Garlic~ Its that time again!

We’ve got our seventh crop of garlic safely out of the ground before the next big rain (PHEW!!)  It was touch and go this year as to how the crop was going to be. The wet and cooler than usual weather has been great for some crops, but garlic really needs a good, solid dry period of a couple of weeks both before you harvest it and whilst it cures out of the ground. Humidity and moisture are not friends to garlic.

The ground was sodden but the sun was shining as we harvested, so the garlic got a few good hours to dry in the sun before getting hung up to dry in the shed. Thanks to a few warm and dry days since harvest, we’re confident the crop will cure nicely.

After seven years of re-planting the biggest and best garlic from our previous years crop, this years harvest is the best yet. We’ll be bunching them next week into small (15 head) and large (30 head) plaits ready for sale, but we’ve opened up ourOFN shop for pre-orders now.

You can pick up from Farm Shop (Fridays) or the Weekly Farmers Market in Castlemaine, Wednesdays (1-4pm). Sorry no postal orders this year, the postage costs more than the garlic!!

We also still have some Gung Hoe patches, hessian spud sacks and Tea Towels (organic hemp) available on our shop if you’re looking for an ethical gift. These we can post for an additional cost.

Grow well,
Sas and Mel

Hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground

I was bought up in neither a farming nor a religious family. I grew up surrounded by bush and river, barefoot and free to explore the world. I spent a lot of time alone in nature and here I learnt to listen to, love and care for the land I am on and all my kin who share it; human and otherwise. I learnt too, that whatever you put your mind and hands to, you can achieve.  Even better when there are many hands.

In my final years of high school, I did a ‘career survey’ to find out what I was going to do with my life. Apparently I was meant to become a beautician. I haven’t taken the traditional approach to that career. Instead have spent my adult years in service to the beauty that I love, using outdoor education, seed saving, kitchen gardens, permaculture and community development as my tools.

It took a while for me to come to farming. When I did, it was a conscious choice to start to farm and grow food that feeds not only the people that eat it but the land and ecosystem in which it grows.  I chose to farm because I could find no greater embodiment of so many of my core beliefs, passions, understandings and hopes. As I continue to observe and listen to the land around me it continues to inform and transform these understandings.

For me, farming is at once a profound act of reverence, prayer and service.  There is no church or temple needed with my feet on the earth and the wind on my skin.  Out of reverence for all that has been, all that is and all that will be I am moved to tend the earth and grow food, fertility and connections in ways, which are creative, loving and considered.

The act of sowing a seed, tending the soil, harvesting peas or pulling weeds is an act of prayer. I pray kneeling down with my hands in the soil. Prayers that this life I am helping to grow, will be nourished and in turn nourish. Prayers that, no matter what comes, be it rain, hail, fire or frost, I will continue to grow, tend and love. Prayers that the work that I do will give more than it takes and contribute to the continuation of life and abundance.

Farming is a deep act of service.  With our hands and hearts we are in service to the land, the soil, the water, the air, to the many who are part of our ecosystem and to our human community who we hope to feed. We are in service to both current and future generations. We are in service to the soil.

Farming has taught me so much about community, about health, about the complex systems of nature, life and my place in it.  As we have nurtured the health of our soil, I have seen too how the health and robustness of our plants and the whole system has grown. I have learnt about the interconnectedness of all life and how seemingly small actions if not thought through can have big impacts. I have learnt how true and lasting health comes from the deep foundations of healthy soil, water and connection.

Six and a half years ago, Mel and I planted out our first four rows of garlic on Katie and Hughs land in Harcourt, and so began Gung Hoe Growers. Three years later the Harcourt Farming Co operative was born and we were joined by Tess and Ant, Merv and Lizzie tending the land and producing food in our different ways but all together.

Since Gung Hoe began in April 2015, we’ve grown incrementally so that we now tend and care for 1.5 acres of land on which we grow an exquisite diversity of veggie, herb and bush food crops.  We too have grown and learnt a lot along the way.

 

Today, like every other day,
we wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

-Rumi-

In early March this year, I made a huge and difficult decision; I decided that it was time for me to leave Gung Hoe and the Co-op.  I gave Mel twelve months notice so that we could work towards a smooth transition to her taking the reins. We are still working through this transition but we feel its time to let our community know that I am stepping back and eventually out of the business. Mel will continue in true dirty hoe style to grow and provide beautiful food.

