Luscious Local Dinner- Bushfire Relief Fundraiser

Sunset harvest dinner

The bushfires across the country have been devastating to so many people and places on so many levels. We have been wondering as farmers, what we can do to contribute in the aftermath. We don’t have large amounts of money, but we do have produce, some time and great connections within our local community, so the idea we’ve come up with is a luscious local dinner.

A wonderful team of four local chefs are donating their time and creativity to whip up a feast from the abundance of local produce and prodcuts that have been donated by many generous local businesses. There will be a bar of local wines and beers on the night too.

100% of funds raised are going to bushfire recovery. Some of the more well known bushfire organisations and appeals have been receiving massive donations which we think is fantastic! We thought rather than contribute to those organisations we would choose ones that are perhaps a little less well known, but equally deserving. We want the funds raised to go towards, not just the immediate response of rebuilding what has been lost and protecting against future fires, but also towards the broader and long term vision.

Rather than choose one Bushfire Appeal to donate to we’ve decided on three.  As farmers we can understand the full devastation of losing your feed, your soil, stock, crops, infrastructure, wind breaks, the work it takes decades to achieve; your livelihood. So, half of total dollars raised will go to ORICoop.  The Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal is coordinated by ORICoop (Organic & Regenerative Investment Co-operative) bringing together farmers, consumers, businesses and partners to support bushfire affected farmers in this time of need….focussed on increasing the amount, diversity and productivity of organically & regeneratively managed farmland around Australia, while building a resilient Australian food and farming system.

Cattle in the smoke

100% of Appeal funds will directly assist farmers to Restore, Rejuvenate and
Regenerate themselves and their farmland, and will help to:-
● replace essential farming equipment
● buy certified organic fodder & grain
● provide livestock transport to alternative organic farmland
● fund new seasons plantings
● replace burnt fruit & nut trees
● restore vegetation
● coordinate teams of volunteers to restore farms

and are currently working with farmers in these regions:-

  • -East Gippsland – Bairnsdale and surrounding areas
  • -Kangaroo Island
  • -Lobethal (Adelaide)
  • -North East VIC – Corryong and surrounding areas
  • -NSW South Coast – Batemans Bay/Moruya
  • -NSW Mid Coast/Coffs Harbour/Wauchope
  • -NSW South Coast – Cobargo/Bermagui/Brogo/Bega

– read more here:

The remaining half of funds raised will go to Wildlife Victoria and the local CFA branch.

As we see it, growing and sharing good food at a local level is a crucial element of how we both mitigate and develop resilience in the face of climate change. Growing strong connections within the community is another major part of this. This is why we grow food and this is why we are choosing to bring people together to share a meal, grown here on this land, in solidarity with all the people, animals and land that have been effected by the fires. This time, we were lucky. Next time, it might be us.

Tickets are selling fast, but if you would like to come to the dinner you can buy a ticket (or make a donations, or both) HERE

Photo Credit: Felix Wilson

It’s smoky out there

I think I’ve been putting off writing this week’s blog because there’s so many different things going around in my head/heart/world this last month.  Usually its me on high alert for bush fires and I am regularly leaving my home during summer when the weather / wind is too sketchy. I live alone in the bush and it’s not worth me trying to stay and defend, so I leave.  We have a farm plan for fire and just regular protocol for living where I do and commuting to the farm means I carry water, woollen blankets, long pants, a woollen shirt and dog food permanently in the back of the car. Due to an oddly timed burn off and an almost code red day a few days later I’ve already packed up half the house and waited to see if tings would be ok.  I’m incredibly lucky though. I’ve got neighbours down the hill who have a mine shaft kitted out with water dog food and a ladder, friends who regularly offer to house the dog and me on extreme and severe fire days and the farm, which is usually safer for me to be at than home. It also is what I signed up for living where and how I do.

It has been an incredibly odd thing checking in on friends in NSW and Vic since September and having a relatively mild time (apart from a few peaks that you come to expect) on the home /farm front.  There is a sense of unfairness and not being able to help as you watch things literally going up in smoke. There’s also the sense that this year, and its not over yet, we are just lucky. There’s nothing that would stop it happening here.

Watching my friends places and bush that I have lived in and loved be on high guard, burnt down and/or evacuated whilst I am not in danger meant for a deflated ‘silly season’.  Indeed it just felt stupid. Knowing there’s nothing I can
do from here apart from support from afar via text, mail, bank accounts and anything else a friend would need I would jump too.  Sas and I have spoken about tag teaming in the aftermath to go and help rebuild, support and assist.

Tessa (Sellar Farmhouse Creamery) who is a member of one our local CFA’s has been saying since October that the toll this will take on the fireys and communities we will be seeing for a long time – but that was in October – they’ve been burning for 4 months now…it’s a whole different level now.

Two days ago was the worst smoke day Central Vic has had yet – Stinging eyes and terrible visibility.  It was confronting to say the least. I got the image that I was breathing in the ashes of all the trees and all the poor animals who have passed.  The sun rose red more akin to a sunset. I received a message from my dad in Gippsland that there had been a mild earthquake the night before near him. 

