Its still dark outside and I’m tucked up in bed with a cuppa by my side. This week was the last summer box pickup and the last days for our paid weekly helpers; Ruby and Nikki. It is like the stop gap for us in the season. Similar to garlic – in April we and our helpers planted 6000 garlic bulbs that will be ready for sale at Christmas and is our 6th birthday! We are now entering into our 6th year – I think that felt pretty huge for the both of us!
The season has been been shifting for a few months now in the overnight temps, the soil temps and day length and it feels that now is our time to realign with the earth and change gears. Summer has been a massive season for us, for everybody really.
We planted out more than we ever have before and were graced with a very productive season thanks to summer rain, decent temperatures and obvious increased soil health. We watched the bush fires alongside everyone else, worked with the local growers, producers, chefs and a bunch of amazing volunteers to put together a feast to build awareness and resilience of our communitys food bowl and to meet our neighbours; and now the virus. We are looking forward to the next few weeks that see us taking some time for a rest off farm.
Then we can come back to the patch, start winter boxes and start ticking (hopefully!) off our cool season to do list and get peaches and cream (our new acre) up and ready for the on coming spring / summer; whilst also observing what the earth does at this time, which is slow down and grow in the dark. Slowly. It is time for deep rest and rebuilding, renourishing what summer takes out of you.
We are lucky to be surrounded and supported by people who believe in what we are doing and how we are doing it – when you are walking on the edge and creating all the time, this is really important; because more often than not the greater population don’t think what you do is important or useful or worthwhile. I know for me (Mel) this is absolutely vital; cos you doubt yourself, you just do.
Our friend Allie has captured a lot of our Gung Hoe story via podcasts for different radio shows she has rolled out. I listened to them last month and in the same way its important to have supporters on your side, it was awesome to listen back to our younger selves banging on about the same things we’re still banging on about. How affirming! You can listen to them here if you’re interested…http://gunghoegrowers.com.au/what-we-do-and-why-we-do-it/
As I left the Castlemaine Farmers Market Weekly on Wednesday, I was taken aback at how bustling it was. (In a socially safe, distanced way of course, don’t worry!) We are now situated on a large oval, and there are lots more stall holders who have been coming and also more of the community has been getting on board. Something the virus has seemed to have done is shine a light on the people who work in small business, and the community wanting to support them. It’s pretty incredible. We have been overwhelmed with a big demand. Part of me knows this is because people are wanting to support local business and eat good food, and I’m very grateful – the other part of me hopes that this desire lasts and that the support, awareness and enthusiasm of who is growing / producing food in our community out lasts “the virus”.
You see, we will only grow what we mostly know we can sell. And now that we have peaches and cream we can produce more; pending seasons weather of course, and after this season of selling out most markets, we will. So I hope that our community continues to seek out fresh, locally grown and made produce. Because we have’t been busier due to the virus like lots of people have commented we must be. Our sales avenues have changed – less restaurants – more boxes – and for the first month we were (along with everybody else) figuring out the safest, best way to look after ourselves and look after those who are buying and eating our food. So systems were changing weekly along with stress levels and holding a calm, positive space; refusing to enter into panic and distress. Tiring!! But in regards to us being busier – I think it’s because more people have seen what we are doing, that’s all. There’s been more attention paid to what we do. Which I’m not complaining about! Its great that people are getting a handle on how hard we work to look after the earth (crops are always in rotation remember) to produce food.
Sas was planting the tomato, chilli, capsicum seeds into seed trays in her living room last year at the end of July. The onions that people are eating now were planted in the soil last year from June to August. The potatoes and pumpkins went in last Spring. We can’t be busier because of “the virus” as we have to plan how many metres of plants we will plant out in Spring / Summer, so they can grow and then get eaten in summer/Autumn – way back in June the year before! We can roughly plan for a certain amount of boxes and what will go to restaurants and markets and then we have to just go along with what the season provides weather wise, and so it goes. Farming is a long distance game, we have to make plans that always change, but the foundation of how much you plant of what is decided 6 or more months before the season in which you eat it.
It has been good that the ‘essential’ nature of we do has been recognised but we also know that what everybody contributes to society is ‘essential’. Indeed the patchwork of humanity is only as great as all the beautifully diverse squares. So yes, please keep supporting your local growers and producers, but also support your neighbours and all the others that make up our society, they are also essential.
My cup of tea is empty and I have to get dressed for Friday Fun Day (Im referring to our Field Couture series, its one of the things that’s kept us sane during these weird isolated times and helped us to laugh) so I will sign off here. Thank you for supporting us at the farmers markets, through buying veg boxes and sourcing our produce for your restaurants / cafes / catering events. We love growing real food for our community of eaters. Every week the boxes look lush and green; have different veg in them to nourish you and I hope you can taste the love with which its grown. We will still be at the weekly market selling veg and we are planning to grow more for market and so we can add a few more boxes to the total tally for next summer. Sign up to the Gung Hoe’s email list here: http://gunghoegrowers.com.au/contact/ or to the Harcourt Organic Co-ops newsletter list here: https://hofcoop.com.au/ to be the first to find about winter boxes (green and lean they’re called “diehards”) and everything else going on!
I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the ‘Work Song’ poem by one of my favourite authors, Wendell Berry. Take care of yourselves and the others you live amongst. Be kind and go gently. Big virtual (oh how I miss the real things) Hugs – Mel x
Returning to the Beloved
The low songs of summer’s end
Dreaming in the air, and the light clear, I drive loads of manure to the field
To make pasture for the coming year.
There is a kind of labour that is absence
In the hurry and fret of growth,
The worry of obligation, time and money,
The threat of summer storm or drouth.
And now we make this return, the team
And I. In the glimmering atmosphere of song
We come and go again, rebuilding promise
In the ground. It will not be long
Before the cold will drive us in. But this, now,
Is where I ought to be, and want to be,
And where I am. Desire and circumstance
Are one. Like a woman’s arms this work holds me.