8-10 boxes, full of our produce, Katie and Hugh’s fruit, sprout bread and Hunter Harvests eggs and sprouts, every week for 10 weeks. Hopefully we can stretch that out through winter too. We’ve had great feedback from our box ‘guinea pigs’ which is really lovely as we don’t often get direct feedback from the people that eat our produce. Hopefully next summer we’ll be able to supply more mixed boxes to hungry households!

This summer has also been the first time we’ve been able to supply good quantities of produce to our local organic fruit and veg retailers as well as a good spread of local cafés. We’re very lucky in this town to have so many businesses that are actively seeking to use good quality local produce, and finally we’re starting to be able to grow things in large enough quantities to meet a small part of that demand.

img3807-500x375

This week we also got lots of our broccoli and cauliflower babies into their new beds as well as loads of salad, endives, radicchio, beets, silverbeet, parsley and more to go in next week! The mad rush to get everything in the ground before the soil gets too cold is (still) on!! We’ll breathe a sigh of relief when everybody has their little toes tucked into the dark brown soil and their leaves reaching up to catch the sun.

Until next time, hope everyone is enjoying these beautiful autumn days and don’t forget to get your garlic and brassicas in the ground!

Grow well

Sas and Mel