Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Golden Valley Farm

image When Alex and Gina bought this land a few years ago it was nothing but a paddock; no house, no garden. Now it is the most picturesque of market gardens, nestled in Golden Valley, only a short drive from the Cygnet main street. Alex built the house himself then began building himself a future and an income, from scratch and with very little money.

 

image Today the small business is not even 2 years old and yet it feels so right. Alex thinks about how to get by with hardly any inputs in order to maximise what he gets out. Its all organic and worked by hand, because he sees his apple orchard neighbour up the road spending his days sitting on a tractor, dressed in plastic from head to toe and breathing through a massive mask and Alex says that is not for him.

Alex has fine tuned the use of various hoes and he walks his garden beds daily, hoe in hand, swiftly and easily removing even the tiniest weed, constantly sharpening the blade. Everything is planted with the hand held hoe in mind and the paths are the width of a larger hoe. Alex looks healthy and vibrant and loves his work.

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  Being new to food gardening he seeks knowledge from near and far but he also experiments with growing times and methods, avoiding the use of plastic poly tunnels and other aids that would complicate things at this stage.

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His rebuilt, old shed has been made into a potting shed by replacing the north-facing walls with windows from the tip shop and half of the roof is glass too. This is my kind of potting shed and I am green with envy..... but I have a plan!

image Dotted about the garden are large buckets, each with a stick nailed to an old tin, inside, and watering cans. Into the buckets goes seaweed, collected on one of his delivery runs, and water from his dam. A dash of this seaweed liquid is added to a watering can which is filled up with water. New seedlings are given this tonic once they are a couple of weeks out of the ground, and it helps get them quickly established. A thorough addition of dolomtie, gypsum and garden lime are regularly added as well as home made compost blended with rotted rabbit manure, from a local source.

image From the very beginning he has used no chemicals. The paddock has systematically been covered in "sheets" of hay bales, laid side by side and end to end for 2 months or more. Once removed, he tills the section with a small, hand tiller. Here in the photo are 2 sections, one being done with hay and the other with plastic. The hay will have added to the soil life when the bales are removed, whereas the plastic will have killed much of the microbial life in the top 2 cms. It is a lot of work to keep shifting the hay bales and they get very heavy and begin to decompose when the weather is wet, so he reluctantly decided to trial the plastic. A third option he is trialing is woollen carpet but it too has problems.

image After hearing all Alex had to say and looking over his beautiful land some of us sat and had a picnic in perfect weather, in a perfect setting.

You will find Alex outside the Cygnet market, 1st and 3rd Sundays from 10 - 2, selling his fabulous vegetables and being a charming fellow!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Seed sharing event in Amsterdam

Thanks to Patrick, at Bifurcated Carrots, for sharing this little video of a wonderful day of seed sharing. Wouldn't it be exciting to have one of these in Tasmania (and in every state of Australia)! I might make it my goal for the next 2 years to make this happen.

Tasmanian families have some of the longest Australian heritage in our country; having stayed put since their ancestors arrived as convicts, sailors or farmers in the late 1700's. In fact, I found a coin in my garden.... dated 1792!! There must be a treasure trove of seeds here, but as in so many rural places, generations of growing food and saving seeds is just an ordinary part of life to them..... but to me it is exciting and liberating and what makes me get up in the morning!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Where the weather determines what is on the plate...

 

World's "best" restaurant

Is it a sign of the times that the restaurant voted as the world's "best" has a strong tradition of foraging on land and coastline?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It can be done, it is being done, why aren't we doing it?

There is nothing that makes me as irate, as furious and as rebellious as complacency, ignorance and short-sightedness; whether it be of governments, communities or individuals.

But when I see people in other countries taking charge of their food, their lives and their future, it gladdens my heart  and makes me more determined than ever to want to bring these changes to the "she'll be right" population of Australia. It bloody well won't be alright and already isn't alright but its still early enough to leapfrog to a sustainable, innovative, dare I say "happy" future. It can be done; it is being done; its time to do it ourselves.

