Farming, resilience, and a changing climate…

I feel like every blog I write lately is about some sort of extreme climatic event that we or our crops have just survived. It’s like this season is showing us all of the extremes that climate change is bringing on a more and more frequent basis, i.e., weekly! As I walked along the corn row this week looking at the shrivelled up and crispy growing tips that have been burnt by wind and sun (certainly not for lack of water and love!), I must admit I began to wonder…can we really grow food in this place? The strong answer that always comes whenever I have these kinds of doubts is, ‘We have to’.

This week’s climatic event was a fast and furious grass fire that came very close to where we stood watching as the flames lapped at the fruit trees. The house, sheds, cars, tractors, orchard and our market garden (and us!) all stood in its way and were it not for 13 trucks full of amazing CFA volunteers and ‘Elvis’ dropping water bombs from the sky, we would have lost everything. A sobering thought. We can’t express enough gratitude to those nameless volunteers who swept in and did the job.  Katie, Hugh, and Ant had damage to 300 trees, fencing and irrigation, right in the middle of the busiest part of the season, but it really could have been so much worse if not for the quick actions of the CFA.

Mel’s last blog was about resilience, and it would seem this one is too. Resilience of people, crops and environment. It’s amazing isn’t it how nature responds to such seemingly catastrophic things as fire. If we want to grow in this climate and feed the local community with food that hasn’t travelled thousands of kilometers, we have to accept this changing climate, know it and plan for it.

Grow well folks and stay cool

Sas (and Mel)

P.S. Our Summer Veggie boxes will start in first week of Feb. Order your first month’s subscription by 3 Feb by going to our online shop here: https://gung-hoe-growers.myshopify.com/collections/produce

Phew, it’s the fruit season!

 

This season we are having one of the busiest, most productive fruit seasons we’ve had in years, and people keep asking us why….

The truth is, we’re not sure! It doesn’t come down to a single factor, but a perfect mix of everything going right, for once—and you don’t hear farmers say that very often! (I was going to write ‘perfect storm’, but despite the fact that we’ve had two major storms this year, we’ve escaped with no major damage.)

Considering that our new intern Ant joined us at the beginning of December (you can follow his new Facebook Page here), the fact that December and January have been among our busiest ever has been both good and bad.

Picking apricots in the summer sun

It’s been a bit of a trial by fire for him—getting thrown immediately into the 6-day a week, 10-hour a day kind of craziness that is the fruit season—but on the other hand, at least he’s seen it at its peak, so he’ll know what to expect next year. If he’d started his fruit-growing journey in a quiet year (like we had last year) he wouldn’t have known what hit him next season!

Beautiful mixed boxes of this year’s fabulous fruit bounty

Though a big part of this year’s success is just luck with the weather, it’s also partly the culmination of many years of hard work. We’ve had a replanting program for the last few years and many of those trees are finally coming into full production, we’ve been steadily working on improving the health of our soil, and we’ve been building up the on-farm biodiversity that’s so important to keeping pests and diseases in check.

Plus, we managed to get all the spring sprays on at just the right times, which is so important for preventing key diseases that can be devastating.

Hugh being proud of his nectarines!

It’s incredibly satisfying knowing that we’re bequeathing a healthy, productive orchard to Ant when he takes over next year, and fingers crossed that he has an even BIGGER season in 2019!

Farming in a changing climate…

Hello everyone and happy new year! Hard to believe another year has come and gone…
We are currently watering everything, giving it a long deep soak as tomorrow it’s meant to be 41° and quite windy. Who would believe that last week we had 22 mm of rain in 5 minutes and gusts of wind that lifted our greenhouse off its feet and bent star pickets that were firmly in the ground?  Welcome to climate change we say.  Last week Sas and I were preparing for a severe thunderstorm and so were deliberately pulling up onions and giving them the best storage. Nothing could have prepared us however for what felt like a mini cyclone. We were shielding the onions with our bodies and then realised the rain and wind and hail was coming from all directions—we had to laugh. Swore a fair bit and laughed again, the onions were soaked and the good old garlic was wet, again… GEEEEZUS!
The predictions for central Victoria in the next few decades are exactly this though—drier winters and extreme summer storms. So rains in a short downpour, none of that good soaking steady stuff.
A friend who works with very large-scale ‘conventional’ farmers was sharing with me that the changing climate has affected everyone. The farmers she works with used to spray 4 or maybe 5 times a year; now they spray almost every month due to the uncertainty (and I would argue plant/soil/microorganism health too) and extremity of the climate. We can never claim to ‘know’ the wild nature, but I’m sure most of us remember the consistent seasons and the weather that came with them.
It is important to know where we’re heading and know that is happening on a global level too, rather than feel that it is just us who get knocked side to side by the changing conditions.
We’ve also got plans to build very real storage to suit our needs better—storage that will outlast hurricanes and floods and droughts (ha – we can try right!?). So, resilience is the key we have come to build upon. Resilience as people, communities and looking after ourselves, each other and the planet.
We lost a bit over 1/3 of our garlic crop this year when all was said and done, which was not so bad for the amount of time we’ve spent moving, sorting, moving, shucking it, etc. etc., but for our seed next year we have selected only the bulbs that are whole and didn’t collect any mould. That is our beginning of saving not just the biggest but the hardiest—in the long run, this is what will last!
So, people! The garlic is finally ready for you and yours! It’s the last time we’ll write about it—this year the garlic is like GOLD! We’ve literally hand sorted each and every clove—yes clove, not bulb!
If you would like it for your kitchen and/or as a gift, we are selling it here :
Included in the price is your very own garlic storage and reuseable small hessian bag with our dirty hoe logo for 5 bucks. Woohoo!
There’s lots of stuff growing in the garden, and the increasingly early mornings give us space to breathe in and out with the earth at dawn and wonder at the miracle of how things just do what they do and grow…I’m sure there’s a parallel there somewhere 😉

Gung Hoe Growers

69 Danns Rd Harcourt