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

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

Planning Times and Carpet of The Mind

Hi out there, thanks for being an audience to our thoughts.  I find it hard to make time to write the monthly blog, but whenever I do, I’m glad for the time to reflect.  As I’ve weeded, planted, picked and driven this week Ive wondered what to prattle on about; as there’s lots spinning around in my head.  So many upheavals and movements in the world.

In my immediate world health and wellness is a big one circling round at the moment; with Sas healing off site and me keeping things physically ticking along.  Sas has been cranking out numbers, taxes, education resources…so she’s still actively doing Gung Hoe and working; just at home and with the priority of healing, not working.

It is also planning time – generally I come up with the rotations of crops, metres of crops, and timing of crops in order to then punch the numbers of how many seedlings we need in the ground, of what and when.  All of this info goes to Sas and she starts to seed things up.  Planning happens in June/July and it sees us through (ideally) to the same time next year.  This process even though it excites me, always stresses me out!  Ive no doubt its because I don’t give it the the time it realistically takes me and im sure staring down the barrel of another season and its unknowns has its grips too.  But I don’t want to hand it over, cos when I get in the zone it fuels me!

I’m aware that this season will look different with Sas in rehab and us planting into peaches and cream and I think this year has already had so many reconfigurations it’s feeling hard to grapple with a few more.  Learning just how much ‘unknown’ I can cope with I reckon!  The reason I’ve been thinking bout all of this is because its really highlighted to me that mentally I’m in a way better place than the last few years – last year particularly, which gives me insight (a bit) into how quickly I can snap into overwhelm, anxiety and panic.  Words I never thought would represent some of Mel.  The tracks to feeling like im going to die have become well worn paths in the carpet hallway of the brains thoughts.  Before I know it im down the end of the hall. Dammit!  In recognising all of this I’m seeking some more professional help and learning, again, to listen to what I need to stay well.  Sometimes its even as if I’m learning it again. (Dammit!) So I’m learning to really own – well im trying to, what Mel actually needs.  The reason planning comes into this is because its one clear example that I don’t honour myself with the reality of HOW LONG it takes me!  I need time to reflect on things before I know what I think is another example.  No-one else can do these things but me!  It actually is empowering, if a bit weird at first.

I guess what Im getting at is that health – physical or mental, is vital.  And if we get better at listening and respecting our selves rather than being stoic or thinking that we’ve gotta do all the things all the time, our own selves will thank us. (And those around us too, no doubt!)  I think its one of the life long lessons for me in this life around the sun for sure…

In terms of Gung Hoe updates we are excited that Ruby will be joining us in August, and Amanda is helping me out majorly on Tuesdays with picking.  Cohen and Abigail are the dream team vollies who also wash dishes and make cake.  Deb the human weed machine comes and goes in the night.  The worms are VERY active and its exciting seeing them at home and doing their thing.  This has been the sunniest and wettest winter in a while and its great! The season is changing and I can see things growing…exciting and nerve racking!

Tessa’s cows are in the bottom of peaches and cream keeping down the cape weed (phew) and I’m taking a bit of a break in July – looking forward to bush walks, sleep ins, reading, deserted beach walks, listening to records, writing letters, stitchng my clothes back together again, films at home, typewriting up a zine storm, having an old  friend staying, getting photos together for a group photography exhibition in November and cooking!

All that said, I better get going and unpack from the weekly markets!
Hope you’re warm and well (in all the ways) out there – grow well in yourself and out in the world.
Mel x