By 430pm there were fires in Bendigo and in town at the markets in Castlemaine there was epic pour downs (17ml ish in 30 mins) lightening thunder and hail.  To have the water from the sky felt incredible and we were wishing it to travel to the places that are still burning. It was surreal – the earth is giving us a pretty clear message I reckon.

What was heart-warming about Wednesday was the amount of people who Pouring rain on marqueecame both despite and because of the extreme weather.  Also the people who brought us warm, dry towels and warm cake…how deliciously generous, thoughtful and kind. And they were being active.

I’m not quite sure how I want to fully speak about the last 4-5 months.  Im sure I’m not the only one. There have been protests around the world at Australian Embassy’s and the extinction rebellion crew have been rising up too – here’s pictures from London to Lima: that are heartening and also bring me sadness and shame.  I stopped believing the top Government in this country were long term visioning leaders wanting to walk forward with the people many many years ago.  (There are a few on the state level who give me hope though) I don’t watch the news much and my Wrapped up in twos after the rainweekly routine of getting the weekend paper and devouring it for heartbreaking and hopeful news also stopped years ago.  Im not saying this is good – I completely believe it’s important to know what is going on in the world. Not only does it stop you becoming arrogant but it reminds you mostly of how lucky you are. But you know, I actually really struggle to read it/ watch it now.  I do feel helpless and from that hopeless. I feel like a tiny blot (which I’m ok with) that has no voice even when joined together with millions of others speaking to the supposed ‘people in charge’ (which im not ok with) who seem to act mostly from self interest and money.  Generalisation I know but im ok with that.

So I put my head down and my hands and feet in the dirt and then lift my face to the sky and silently cry that I want to do the best I can for you earth.  I don’t
want to take you for granted, I don’t want to ravage you, I want to respect and honour your complex and incredibly plentiful bounty and work with you in the best way I know how.  I want to learn how to do that better; always.

How can we be so arrogant and ignorant to ignore the place from which all life comes.

Land management is something that just continues to rise in my thoughts about how we can be active for good.  For land, water, animals, insects, people and communities. The water situation in Australia is insane – we have been in ‘drought’ for a long time in NSW.  But I wonder how much of that is human caused? They say the rivers not running is due to lack of rainfall – but we fail to see, and definitely don’t get told, about how the Murray is ‘owned’ and its water gets used for everything but environmental water which means its usual flow is disrupted which means no floods (healthy rivers are meant to flood) which means no water is seeped into the landscape and associated wetlands.  This alters local climate.  

I won’t even go into the fact of how someone can privately own a river and its water for profit.

You don’t hear much about fracking in Vic – but there’s lots that exist – in NSW, NT, WA, SA…they use an incredible amount of water for each well…do they inject chemicals into each well too?  The base flow of all rivers is groundwater…I suggest people are thinking about money and profit over long term environmental respect and consequences.

The United Nations has created a water day for 2020 and beyond; and in their fact sheet explain the global water situation: 

“Water is the essence of life. Safe drinking water and sanitation are indispensable to sustain life and health, and fundamental to the dignity of all. Yet, 884 million people do not have access to improved sources of drinking water, while 2.5 billion lack access to improved sanitation facilities.  While these numbers shed light on a worrying situation, the reality is much worse, as millions of poor people living in informal settlements are simply missing from national statistics. The roots of the current water and sanitation crisis can be traced to poverty, inequality and unequal power relationships, and it is exacerbated by social and environmental challenges: accelerating urbanization, climate change, and increasing pollution and depletion of water resources.”  Taken from

We are lucky to have water but we are not respecting it, in my opinion.

We hear about emissions all the time and them contributing to climate change.  And its true but we need to understand more of where those emissions are coming from and how we can change our lifestyles, patterns, habit and systems to counteract it.  Here’s an interesting article –

It’s not just about cars and planes.  In my mind it has so much to do with land management.  The agricultural sector for example has many emissions that are not even counted in Australia’s emission count (WHY bloody not!?) and that includes the way land is farmed and from my understanding the transport of that food as well.  You can read up on it further on the page in the link below

The quote below is taken from

“The global warming potential of methane is 25 times that of carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide is 298 times that of carbon dioxide. This means that 1 tonne of methane is equivalent to 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide; 1 tonne of nitrous oxide is equivalent to 298 tonnes of carbon dioxide…Livestock and the manure they create were the dominant source of methane, accounting for 52% of total national methane emissions, and agricultural soils were the dominant source of nitrous oxide, accounting for 62% of total national nitrous oxide emissions.”

The way they write these figures still emphasises the livestock, however it is the agricultural soils that are the main player.  How we eat IS A MAJOR lifestyle choice in this country. In my opinion the system is broken, its breaking the land and people.

This is a great video about holistic management of stock and the outcomes of regenerative agriculture on both the and and people…

It’s easy to point the finger and blame it on the people in charge and not do having morning tea with folliesanything ourselves.  I am lucky. I am not a refugee, I can write freely my opinions here, I have a house still standing and my livelihood has not been burnt.  I still have access to clean water from the sky which we collect and I can choose how I want to walk in this world.  