I step away from Gung Hoe with both a deep sense of sadness and of gratitude. I am deeply grateful to Mel for sharing this journey with me. We took the leap together, we started with almost nothing; two sets of hands, two hearts and a belly full of passion. Combined with a whole lot of blood sweat and tears, together we’ve created something truly beautiful and closer ever closer to the original vision we began with. It’s been tough and amazing, I’ve learned so much from working together and am so inspired by Mel’s big creative heart and her commitment to truth, connection, community and real food. Mel has helped me grow in ways I never could have imagined.

I am deeply grateful for the time that I have had faming this incredible patch of Country. Every day spent farming, tending, caring, is one with a clear sense of purpose, direction and contribution. With Leanganook by my side, the ever changing sky-scape above me and so many good folks sharing the journey, it is extremely hard to leave.

I am deeply grateful to Katie and Hugh, they made it possible by so generously sharing their land with us and now with the co-op. They’ve encouraged us every step of the way and continue to inspire me with the way they can think out side the box to create solutions and alternatives, whilst always so generously sharing their skills and knowledge.

I am deeply grateful to all those who I have been farming this land with. To Merv, Tessa, Ollie, Ant, Lizzie, Terry, Alex, Yoann and Ingrid. There is both immense challenge and joy in farming together and I have learnt so much from working with each and every one of you so intimately; finding our edges and helping each other move beyond them.

I am deeply grateful to all those in our community (near and far) who have supported us, watched and helped us grow. To all the vibrant beings who have come in and out and through Gung Hoe and lent their sweat and smiles to the work of growing food and community together, side by side.

And finally, I am deeply grateful to my partner Ellen, who has both encouraged and supported me through these years whilst challenging me to balance my drive and commitment with rest, laughter, hugs and cups of tea.

I’m not sure what’s coming next on this journey, but one things for sure, there’s no keeping the soil out from under my nails and the callouses from my palms.

With deep gratitude, may we all continue to grow, tend and nourish our soils and souls. May we let the beauty we love, be what we do.

Sas

 

 

 

Community Supported Agriculture- 12 Months of Veggies

Just over six years ago, we started the Gung Hoe journey with $200 each to
invest in the business, a little bit of know how, a whole lot of passion and five short little rows of garlic. We have since built by hand, quite literally row by row our market garden to now be just over an acre of intensely productive, diverse and vibrant land.  We have (and continue to) learnt so much and have trialled so many different models for how best to make our food accessible to our community whilst caring for the land and all the creatures big and small who depend on it, including us.

Sass Allardice at a Gung Hoe market stallCommunity Supported Agriculture (CSA) is just that; Communities supporting
the people who feed them so they can continue to grow good food that
benefits the community and the land on which its grown. This comes about through ongoing relationships, education and a sharing of both the rewards and the risks of farming. The concept originated Japan in the 1970’s and the Japanese word for the idea ‘Teikei’ means to ‘put the farmers’ face on the food’. That’s what Gung Hoe is about. We want the people who eat our food to know and trust us. Not only this but also to know and trust that how we choose to grow the food you eat is helping to regenerate and care for the country on which we grow.

Gung Hoe Growers vegie boxWe’ve been offering mixed veggie boxes in various forms for the last 6 years.
We’ve tried models ranging from casual boxes where people sign up week by week, to whole season boxes where people can sign up for up to 12 weeks worth of veggies. We’re now ready to trial another offering in this space. A twelve month CSA box.

 

 

What is a 12 Month CSA?

We are only releasing ten places for the 12 month CSA this year as it is a new concept for us and we don’t want to over commit. They will begin in October 2021, and include:

  • A weekly veggie box for twelve months at an average value of $35/week (some weeks less and some weeks more depending on the abundance of the season).
  • Seasonal open days and opportunities to get hands on especially for these CSA members
  • An opportunity to have input into the planning of what we grow for your boxes.
  • A workshop with Duang Tengtrirat from ‘Duangs Master Cooking Classes’ on how to cook with the whole vegetable.
  • Weekly CSA boxes which can be collected from the Wednesday Castlemaine Farmers Market or on Fridays from the Farm Shop in Harcourt.
  • CSA veggie boxes get the first pick of the best veg and our full range. What we take to  sell at market is only what is left over after we have packed CSA boxes so often isn’t the the full array of what we are growing.

We ask for full upfront payment for the whole year if possible. At the same time we don’t want this to be a limiting factor so are happy to negotiate payment plans if necessary.

