What Will We Do Next?

As the reality of life post-orcharding looms large, Hugh and I spending a few days off the farm and starting to think about what comes next for us.

You’d think we’d have thought about this long ago, before we put this whole train of events in motion – and we did – but it was just theory back then, and now it’s about to become reality.

On 1 July, the Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance (HOFA) will come into being, and we’ll sign the orchard lease over to Ant. He’ll officially become responsible for growing the fruit.

In fact, we’ll still be helping him, not just in an abstract mentoring capacity, but hands-on, in the orchard and packing shed, at least for his first year of operation.

Our role in HOFA will be property managers, which means we’ll be overseeing the job of building new infrastructure (like staff room, toilet facilities, etc.), applying for and managing grants, and making sure everything runs smoothly so the important people – the farmers – can get on with their jobs.

I’ll also still be getting my hands dirty running the Heritage Fruit Tree Nursery with Sas (of Gung Hoe Growers fame), under the watchful eye of my dad Merv.

Add to that Hugh’s part-time editing job for the Asian Development Bank, and our various community service roles, and the week suddenly looks very full. In fact I suspect we’ll be wondering how on earth we had time for farming at all!

That sounds like a week’s worth of work, doesn’t it? Oh hang on, the main reason we wanted to put our succession plan in place was so that we could concentrate more on the teaching side of our business. Where are we going to fit that in?

Grow Great Fruit (our online organic fruit growing home-study program) is too useful to the world to stay small any longer. We always said our mission was to teach the whole world how to successfully grow their own organic fruit, and the time has come (well, maybe not the whole world, but we want to extend our reach much further).

So you can expect to see GGF grow in coming months, and you needn’t worry about whether we’ll have enough to occupy us!

Giving birth is just the beginning

As our group of enthusiastic new farmers comes together and we breathe life into HOFA (the Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance ), I was reminded this week that giving birth to this brand new model of farming—the thing we’ve been planning for, working towards and anticipating keenly for many months now—is just the beginning.

Like having a baby, it’s all too easy when starting a new project to focus solely on having a successful birth, which is kind of analagous to the planning process we’ve been going through together to bring our idea to fruition.

What many people fail to anticipate is that it’s after the birth when shit gets real. Suddenly, you have a baby, and a whole new world of learning abruptly begins, one that has much higher stakes because other lives are involved, and are depending on you to get it right!

What reminded me was having a long chat with an old friend last weekend. We worked together in a big community project; she helped to get it off the ground, and I joined just a couple of years later. We were both involved for many years, and together witnessed the growth, tantrums, milestones, break-ups and—finally—evolution into the stable and grown-up organisation it is today.

I  observed at the time how similar an organisation is to a child; we had to carefully steer it through the early stages, tore our hair out during those difficult teenage years, and then watched with pride as it finally grew beyond needing us at all.

Unfortunately many new projects don’t survive to adulthood, but stumble and fail, often within 5 years of starting. The main reasons for lack of success are

  • poor communication
  • relationships failing
  • lack of financial viability
  • lack of capital
  • not being flexible and able to change and evolve
  • burnout
  • inexperience

In our planning process we’re doing our best to avoid all these pitfalls by establishing great systems, processes and group dynamics, but experience tells us that the real work is done by actually getting started, and then hanging in there for the next 18 or so years.

New farm resident Roberta will also be giving birth in coming months, and in turn paving the way for a brand new enterprise on the farm.

Cows don’t do a lot of planning for giving birth, or probably give much thought to what happens afterwards. They don’t have meetings, do visioning sessions, or write business plans, they just automatically know what to do, and get on with it.

Laying great foundations for the birth is a great start – but come 1 July, we’re going to have to start just getting on with it.

Heirloom veggie surprises…

The beauty of growing heirloom varieties of vegetables is that it’s always a surprise. This week we cut open watermelons to find the flesh yellow…we didn’t plant any yellow watermelons, ripe canteloupes that were white fleshed…we thought we only planted orange ones…and we also harvested our first lot of beans that included yellow, purple green, and yellow with purple stripes. So much variety, so beautiful!

This time of year is nuts on the farm (do I say that every blog?). We are picking so much beautiful produce we haven’t got enough hours in the day to also be sowing, preparing beds for and planting out our autumn/winter crops. But we’re just trying to roll with it and stay positive. We can after all only do what we can do!

February veggie boxes were a hit and we’ve loved hanging out at the Theater Royal courtyard on a Tuesday evening while people come to pick up their boxes and shoot the breeze. It’s such a joy watching kids and adults alike with melon juice all over their faces and flowers in their hands as they trot off down the lane.

It’s now time to order veggie boxes for the month of March if you’re interested. Things to expect (although there are always a few unexpected surprises) are corn, beans, spuds, beets, herbs, salad, chard, kale, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, okra, onions, garlic, pumpkin, spring onions, capsicums and eggplant, phew! You can also add $10 of organic fruit to your box each week.

We ask for a month upfront payment and the boxes can be picked up Tuesday 4–6 pm at the Theatre Royal or Wed–Friday at the MAFG farm shop from 10 am to 4 pm. If you’re interested, check out the link to our online shop here:

https://gung-hoe-growers.myshopify.com/collections/produce

Another joy of working with heirloom, nonhybrid crops is the surprise of saving seed and replanting the next season. In amidst the planting and harvesting at the moment, we’re also saving seeds…next season will reveal what interesting cross-varieties we’ve accidentally created! Like this season’s freckles x salad bowl lettuce we’ve had coming up!

Grow well folks…

Sas (and Mel)