Outstanding!

Posted on July 15, 2014 – 9:17 pm by By Fraser Bayley

Last night our Farmers Market was voted delicious! Magazine’s Most Outstanding Farmers Market. In Australia. Our small town that almost no-one has heard of, won a national award.

It’s a pretty big thing but not that which initially seems obvious which would be along the lines of “that’s great! More people will come to our market” and that may happen but that’s not why this is a big thing. Bear with me.

I dont know who votes on these things. There are some pretty big “food world” names thrown around, Maggie Beer, Matt Moran, Christine Mansfield to name a few. I can’t say what swayed their judgment towards us as opposed to the other great markets in the mix. But I can offer a couple of reasons why I think we won.

Firstly the integrity. Our market is truly a farmers market. You buy from the people that grew it, raised it, fished it, baked it and milked it. No agents, no middle men. That market integrity is crucial. You buy from families that care deeply about what they do and are asking a price from you to help them maintain their job. Quality and freshness goes without saying. When you buy from people who are engaged and interested and in it for the long haul, they’re not going to sell you crap.

2nd. Its a weekly market. The supermarkets have won us over with convenience. From the outset our ambition was to provide the consumer with a choice that would satisfy all their weekly fresh food needs from bread and dairy to meat and 3 veg. And for them to get into the routine it has to be weekly. Twice weekly in my opinion. From the producers perspective..well….you try and maintain some sort of cash flow on a once a month basis. You try to tell the broccoli that it has to stay nice and tight for 3 weeks until the next market. You keep your boat at a jetty for a month until you can catch fish . You get the picture.

But mostly it’s because it’s for the people. For our community. Our market is not gourmet or artisan or boutique or overpriced. Its normal, good quality, fresh food for mum’s and dad’s and gran and the kids to eat healthy. Its accessible as all good food should be.

And I see this as the future. While more people may attend our market as a result of this award, I see the greater recognition and legacy of what we’ve created here in our community to be that people will take note of this and create their own market in their own town with their own growers.
It just ticks so many boxes.

Economy. There’s jobs in this. Meaningful, satisfying jobs. The people that do those jobs require diesel mechanics, irrigation suppliers, boots, hats, school books and dentists. And that wealth goes around within the community not off to the boardroom where it eventually ends up on a yacht in the Bahamas or in a box seat at the World Cup final.

Health. Fresh food = Healthy people. Seasonal eating of food that’s at it’s peak of freshness and vitality = Healthy people. People that are gainfully employed = Healthy people.

Environment. Small farms have more varied field structure, more biodiversity and more wild spaces. They have less production intensity which means less nutrient pollution into waterways. Small farmers tend to have a more empathetic relationship with nature and their land and the small size size of these farms means they can fit closer to urban areas reducing transport of inputs to the farm and outputs back to town.

Community. This is built as we’re all buying from each other, trading with each other, our kids are playing sport together, we sing, dance and laugh together, we rely on each other and need to trust each other for our income, our health, our recreation, our future.

Genuine Farmers Markets. Every town needs one. Figure it out. Find growers, find customers. I dream of a day when in Australia buying your food from the market is more normal than…. walking into a supermarket.

Farmer Kyle

Posted on July 9, 2014 – 7:23 am by By Fraser Bayley

On the 1st January 2013 we set up a Farmers Market to provide a direct outlet for farmers/growers and to provide fresh local produce to the community. It has been a great success and continues to grow. But that’s another story.

What became quickly apparent back then was that demand far outstripped supply particularly in the vegetable department and most of us vegie growers were selling out in 25 minutes which became an issue. So what to do, we thought.As there was no prospective growers in the area at that time we realised that we probably need to train one up. After thinking about that we thought that probably a lot of areas were short of growers and it might be worthwhile diving in the deep end to see if it was something that would work anywhere.

The SAGE community garden site in Moruya has 600sqm of bed space which is very, very small in market gardening terms but perfect really for budding farmers without a decent sized plot to get their hands in the dirt and experience and learn the ins and outs of commercial growing to gain enough skills to be able to set up their own operation. And that in turn should add to the amount of good quality food available to that person’s community.

So dive in the deep we did and after a process we met Kyle.

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Kyle had recently moved to the area after recovering from surgery and was taking stock of his situation in a small town with little work opportunity. Combined with his desire to move away from his trade as painter/decorator and an awareness of the deterioration of food quality available to us all he applied to extend on his experience in his home garden and to provide real food to the people around him.

And now a little while down the track, he’s doing exactly that. Kyle has entered a land share arrangement with Ol’ Barry, a very humble and generous bloke who, back in the day, was famous locally for his prize winning veg at the local show amongst many other things.