This is truly and unapologetically eating seasonally and locally. The contents of each box will depend on a combination of our best planning, hard work and the unpredictable nuances of the season. But in general this is roughly what you can expect:

Spring: Peas, broad beans, kohl rabi, sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, globe artichokes, coriander, garlic scapes, salad, parsley, Italian herbs, leafy greens (kale, silverbeet, rainbow chard, Warrigal greens), beetroot, radish, turnips, alliums (onion, leek, spring onion, garlic), sorrel, rhubarb

Summer: Tomato, capsicum, chilli, eggplant, basil, zucchini, cucumber, melons, cape gooseberries, beans, peas, salad, parsley, Italian herbs, leafy greens (kale, silverbeet, rainbow chard, Warrigal greens), beetroot, radish, alliums (onion, leek, spring onion, garlic), sorrel, rhubarb

Autumn: Popcorn, dried beans (black bean, kidney bean, fava bean), pumpkin, potato, Jerusalem artichoke, cape gooseberries, tomato, capsicum, chilli, eggplant, basil, zucchini, cucumber, melons, coriander, pak choy, tatsoi, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohl rabi, salad, parsley, Italian herbs, leafy greens (kale, silverbeet, rainbow chard, Warrigal greens), beetroot, radish, alliums (onion, leek, spring onion, garlic), sorrel, rhubarb

Winter: Radiccio, endive, escarole, pumpkin, potato, Jerusalem artichoke, broccoli, cabage, kohl rabi, cauliflower, salad, parsley, Italian herbs, leafy greens (kale, silverbeet, rainbow chard, Warrigal greens), beetroot, radish, turnip, alliums (onion, leek, spring onion, garlic), sorrel, rhubarb

 

Why we are trying this model?

  • Develop a closer, more on going relationship with our eaters
  • Financial stability- having upfront payments and committed CSA members means we can more accurately plan our season whilst minimising seasonal financial stress and uncertainty. It gives us a solid base from which to grow your food.
  • We know we can do it! After growing, harvesting and packing veggie boxes every week for the past six years we now feel certain that we have the skills to provide a zinging veggie box year round.
  • We are having more interns working with us and we want to pay them, so having an assured income from CSA boxes helps us train up the next generation of growers!

Boxes will begin in October but we will be getting together with all the 12 month subscribers in July to plan what we’re growing, so sign ups will close early July.

Also we will continue to offer some  seasonal and possibly casual boxes throughout the year, especially in summer and autumn and we will continue to bring to the weekly market what harvest we have left over after packing boxes so you will still be able to access our produce if the 12 month subscription isn’t for you.

We have just opened our ’12 Month Veggie CSA Subscriptions’ on HOFC Open Food Network shop, so if you are interested follow the link (and select ‘Gung Hoe Produce’ from the drop down ‘Ready For’ menu), or if you’ve got any questions, fly us an email at gunghoegrowers@gmail.com

Grow wellSass

Sas (and Mel)

The face of your Grow-hers:

An ode to the Land and HOFC

My internship at Gung Hoe Growers is about to come to a close. I guess I will use this blog as a moment to reflect on my last five and a half months. My heart is full of mixed emotion, and it feels difficult to put in to words the intense amount of love, gratitude and respect I have for the Land and the people of this place.  I am in awe and amazement of Leanganook, of the incredibly old and wise trees that inhabit the place and I am deeply grateful and pay my full respect to the Dja Dja Wurrung elders of this land – past, present and emerging. Such an incredibly sacred place to be working and spending time each day. I have so many questions I wish I knew the answers to. And a huge sense of loss and grief in accompaniment. I will never really look at Leanganook or its surrounding valleys the same way. What power moves from this place and beyond? What stories travel through and from?

My time on the farm so far has been life-changing. This makes me very happy. For it feels like an immense change in an extremely positive direction. The extent of what I have learnt feels large and expansive and slightly intangible. Practically speaking, I know I’ve learnt plenty. About the Earth beneath my feet and the energy it takes – both human and non – to provide delicious, highly nutritious, organic vegetables to a community of people – whilst encouraging and promoting the continuing health of the soil and its living ecology. That aint a small thing. And yet, though I am sure I have skilled up in some way or another, I still feel like a small child with so much more to learn before I could even begin to consider myself knowledgeable. But sure – it’s a start.

