Everything is blooming most recklessly;

Everything is blooming most recklessly;

if it were voices instead of colors,

there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.…

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.

– Rainer Maria Rilke –

It has felt like a particularly long dark winter this year. Externally of course it hasn’t been. Its been mild and wet as far as our winters go. Plenty of frosty mornings breathing out to crispy, blue sky days, interspersed with grey, wild and wet to keep the soil sponge full and oozing. The season of winter calls on us to turn our focus inwards, to stoke the home fires and feed the soul, to remind ourselves what nourishes and supports us and to let go of what doesn’t. This year, we have all been called on to do this in ways not always comfortable and not always of our choosing and so the coming of spring this year, in all its fervent wild and colourful glory feels like an extra precious gift .

Day by day and row by row, the thigh high cape weed is making way for the crops to come. We’ve been working the spent brassica plants and the luscious biomass that the weeds offer so freely, back into the soil; building richness, life and structure to nourish the heavy feeding crops of summer. The end of winter can feel like a looming wave of chaos. Everything is overgrown, the crops are deciding whether to bolt to seed or offer up a steady spring harvest and we are wondering if we’ll ever get on top of it all.

With this our sixth spring here, our keen new intern on board and an inspiring team of weekly volunteers, things feel less overwhelming than before. We know that row by row the space will transform over the next few months. We know that despite all our best planning, adapting and rain dancing some crops will be bumper and many will not, some we will get in the ground on time and some the rabbits will devour to the ground, some things will surprise us and others will make us wonder what we’re missing…but somehow it will all even out in the long run, we trust, we learn, we’re grateful, we change.

I find hope in the hot house. The act of planting a seed is a profound gesture of hope. Seeds inspire both awe and wonder in me, enough to take my breath away and ponder the wisdom that rests within even the tiniest atom of this universe. With every seed planted there is a leap of trust and hope. Trust that the knowing of thousands of generations hides within this seed and it knows exactly what to do and how to do it. I just have to get out of the way and let it happen. The intelligence of plants is far superior to our own and we have so much to learn from them.

“As small as the face of a seed can seem, it is in this small thing where the most powerful holy beings in the Universe have their homes and govern life”. -Martin Pretchel-

May spring awaken and remind your senses of the beauty that surrounds us in every moment!

Sas

Growing for the Murnong Mamas Kitchen

This week for the Gung Hoe Growers blog Claire has taken the spotlight. We are working with her and Aunty Julie and Melinda Harper to transform one of our plots into bush foods. This project is super close to our hearts and we are beyond excited to be working with such wisdom and wonderful, strong women. We’ll let Claire tell the rest!

An appreciation and connection to food has always been an integral part of my life. My earliest memories are of growing up in my parents fruit and veggie store in a small town where my father was affectionately known as ‘The Spud Man,’ my childhood was filled with days of my Nana regaling us with stories of her dairy farm, the passion she had for her Jersey cows and the mischief they would get up to.
As I got older my love for cooking came to the forefront and I established my passion for quality produce. Although it wasn’t until the local food movement really took off that I started thinking more critically about the impact of large-scale agriculture, the environmental consequences of importing our foods and the importance of knowing where your food came from.

I was introduced to Mel and Sas at Gung Hoe through Melinda Harper and Aunty Julie McHale who have both taken me under their wings in the last year and quickly become important figures in my life. Melinda and Aunty Julie have been an incredible help in getting me involved in the indigenous and local community in Castlemaine. Through working with Nalderun at Murnong Mama’s catering and helping out occasionally at The Meeting Place, both have been quick to help steer me toward opportunities that align with my goals and interests.
Fostering a connection with local, seasonal produce has become one of my passions and Gung Hoe has truly nurtured that connection. After moving to Campbell’s creek two years ago I’ve realised the true importance of community, and Gung Hoe and the Harcourt Organic Food Co-operative exemplify all of these ideas and values that now mean so much to me.
Whilst weeding and mulching has become the main focus right now, the excitement of planning an Indigenous food garden with Sass has been a driving force for myself and something exciting to look forward to in a time with few certainties ahead. It will be a new venture for all of us and a much anticipated one at that, whilst I’ve learned so much already from Mel and Sass over the past several months I hope I can bring the knowledge that the irreplaceable Aunty Julie has taught me to the table. Right now we’re focusing on planning the layout and prepping the soil for planting, but I can’t help but already feel the excitement of watching the plants grow and thrive, which will then be used in the Murnong Mama’s kitchen.
With the incredible rain we’ve been having the soil is soft and rich and I’ve noticed the amount of beautiful big worms wriggling through it has greatly increased, the heavy morning fog is starting to lift and the sun is no longer retreating behind the clouds. With the view of all of the rows of flowering plants with the shadow of Leanganook in the background, the farm is absolutely idyllic and reflects the positivity and kindness of the people who work it.
During the pandemic I’ve looked forward to my Thursday mornings on the farm, my opportunity to have a yarn with everybody over a cuppa with the amazing milk from Sellar Dairy, get the chance to have a pat and play with the lovely dogs of the farm and step out and enjoy the incredible views and vibes that the location have to offer. It has quickly become my favourite day of the week and a much needed reboot for the spirit and soul.
Words and Photos by Claire 🙂

 

A new chapter begins

It is with great excitement and honour that I am to be writing the blog this week for the Co-op. I have been awaiting the start of my internship with Gung Hoe with much anticipation ever since the idea was proposed over two months ago!

