Celebration and business growth (and how to combine the two)

Our first ever bushdance (called the Gung Hoe Down) will be held on the farm next Saturday (28th) along with a mighty harvest feast to mark the end of an incredibly successful season.

It’s the brainchild of the inimitable Mel and Sas from Gung Hoe Growers, and they’ve put heaps of planning into it, from organising an excellent local band known for calling a good dance tune, to designing a delicious menu based on food grown here on the farm, to sourcing local wine and cider to sell at the event.

As the Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance (HOFA) continues to take shape, feasting and celebration has been one of the consistent themes that shows up on everyone’s ‘wishlist’ of what they want out of being part of this farming collective, so we hope it becomes an annual event – or even better, just one on our calendar of celebrations!

But there’s another reason the Gung Hoes are putting so much effort into creating a fabulous event. We’ve watched in awe as they’ve built their business rapidly over the 3years since they started, doubling and then redoubling the size of their patch, and steadily building up their customer base.

They’ve applied themselves to the back-breaking work with diligence, grit and barrow-loads of determination, doing everything by hand because they haven’t had access to equipment.


But like so many small businesses just starting out, they’ve been doing it on a shoestring, particularly as part of their mission statement is to provide affordable food to local people, which has meant they’ve kept their prices very sensible.

The rapid growth means they desperately need more physical space for storage and packing, but without capital behind them that’s a big ask.  In their typical thrifty fashion they’ve found an incredibly low-cost way of providing the infrastructure they need – but they still need to fund it.

Rather than follow the traditional business route of going into debt, they’re applying the same innovative spirit that’s seen their business grow and gain huge community support so rapidly into exploring new ways of funding business growth. And what better way to do it than combine it with a huge celebration – hence, the Gung Hoe Down!

It’s a big risk for them, as they have to commit to a whole bunch of expenses up front, but they have faith that by putting on a great party for the community they’ll be able to achieve their financial goal. They’re aware that not everyone likes to dance, and some people can’t afford a feast, so there’s a wide range of ticketing options. Check them out here.

And we have faith in them.  This event just perfectly sums up everything that Hugh and I love about welcoming these enthusiastic young farmers onto our farm – the determination to provide delicious and nutritious food to local people at a reasonable price, the innovative and clever approach to doing business, and the impulse to have a party at every opportunity!

See you on the dance floor or at the feasting table.


Let’s fight the fly

After a long fruit-growing history, Harcourt has come up against a new foe. Queensland Fruit Fly is on our doorstep and threatens to abruptly end our fruit production heritage by decimating home gardens and commercial crops alike.

On Thursday 5 April Megan Hill, the project officer for the Fruit Fly Action Plan, and Ali Brookes of Maldon Cherry Farm organised a series of information sessions in the local area to educate the community. A small crowd of farmers and gardeners gathered at the Harcourt Anglican hall for the final 1 hour session of the day.

We discussed the history of the Queensland Fruit Fly and its march south over the eastern states, the life cycle of the insect, the diverse range of fruit it will affect, what to do with infected produce and of course, a range of potential defense mechanisms.

Netting, baiting, trapping and hygiene were all discussed at length but the prominent message from the day was that it will take a unified effort from the entire community to safeguard our veggie gardens and our orchards. Every backyard fruit tree and garden must be managed properly or removed. That means installing traps to monitor the population, netting plants or bagging fruit, using baiting sprays if necessary (there are organic and nonorganic options available), and even having some chooks or ducks to reduce fly numbers. If any fruit is found to be infected it must be collected immediately and solarised (placed in a garbage bag and left in the sun for a few days) or frozen. Infected fruit can NOT be composted as this is the perfect environment for the larvae to pupate and hatch.

As a new fruit grower in the area, I was keen to attend the session so that I could improve my knowledge of the fly and better understand all the options available to defend my new orchard. It is daunting to be starting a farming enterprise in the face of this insidious pest but I have faith that we can collectively protect ourselves. Also, my current farming mentors, Hugh and Katie of Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens, hold a wealth of experience and knowledge that I can glean and add to my pest control tool belt.

I am passionate about farming, love growing food for my local community, and feel proud to be the next generation of custodian for Harcourt’s fruit production history. These are the things that motivate me to ‘fight the fly’. Spread the word, educate your friends, properly manage or remove your fruiting trees/plants and help us farmers stay fruit fly free.


A Gung Hoe autumn

Well, the weather is cooling down that’s for sure – make sure you water this weekend though as it set to be in the 30s again and next week mid-30s!! It’s funny how we relax as humans a bit more in the cool, however out here in Gung Hoe land that isn’t the case!! Our relax months are in the depths of winter – in June and July.  We are planting as much as we can through Jan – April so it gets good growth in the warm soil from summer. Of course here in central goldfields that is slightly intense as Jan-April is very hot. We love our shade cloth and are always aware that without our connection to water this whole venture isn’t even possible. It’s also the time for preserving all of the produce we haven’t been able to sell as it’s not hot enough for the toms to ripen now so we have been squirreling away in the Lot 19 commercial kitchen into the night making green tomato things – delicious!!
We’ve also been amazed at just how generous people are with their time, we have a few solid volunteers who enjoy coming out and working with us. We always appreciate their energy and good humour and, of course, many hands make lighter, quicker work.  This week in their school holidays we had Cohen and Gussie for a whole day. I don’t think I was interested in such rad things when I was 17; I was more sneaking into jazz bars and trawling through secondhand record stores. Cohen cycles out to Harcourt enjoying 2 sunrises each week and then rides back to school – I’m so impressed! We also had Marty, Lydia, Brendan, and Amanda – wow!!
So finally, this is short as I’m late planting my home garden of bulbs and must do that today, but we are so excited about our Gung Hoe Down happening on Sat 28th April. Jane Thompson and her incredible band is leading us through a bush dance! You are welcome and will enjoy the day, whether you’ve been to no bushdances or many before. The band will skillfully call and explain all the dances. Then if you’d like to join us for a sit down, seasonal feast that is on offer too, for after all our jumping around!  Sas and I really work hard, but we also believe in stepping along with the world in a light-hearted way. Sometimes we forget to do this and get bowed down with feeling stressed/tired/working long hours. So we wanted to celebrate, and dance and have fun. We welcome you to join us, knowing that all extra funds raised after paying the band and a few key ingredients to stretch out the feast will go towards our funding of building a weather- and mouse-proof storage for our produce. Cant wait. All tix available through the link https://gung-hoe-growers.myshopify.com/.
Hope this finds you well and feeling nourished going into the cooler season.  It’s time to cure the pumpkins, dig up the potatoes, finish off your garlic (or freeze it so you have Aussie garlic through winter), eat your onions and plant beetroots.
Grow and dance and live lightheartedly
Mel (and Sas and Ziggy and Scallywag)