There are a bunch of us working with our immediate local community to put on a dinner sourcing and featuring local produce and chefs and other small businesses to raise funds for those affected by the fires.   More information and ticket link find here :


100% funds raised will be donated. As farmers we will donate 50% of the proceeds to ORIcoop who are directly helping organic and biodynamic farmers where they need it most. Here’s the link to donate directly.

25% to Wildlife Victoria

25% to our local CFA which falls under District 2.

I’m sorry this has been a bit dark – Ive been swaying from dismay, outrage to full thankfulness at working in the soil surrounded by wonderful people.  People on the same page who want to do their bit to lessen our impact and act in a way that isn’t necessarily supported or modelled by our government in the hope that it will catch on…there is a movement growing and it does have supporters, its up to us how we get involved.

All of my love and support and thanks to you out there who do what you do with consciousness, action and hope.

Mel (and Sas) x


Mels Climate Change Address to Council

Hi, Im Mel and Im one half of Gung Hoe Growers.  We have been leasing land with Katie and Hugh Finlay of 69 Danns Rd (formerly known as Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens) for nearly 5 years.  Speaking today I represent not just my voice, but that of Sas Allardice – the other half of Gung Hoe; Ant Wilson from Tellurian Fruit Gardens – a 6 acre orchard  and Tessa Sellar from Sellar Farmhouse Creamery also leasing land at 69 Danns Rd.

We are a small minority of young first generation farmers who want to farm but have no land.  We grow vegetables, fruit and ethically raise animals for milk in order to feed our community.  We are also part of a growing movement that chooses to farm regeneratively – and by that I mean building soil, sequestering carbon and holistically respecting the land on which we grow.

Gung Hoe Growers is also the recent recipient of the Mount Alexander  Shire  Agribusiness of the year award and holders of the 2018 Victorian Young Famers Scholarship.

Agriculture and the way it is practiced is responsible for more than half of our nations emissions.  As stated on the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

“Under current accounting rules, emissions generated during the manufacture and transport of agricultural inputs — such as fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and agricultural machinery — are not counted as agricultural emissions. Emissions from the fuel used by agricultural vehicles either on-farm or in transporting produce and the fuel used to generate electricity consumed on farm is also excluded.

The global warming potential of methane is 25 times that of carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide is 298 times that of carbon dioxide.

This means that 1 tonne of methane is equivalent to 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide; 1 tonne of nitrous oxide is equivalent to 298 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

agricultural soils were the dominant source of nitrous oxide, accounting for 62% of total national nitrous oxide emissions.”  Thus the way in which agriculture is practiced has a major impact upon emissions released, simply through bare soil.

If you aren’t looking at how food is grown or coming into the shire in the context of climate action then you’re not looking at the root of the problem (scute the pun)

Farming is crucial yet not a profession held in high regard.  In terms of how council can truly support and encourage local farming in this shire we have these suggestions.  I am aware this is verbal, please feel free to contact us to expand any of these points.

You can put into place true support for local growers and financially support them to get started with subsidies on costs involved in setting up.   Reduce rates on agricultural land and pay for long term research into methods of farming and monitoring.

We ask for full disclosure of climate outlook and future water allocations – this would involve lobbying Coliban water, but in order to move forward it is necessary to know the lay of the land so to speak.  There is information that is essential to our trade that we are not privy to; being kept in the dark about such things is not going to help put food on the plate.

Support local farmers by exclusively using them for catering events.  Not only does this financially back the growers it also provides education about seasonality and access of what is grown in our climate, in our shire.

Bring back local food and cooking into the school canteens, here is a direct connection to the next generation of to their local food bowl, or currently lack of.  Imagine if we could inspire a new generation of young farmers who wanted to work on the land in a way that reduces climate change and emissions.

We suggest council could put incentives to those organisations which choose to use local food.  Not as token, but as a firm and working value.  The dream is to supply fresh, real, local food to our hospitals, prisons and schools and other public services; including  for example childcare, nursing homes and council offices.  Not only are you then supplying true nutrition you are also in the same breath supporting those workers who are on the front line of climate change and have the ability to potentially turn it around.

Having a stable demand for supply also means you are offering a space for farming to increase in the region.

People will not grow food if they are not sure there is a market – it’s pretty simple.  If people know there is an avenue to sell produce that can give them a reasonable livelihood they are more likely to transition into such a trade, despite incredibly high set up costs.  A positive example of this is how the council actively supporting the new weekly farmers market.  This is a great first step to localising food which in turn increases our shires food security and shows direction towards reducing climate impact.

Growing Abundance was a local program that sought to bring a lot of these things together – if council financially supported Community House and programs such as these they would not run on volunteer labour – but have an esteemed position within the community and an incredibly important role to play.

There needs to be empowerment around climate change action and community involvement in such programs, or exposure to local food will develop our communities ownership of what they are doing in the face of a new future.

If council is serious about climate change action think about – where does your food come from.  It is one of the most political acts you can do several times a day.  “in your lifetime you might need a solicitor once or twice, you’d need a doctor possibly Once a month but a farmer you need least 3 times a day.”