One thing I know for sure is what an absolute pleasure it has been working closely alongside two absolute legendary human beings. Sas and Mel are truly modern-day heroes if you ask me – along with everyone else on the farm and probably most people in this field of work. What really has stuck out for me about Gung Hoe is how absolutely dedicated they are to be working with an ethic that is truly in line with their core values and beliefs. Making organic food accessible, both monetarily and geographically, whilst also being regenerative in practise is not an easy task to achieve. But they do it with so much passion and humility that one can’t help but feel inspired to do good.

The same goes for the rest of the Co-op. Each human being on this farm is an absolute gem. I feel so blessed to be able to spend each day in the company of such passionate, real, inspiring humans. And not only humans make this place what it is – dogs, cows, geese, chickens, roos, wedgies, crows, galahs, cockies (all the other birds under the sun) and all the trillions of other living things I can and cannot see. What a joy and a blessing to be around so much life each day.

And so, feeling slightly disappointed and discouraged at how these words don’t seem to be capturing the extent of what I feel – I will finish with a splash of abstract stanza. In the hope that it may tickle that part inside that don’t express with structured sentences.

 

My heart breaks at the thoughts that stay awake,

Neither wanting nor leaving nor letting go

But hoping to stay on.

With each beating breathe, each gnawing sound,

With the vibrant elation of cacophony ground

To a halt.

Solo and singing

Butterflies winging the air

I look up but don’t seem to care.

Inside I feel

Perturbed

But don’t mean it.

Somewhere there is movement and laughter.

With the day that leavens in simple steps

They who love the Land

Will teach the songs to stand.

 

 

end of the year (that felt like 3…at least) reflection

I don’t think I ever knew the personal journey I stepped into when I realised I wanted to grow food.  Indeed if someone told me I probably would have laughed at them.  As this insane, hard, heartbreaking, truth searing year (in calendar form anyway) winds to its end there’s so many things I would love to say.  But I think short simple and somewhat sweet shall suffice.

Last week at the end of our Thursdays group vollie session we had an informal feedback time.  Sas and I wanted to know if peeps had any ideas of how to do things better, their lowlights/highlights and its always so inspiring to hear what others are grateful for so we chucked that in too.

I personally came away so touched and saw, again, in action how powerful it is to share your way in the world with others, out loud.

Sas and I have always wanted others, learning, health of body. – mind – spirit- soul, joy and beauty to be a part of Gung HOe.  I know that we have forgotten some of that and gotten lost in stress, work, work, toil and tired.  So it was with tears in our eyes that we listened and shared of the synchronicity as sas named it of how our current gang of peeps has come about and what it means to us.

 

Thursdays have helped us get a lot done.  This crew have done pretty repetitive tasks for about 5 months now and have helped us create peaches and cream with sweat, social distancing, laughter, dirt (obviously) and cake.

But its been way more than that.  Its been the conversations that we can all have around each other of a deep/sensitive/inspiring nature that feeds you like food can.

Its the support you can feel when maybe you woke up a bit sad, anxious, or worried or lonely and you can come just as you are and work alongside the team for a few hours  out side in the fresh air with your hands in some dirt.

Its the shared joy when someone goes swimming again or finds a rad bug or pats a dog with love not fear.  Its having space to be passionate or be quiet, to dance or to cry a bit or just to look up at the clouds as bunjil flys across.

The humans who have been with us this year have been involved in learning more about what it takes to grow food, on a small scale enterprise, in Harcourt – but I’m sure there’s similarities in lots of other places too :).

 

 

Working with people who want to learn (and through feedback we learnt we can do so much more of this) – is genuinely comforting; and to be around people who are keen for it and  then put it into action in their lives is like energy for Sas and I. 

To be around people motivated to make change, to learn and be active rather numb in the world also spurs us on ya’ know!  I feel like they all incapsulate this quote by Wendell Berry:

‘Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used’ – Wendell Berry

These folk have fed us with their beautiful selves and we are so grateful that they came our way for this year.  They remind me that the way I want to live on the farm (and off it!!)…it means that I can relate to others as Mel, the quirky odd human that I am, not just a tired, stressed worker who has to get shit done.

So THANK YOU!  in no particular order; Sky Will Abigail Cohen Rex Ira Michael Annie Thea Keenan and Chip for gracing us with your presence and your time wheelbarrowing compost amongst many other things and for sharing yourselves with us.  We hold it (and you) very dear.

 

 

Peace out for the year.  May the next one be a bit more gentle, a bit more kind, a bit more understanding and with more ferocious power to the people who care about others and the earth. 

 

May our small actions and lives add some force to that.  Mel