Venezuela... have you heard of what is happening there? Could you pinpoint it on a map? Do we ever hear of what they are doing, in our hopeless, daily "World News"?

Have a look at this.....and check out the creative design of the community garden at 1:05 minutes. Click pause.

Growing Change follows the filmmaker's journey to understand why current food systems leave hundreds of millions of people in hunger.  It's a journey to understand how the world will feed itself in the future in the face of major environmental challenges. 

The documentary begins with an investigation of the 2008 global food crisis, looking at the long-term underlying causes. Will expanding large-scale, energy-intensive agriculture, be the solution or re problems? If we already produce enough food to feed the world why do so many people go hungry?

After hearing about efforts in Venezuela to develop a more equitable and sustainable food and agriculture system, the filmmaker heads there to see if it's working and find out what we might be able to learn from this giant experiment.

We meet people in the cities and in the countryside and learn that while Venezuela once had a strong agriculture sector it was left behind as the country became a major oil exporting economy in the 20th century. After decades of urbanisation, government neglect for agriculture, and dependent on food imports, Venezuela faced a food crisis of its own. In may ways the country was a microcosm of the challenges facing much of the world today.

But the documentary takes us through a new food system as it's being constructed almost from scratch.

We meet farmers who are gaining access to land for the first time and working in cooperatives to break the country's reliance on imports.

In lush costal villages we meet cocoa producers who are now protected against being paid below the minumum price and are now involved in the local processing of chocolate rather than just exporting raw beans.

We head out to sea with fisherfolk who are benefiting from new regulations that ban industrial trawling.

In the chaotic metropolis of Caracas we find urban gardens thriving and supplementing diets with fresh organic produce. We go inside shops where the urban poor have access to affordable food.

It's all part of a country-wide process towards "food sovereignty", driven by communities and the government. At the core of the process are principles of social justice and sustainability.

It's an inspirational story full of lively characters, thought provoking insights, stunning scenery and ideas to transform the food system.

So, Australians, get up and make change happen here too. Now!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cygnet is flourishing

Tasmania is tiny, only 500,000 people in the whole state. There are so many problems, so many businesses closing, many towns dying and not much money available for the government to call on to run the hospitals and schools. But.....

.....Cygnet is flourishing

                       .......and the Cygnet market has a waiting list for stalls

Last Sunday's market was incredible and stalls spilled out onto the footpath and across into the carpark..... local people selling local stuff.... and a new, big stall full of vibrant Asian vegetables from a friendly, hard working Hmong  woman.

I spent some time talking with her, excited to have such an array of some of my favourite vegetables now at my doorstep on market days. At the end of the market, she very kindly brought me bags of leftover vegetables, some of which I am putting to good use today.

First of all is a large bunch of baby bok choy.... crisp and luscious when raw but I need to cook them, as they will soon be going yellow before I finish eating them, otherwise.

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So, they became this..... tossed into a wide, shallow pan of boiling water liberally infused with grated fresh ginger and some kaffir lime leaves, for less than 30 seconds then drained, a few drops of sesame oil added then a good handful of my toasted tamari seed mix mixed in, as well as very thin slices of a mushroom just picked from my bags.

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Meanwhile, back on the stove, brewed a full-flavoured beetroot, carrot, parsley and lemon soup.... I added some home made yoghurt (made from the raw jersey milk I get from my friend)....

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Its freezing this afternoon; I fear summer is over and autumn has been booted aside by winter. However, its been a great day for cooking!

Now I am going to light the fire and see what has been happening in blogland.

Bon appetit!

Friday, March 2, 2012

NZ Food Bill

Sue Kedgley: Growing fears for bill's impact on small gardeners

Once the new Food Bill becomes law, selling a small amount of produce to the local veggie shop will become a regulated activity. Photo / Richard Robinson

Once the new Food Bill becomes law, selling a small amount of produce to the local veggie shop will become a regulated activity. Photo / Richard Robinson

A new law would cut home-grown produce in shops and create a black market, writes Former Green MP Sue Kedgley, a safe-food campaigner.