Kyle believes he has been able to confidently take this step from knowledge and experience gained at the SAGE block, stating that he may only have gained that experience from an internship with a grower but he appreciated the independence and responsibility given with the SAGE position and with that responsibility and the support, advice and encouragement given by SAGE members and the local community he’s learnt so much.

Kyle has been the ideal candidate, he has engaged the community, developed a keen interest in food production, conducted the Corn Fiesta and Spud Fest (as an ingenious way to move glut produce) and experienced the highs and lows and very lows of small scale production with good humour and determination which are probably 2 of the top 5 qualities you need to be a producer/farmer/grower of one type or another. Madness would be up there too I reckon. He also initiated an information session on the Fruit Fly and conducted a baiting program within the community based on a similar model to the SCPA model in Bega. Community Action! Go team!.

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And now that he’s gone pro he can offer you some of his experience. He says-

-listen, and observe what is happening in the garden. There is a lot going on in, be part of it. Learn about problems, so solutions make more sense.
-Irrigation is higher than high priority for intensive annual veg! Water stress heavily affects both you and the garden.
-Planning will pay. Planning ahead ensures a productive garden. Successive planting is essential for longer harvesting periods.
-Get to know your neighbours. Fellow growers and garden lovers have a huge amount of local knowledge that is invaluable.
-Enjoy the learning curve. Enjoying the journey is really important, and taking advantage of local workshops is great way pick up good information. Embracing mistakes and moving forward is essential, perfect gardening would be soooooo boring :)

Ironically the market gardener we hoped to add to our Farmers Market has identified that the people in his own street need the food more. Farmer Kyle has engaged his neighbourhood and established a contact list in his small south coast seaside suburb (population about 60 in winter- just how the locals like it) and has started a box delivery as well as convincing their local pub that they should serve more local and healthy food. This seemingly non-existent market was sitting right under his nose, no need to drive into Moruya and back. So three cheers I say for local solutions and building community. You can do it!

We aim to offer this position every year with the long term aim of increasing access to fresh food, increasing awareness of sustainable production techniques, laying a foundation for regional economies based around food production and to build resilience, health and culture in communities. I think it’s a model that might be able to be adapted to community gardens all around the country. We absolutely need more growers, producers, small integrated farming systems that can fit at the edge of communities and feed them. Its an initiative that I’m quite proud of and it’s all yours. Take it away.

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Water no get enemy

Posted on February 10, 2014 – 7:37 pm by By Fraser Bayley

 

February. Hot. Dry. Gardening is quite challenging in these conditions. But it is Summer and soon it’ll break (fingers crossed) and we’ll be into Autumn and regular readers will know how I feel about Autumn. Love. Autumn.

Our house supply of water-what we cook, drink, wash our veg for market, brush our teeth and shower under is drying up. It happens from time to time. We’ve only bought water twice in the time we’ve been here though. When the tank gets half full we watch our consumption. When it gets to a quarter, where it got to last week, we tighten up. The kids get 1 minute in the shower. And I wash in the dam.

And this might sound like an inconvenience or an impost on a “regular” way of life. But actually it’s lovely and I wonder why I don’t do it all the time. At the end of a stinking day, covered in dust and sweat and grime, to slip into the water leaves the day behind.

The kids are asleep in bed, dinner’s been done, the sun has set and there’s a beautiful tranquility. I can hear the chickens fussing up in the paddock as they sort out their roosting arrangements for the night. I can hear the black cockies calling to each other as they fly back to wherever they sleep at night. The frogs start croaking and calling. Little bats start flitting at the edge of sight, picking up mosquitoes as they twist and turn silently. The first stars appear and soon there is no noise apart from the frogs and the splashing of water as I move my arms and legs to stay afloat. Magical.

I often get asked why we do it. Why we live where we live and do what we do. On a hot summers day in the fields with everything roasting and drying out and baking off and dying, I ask myself the same question. Every day I get a different answer. Today the answer is in the dam.

 

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Holidays

Posted on June 12, 2013 – 9:18 pm by By Fraser Bayley

“The school of thought which believes that farmers should not have holidays may skip this chapter. To them we tender our apologies, and trust they find excellent value for their money in the rest of this book”  So begins Chapter 10 in George Henderson’s excellent summary of his farming practice in “The Farming Ladder”

Dear George then goes on to describe how he worked for 5 years, 80 hours a week with only a stroll down the driveway on Sundays to break it up. He eventually takes 8 days a year when he goes climbing mountains and on other adventures. Our man George was an inspired bloke. His success was built entirely upon his effort. The guy was a legend. Read More »