I first heard about Gung Hoe and the Co-operative about two years ago, when I moved to Bendigo to start my Bachelor of Outdoor Education at Latrobe University. I was lucky enough to have Sass as my leader for one of my trips. I knew pretty much immediately that I was in the presence of a super rad human being. The trip had a “sustainability” focus and Sass mentioned the farm and the possibility of us as a group putting in some labour in exchange for some fresh produce to take on the trip. So off we went! I think from the moment I stepped on the farm I knew something special was going on and that I wanted to be part of it somehow. Awesome that here I am now, about to start a six-month internship.

        

Food has been a massive part of my life ever since I was old enough to look around me and see the effect that large-scale agriculture is having on the health of people and land. Growing up in Sydney, I never thought too hard about where my food came from. As far as I was concerned, food came from the shops and was the gift of the lady behind the counter who bipped and bagged it each time. Perhaps a passion for food was alive in me even then, as I always looked up to those check-out people – bearers of food – and aspired to one day follow in their footsteps (though that dream did, thankfully, vanish around the age of 7). When I was 20 years old I was blessed with a sickness during my travels in India and only then was I suddenly forced to pay attention to what I was eating and where is was coming from. Thus began my journey into our current food system and all the troubles, complications and complexities that come with it.

         

During these turbulent and pivotal times we are living in, I am in constant search for ways in which I can be of most service to the protection, resurrection and regeneration of life on this planet. I guess it is this purpose that drove me to take a break from university this year and get back in touch with things that feel important. Strangely enough, the Covid pandemic has helped me remember what these things are. When the foundations of our social, economic and political systems are faced with potential collapse, the need for food and water security becomes more apparent. The only issue is that current large-scale agricultural systems are having devastating effects on the health of our land, water and all living things that rely on them. Regenerative agriculture and holistic systems of farming seem to be one of the most positive responses I have encountered to the current ecological crises we all face. I believe Gung Hoe and HOFC are living the change that is needed, and I am absolutely excited and delighted to be a part of it.

I am incredibly grateful to be given this opportunity to learn how it is possible to regenerate country whilst feeding and strengthening community. I only hope to be able to give my full attention and openness to this internship and that I leave with more confidence and capacity to create positive change. I have a strong feeling in the depths of my heart and bones that this internship is a pivotal and important step of learning and growth and that something truly good is on its way. Let the chapter begin!

Text by Ruby Everett

Veggies are Joyful- A volunteers perspective

Abigail smiling with a cuppaThis month we’ve asked one of our long time dedicated volunteers, Abigail to
share some words from her perspecitve about how volunteering with Gung Hoe is for her. Almost every week, Abigail (along with other long time collie Cohen) ride their bikes the 45min trip from Castlemaine to the farm to work with us on whatever needs doing that day. They are both such inspiring young people who live in such heart felt, generous and inspiring ways. They truly give us hope for a brighter future. Here is what Abigail has to say….

sunrise through the treesSpending a morning most weeks volunteering at Gung Hoe Growers has perhaps been the best part of my life this year.  Riding my bike from Castlemaine out to the farm in Harcourt, and working out there, has been a chance to revel in the place I love – even when riding along the highway, and even on bitterly cold mornings when snow gloves don’t feel like quite enough.  Fog sitting in the valleys and blanketing Leanganook, then lifting and revealing glorious sunshine just as I arrive at the farm…

Going out to Gung Hoe has also reconnected me, week after week, with how useful and good my body is.  Physical work that yields food! The ride and the work out at the patch every week feel like uncomplicated, meaningful and purposeful ways to move myself and fully inhabit my body.

And I experience real joy every time I come out to Gung Hoe.  The presence of Sas and Mel and all the other generous spirited people at the co-op is so joyful, getting my hands dirty is joyful, the delicious veggies are joyful.  And every ride home from the farm – all downhill! – feels energetic and exultant.  I feel very grateful for every morning I have spent there, which have carried me through each week, and this year.

Abigail working hard

Winter Veggies

We just wanted to take a moment to update everyone on the comings and goings of the last few months and those to come.

Firstly many people have been asking about our winter veggie Fresh brussel sproutsboxes…in short we’re not going to start up boxes again until Spring at the earliest and this depends on many factors, the biggest of which is weather. For a number of reasons we haven’t got the quantity and diversity of crops in the ground to support winter veggie boxes but we still do have lots of winter veg that we are selling through the Castlemaine Weekly Farmers Market Weekly. Come see us there every Wednesday from 2.30-5.30pm (winter hours) on the Western Reserve Oval in Castlemaine.

Cohen and Mel harvesting spudsWe are currently seeking grants and creative funding opportunities to get our first internship program off the ground. We are hugely excited about this and our vision is that it will become a program we offer each year for aspiring growers to learn the ins and outs of being a market gardener. Ruby is our first intern who will be starting with us in August so that she gets the full picture of the seasons transition into spring and summer mad times! We hope to develop resources that we can then also share with other market gardeners who want to run similar internships. If you know of any funding opportunities to help us fund the pilot, please get in contact on gunghoegrowers@gmail.com

In other news this winter has been a little different to what we planned. The three major infrastructure projects that we had hoped to knock over have had to go on hold as we try and just keep things ticking on half steam. At the end of autumn  Sas injured her back and has been laid out flat for 7 weeks. this has meant that Mel has had to fly solo with all the physical work at the farm doing season change over and getting all the winter beds prepared and crops in the ground as well as planning all the spring rotations and numbers. A huge effort and Mel is now having some (semi) time off to gather her energy before the spring gets into full swing. Our Spring capacity is still a little unknown as backs can be slow things to heal, but with Ruby our intern on board, we hope to continue on as usual but with a whole lot more thought to how we manage the farm and ourselves with true sustainability at the heart.

Grow well everyone…
Sas and Mel