A friend of mine has a magnificent garden on Waiheke Island, and every now and then she sells surplus organic produce to the local fruit and vegetable shop.

But once the new Food Bill becomes law, selling a small amount of produce to the local veggie shop will become a regulated activity. So if she wants to keep selling her surplus produce she will have to register under a new National Food Programme; have her garden inspected by Food Safety officials, and pay unspecified registration, inspection and administrations costs.

My friend is not keen to have Food Safety officials running round her property. Nor is she keen to fill out a food control plan or to pay for food safety verification and registration costs. So she's decided that if the new Food Bill goes ahead in its present form, she will simply stop selling her surplus local produce anymore.

Hundreds of small growers who supply small amounts of surplus produce to fruit and vegetable shops and local cafes will be in the same situation.

Growers who sell their produce directly at Farmers Markets will be caught up too.

And so will people who run sausage sizzles or home baking stalls more than 20 times a year. And if an organisation that sells sausages or jam isn't a registered charity, they will need to be registered and audited as well.

Once the bill is passed, many local growers and gardeners, like my friend on Waiheke Island, will stop selling their surplus produce because they don't want to get caught up in unnecessary bureaucracy, pay unnecessary registration and compliance costs, or have their properties audited.

Some, no doubt, will continue selling their produce - illegally. So the legislation will have the unintended effect of encouraging a black market in locally grown fruit and vegetables. How ridiculous is that?

The Minister for Food Safety, Kate Wilkinson, says individual growers will be able to write to the Government asking for an exemption from these regulations. But why should thousands of small growers have to apply for individual exemptions (which could be declined). Why not just exempt the lot?

If hundreds of local growers stop selling their surplus produce to local shops, this will deprive consumers of some great, locally produced fruit and vegetables.

But it will not improve food safety in New Zealand - for who has heard of cases of food poisoning coming from locally produced fruit and vegetables? In my view, it's silly and excessive to require small local growers who sell small amounts of surplus produce occasionally, to be regulated in this way.

It's targeting the wrong culprits to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

Most cases of food poisoning in New Zealand come from food that is sold in takeaway outlets and shops and cafes. There are also serious food safety issues associated with mass produced, factory farmed produce like chicken, which is notorious for having high rates of contamination with campylobacter, and also with imported produce.

These are the areas Food Safety officers should be targeting with the new Food Bill, not small local growers. Imported food is a particular concern because unlike locally grown food, we have no idea where most imported food has come from.

Nor do we know how it's been produced or what has happened to it along the way.

We don't know whether illegal pesticides or other substances have been used to produce imported food, or whether there are illegally high pesticide residues or other contaminants remaining in the food. And if a food safety problem does arise, it's extremely difficult to trace the problem back to its source.

That's why most countries randomly test around 5 to 10 per cent of imported food, to make sure it's safe, and doesn't contain illegal or unsafe ingredients or contaminants. In New Zealand, however, we don't randomly inspect imported food at the border (other than a tiny amount of "prescribed foods" to make sure they are not contaminated with salmonella and other bacteria).

I have been informed that the reason for this is because our Food Safety officials are under-resourced and understaffed.

If this is the case, then officials should focus their efforts on cleaning up factory farms and slaughterhouses, and randomly testing imported food.

Ironically, this Government has been vocal about its agenda to rid business of unnecessary regulations. But some of the provisions in the Food Bill are a classic example of exactly what the Government claims it is against - namely, saddling small businesses (in this case small growers) with unnecessary regulation.

The solution is simple. The Government should follow its agenda of getting rid of unnecessary red tape and regulations, and exempt small growers from the regulatory requirements in the Food Bill.

By Sue Kedgley

NZ Herald March 2nd 2012

Thanks to Sandra for passing on this link..... confirming that the world has gone mad. At a time when we should be encouraging home industry, food growing and taking responsibility for one's health and well being, governments just don't get it..... its no good having summits and protocols for climate change and poverty, on the one hand, and making laws to stop home gardeners and small growers selling produce, on the other!