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.
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.