Laura the butcher

It’s been over 5 years since I’ve picked a fresh peach from Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens, but having Katie and Hugh in my home takes me right back to the orchards. 

I’ll never forget my first day working at the farm on my first visit in 2010, coming from the busy restaurant world in San Francisco, I thought what could be better than working on a farm with fresh organic peaches and cherries and eating them at my leisure? I remember looking out the window as we drove up seeing bright green-leafed cherry trees with hundreds of little red pops of colour, I couldn’t wait to get a bite.

Me (centre) working at MAFG back in 2010

After settling in and getting a good night’s rest I got ready for our first day’s work putting on my best new ‘farmer’s clothes’ and new leather Aussie hat I had just purchased. What could be my first task, I thought, picking cherries, peaches or plums fresh for market? I couldn’t wait to jump in and experience true, organic farming. 

Then came our first job assignment, grabbing onto branches above our heads and shaking earwigs out of the unripened cherry trees. It was then that I also figured out that even the earliest fruit on the farm was still a month away from being ripe enough to eat. I swallowed the squeamish “eeek” feeling that came over me as well as any hopes I had of chomping on a juicy peach that day and carried out the task. 

I remember going to bed that evening frantically checking for earwigs in bed after every little tickle, thinking this is not what I signed up for. 

After a few more days of branch shaking, manure shoveling and trunk taping (for pests), I found myself asking more questions and being more and more curious about the processes of organic farming. After weeks the curiosity turned into fascination and I found myself excited every morning to get started with the day. Seeing the fruit slowly get bigger and watching our hard work pay off was completely addictive. 

Katie and Hugh were so patient in guiding me through all of my amateur farming questions and continued to introduce me to all their different organic practices, as well as local farms around them. 

After my working visa expired, and finally chomping on a juicy peach, I came back to the United States and continued working on farms. A few years later when the snow came I returned to Australia to work for Katie and Hugh for 3 months and expanded my knowledge even further.

Since working for Katie and Hugh my interests in farming have been nonstop, evolving from fruit trees to vegetables, flowers and eventually animal farming.

Working on animal farms domestically and internationally while fine-tuning the craft of whole-animal butchery has led me to where I am today. I have grown to combine my culinary background with farming to find my passion in butchery and the teaching of ethical meat eating.

I recently relocated to Steamboat Springs, Colorado where I will be teaching whole-animal butchering at the local college, connecting small farmers with the restaurant community, and running a small business – Laura the Butcher – providing artisanal meat and cheese platters to the Steamboat Springs community.

To finally get to the point of being ready to launch my own business feels incredible.

Cheers, Laura

CSA – big thanks!

Gidday out there!

As I write this the correllas, galahs and cockatoos and cacophony of other birds, dogs, cows and who knows what else are banging around and the sun is on my face.  Its a perfect autumn day, the grass is growing and covering what was dust almost a month ago. The dust of green feels like a sigh of relief; and the ever hovering thought: ‘will it rain??’ diminishes slightly.  I am reminded just how quickly we can be turned to the present when it feels do-able, ok and not that it will all collapse and die if you don’t tend to it.  

This weather is also perfect planting out weather – we need to get everything we can in the ground before the earth cools down and hibernates for the winter.  We need everything to get its grow on NOW so we can harvest it throughout winter/spring. If we leave it too late the plants/ seedlings will sit there and not grow and take up precious space not doing anything…which might seem not such a worry but on our scale and with our intensiveness this is a factor we try to eliminate as much as possible.  If you can hear a thread of anxiety running through my words you’d be completely correct.  As much as I know we do as much as we can; and every year (remember we only get one crack a year at each season!) we improve – these windows of transition are still tricky for us to juggle! There’s days I feel in the flow and then there’s days I try so hard to get my head around it that I think I’m actually ridiculously unproductive which elevates any overwhelm I already have lurking in the background!! We have a massive to-do list that lives on a white board in the shed and is pretty much our brains combined into gung hoe…sometimes i find it helpful and at other times its just TOO MUCH! as pictured here 😉

Ah well…is life, no?  We’re never completely ‘all over it’ are we, and as I heard in a podcast interviewing Mary Oliver recently, she mentioned how important it is to leave space to accommodate chance… I do believe that if we so perfectly organise our lives there is no chance for the unknown and spontaneous, and indeed isn’t that what breathes life into our steps?

