Monday, October 19, 2015

Small Producer's Chinwag

Mountain River Memorial Hall with Sleeping Beauty in the background.
Some of the best people you could hope to meet!

Not really on topic, but I love the crockery collections in community halls.
What builds community better than sharing tea?

Sometimes, when I'm running my wheel hoe down yet another row, decapitating determined weeds in the hot sun I can feel a little crazy. A whole week can go by when my only contact with a flesh and blood human, outside of my family, is a few minutes with the other parents at the school bus stop in the morning. I'll have ideas for different ways of doing things on the farm, tools I can't figure out and seeds that refuse to germinate. Thoughts whirl about in my brain, unresolved and sometimes the cloud of depression can loom overhead. Nothing chases those blues away like a good chat with a farmer, cook or eater who gets it, and on Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure of spending time with some of the finest of these folk.

We spoke of tools, bunch sizes, pricing vegetables, insurance, weeding, regulations and cake. And that was just in the chattering circles I was part of, I'm sure there were a hundred other incredible conversations had in that little hall. James from Hobart City Farm has ordered the same Jang seeder we have from Gundaroo Tiller and he told me of a brilliant idea to 3D print custom wheels, and to share the conventionally made ones that we have. I spoke with the inspiring Celia from Whistler's Ridge Permaculture and Christina Guidici from Fimby about the Huon Producers Network's efforts to set up a small animal abottoir. I chatted with Nysha from Sprout Tasmania and Thea from Lettuce Grow For You (who is also the coordinator of the new Kingston Produce Market that we'll be attending in mid November, woo hoo!), about how big a 'bunch' is and how we could share that concept with new growers to give customers a consistent idea of value. Sadie from Fat Pig Farm spoke about advocacy work that Sprout may do with small producers, Stan and Briony from Fat Carrot Farm shared our concern about wildlife eating our gardens and we had our first chat in real life after me admiring the food they enjoy on their instagram account. Cassy Faux runs the Geeveston Farmer's Market and spoke of her plans for a cafe using local produce and Mick talked about his beginning farm with garlic at Bream Creek. I got to spend time with friends Bridget from Hobart City Farm, Michelle from Harvest Feast and Jonathan from Lettuce Grow For You all at once, which was a wonderful treat I hope to repeat soon. I didn't get to talk to Alex from Golden Valley Farm and Christina the Basil Girl so I'm really hanging out to chat with them next time, they're inspiring growers!

It's a beautiful thing to feel part of a community, as Christina put it, to be "collaborative and nurturing, rather than competitive".

The best thing is that it was so easy to do. The hall fee was a whopping $30, everyone pitched in with a bring-a-plate table - if you ever want to eat well invite a bunch of farmers to bring a plate, it's a thing of beauty - and we were still talking over the dishwater, planning the next gathering. So the moral of the story is this: don't go it alone. Look around, connect and you'll find others on the same path as you. Hire a hall, share some cake and talk.

This was all on the back of the Deep Winter Agrarian Gathering which happened in winter in Daylesford and was an incredibly inspiring event; connecting with people closer to home, who share the same challenges and triumphs as us was the perfect next step. I can't wait for our next get-together that we'll share with Jilly from Twelve Trees Farm who was greatly missed, along with all the others who couldn't make it this time, but whom we hope to meet next time! 

Christina from Fimby bought delicious homemade cordial.

Stan and Briony from Fat Carrot Farm made beautiful bread and a wonderful Moroccan greens dish. 

Alex from Golden Valley Farm made a delicious dish of rice, leeks and radishes.

My girls amused themselves by rescuing skinks from the bathrooms, eating all of the wonderful food and using our supply of markers and butchers paper to make some hall inspired artwork with Bridget from Hobart City Farm.