The magpies are swooping out of a big gum I sit and type under, they’re singing and uplifting the spirit.  As the seasons roll on by we see the transition – the garlic is all mulched its strong green leaves are poking out of its bed of straw…and in the same moment growth has slowed and it is harder to get the mass bulk we need for boxes, caterers, cafes and restaurants so there is a glimmer in the distance of Sas and me too slowing down.  We will finish our seasonal boxes in early June for a few months, (but still continue with wholesale) so we can bunker down with the season and take stock, regain energy needed for spring/summer/autumn.  We will start with the morning sun soon rather than meeting with the moon at the beginning and end of our days, yay!

As a celebration we are holding with Ant (from Tellurian Fruit Gardens) a casual farm tour and shared potluck dinner with members of our hybrid CSA box scheme on Saturday 8th June. We will be sending out invites to everyone who has eaten and travelled the seasons with us via the electronic mail – via mailchimp – so keep an eye out y’all – and often Mailchimp can go into junk or promotions folders – so please keep an eye out in these too, we don’t want anyone to think they haven’t been invited!!! There is a registration for the event (in the email you will receive!) so we can make sure we have enough seats, toilets, water and parking space so make sure you sign up if you’re intending on joining us 🙂


We are so grateful for those in our community who support us and what we’re aiming to do in building stronger, local food systems and building soil. We understand that it takes a certain amount of understanding and tweaking of what we mostly call ‘normal’ life to live in sync with the food we have available to us in each season as its so easy to not live this way.  So in celebration of you, and for for us to celebrate the earth and everything that comes from it, we would love to show you with a short tour where the food is grown and any questions you have, and then sit around a fire, or in the shed and do what people have done for millennia by celebrating with food, together. Pretty simple, but generally it’s what is the golden ticket we reckon. 

So with that, may you be enjoying these cooler days of green and red and brown and gold and be reminded of this wisdom so beautifully penned by Wendell Berry from his poem Rising : (bearing in mind man equals all peoples 🙂 

But if a man’s life 
continues in another man, 
then the flesh will rhyme 
its part in immortal song. 
By absence, he comes again. 

There is a kinship of the fields 
that gives to the living the breath 
of the dead. The earth 
opened in the spring, opens 
in all springs. Nameless, 
ancient, many lived, we reach 
through ages with the seed.

In peace, Mel (and Sas)

Tree sales are go!

The season is turning and our beautiful fruit trees are starting to lose their leaves and go dormant for the winter. Katie and Merv have been out amongst them, counting up how many trees of what variety are a good size to sell and loading the information onto the website ready for sale.

We’ve got loads of different varieties of nectarine, peach, cherry, apple, pear, plum and apricots available.

We even have the first of our unique multigrafted trees with up to 4 varieties of fruit on the one tree!! Perfect for people with limited space for growing who want to get the maximum amount of variety in their home-grown-fruit bowl!

If you want to order one of our organic bare-rooted fruit trees, go to the website here:

https://www.mafg.com.au/trees

…and scroll to the bottom of the page to click on the type of fruit tree you’re looking for.

Orders close June 30, 2019.

We are the only certified organic fruit trees nursery in Australia (that we know of) and since it is also our first year selling our trees, we will also supplement the trees we’ve grown ourselves with wholesale trees from another nursery who also specialise in heritage varieties. When you’re ordering, the trees from our nursery have “(organic)” in the name; the trees we buy from an external nursery do not.

You’ll then be able to pick-up your trees from the farm on the weekend of July 13 and 14, between 10 am and 4 pm.

We will also have a Nursery Open Day on Sunday 21 July for a final sale of any trees that weren’t sold in the first round. 

Another big announcement is that we finally have a logo for Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery!! After much deliberation, debate and fine tweaking over co-op morning tea, we decided to go with this logo that has a hand-drawn image of Merv’s grafting knife at the top of it.

We debated whether anyone would know what a grafting knife is, and whether we should just go with some sort of generic image of a tree, like a million other businesses have. In the end we decided that the knife (even if no one knows what it is) really says more about the nursery and its history. Merv has had this knife for 65 years, since he first started studying horticulture at Burnley College as a 17 year old.

The knife has had so much use over the years that the blade has worn down to almost a sliver, but it still gets pulled out and sharpened for budding every February. It represents the knowledge of an old skill that is being passed down from Merv to Katie and me.

The clincher too is that inscribed on the butt of the blade, and still visible, are the words ‘Oil the Joints’. Poignant.