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Friday, November 9, 2012

A Real Country Show

For my second year as the BREAZE Local Food Coordinator it's off to the Ballarat Show for a long weekend of meeting people - talking about some of the great projects happening around town.

But before I man the stall - it's off to the Home Crafts Pavilion to see how my entries have fared in the competition under the scrutiny of the CWA judges.

After two years of first place - it's a second place for my cream puffs.

David Tattman (Spring Creek Organics) & John Ditchburn Burn (Urban Food Garden) our BREAZE Local Food Group Best Home Grown Veggie Competition Judges.  

1st Prize Winner - Paul Briody 

2nd Place - Althea Oliver

3rd Place Kevan Picher

Beautiful Display for the first Honey Competition

 Angela Enbom - Bee Keeper & Permaculture Mentor

Monday, November 5, 2012

Get To Know A Farmer

The resonating message I'm remembering from Joel Salatin's Dumbo Feather Q & A with Rohan Anderson a couple of weeks ago is "get to know a farmer, get back in the kitchen and cook from scratch'. I keep going back to those two seemingly simple things and realise as simple as they may be - chatting up farmers and finding time to whip up real food can pose a huge challenge for some people, especially those with supermarket addictions. But meeting farmers and cooking basic produce for your daily nutrition can be done - and two weekends ago, by a series of co-indincidences I ended up hanging out with local some farmers, consequently getting to know a bit more about some of my food choices.

With tickets my friend Kris had booked ages ago - we headed to near Woodend to the Taranaki Farm tour. You can check out my previous POST on that. Needless to say in the week that followed I savoured the lovely 'beyond organic pastured eggs from the "Egg Mobile". So nice to think of the happy chickens there soaking up the sunshine out in the field as opposed to the horrific alternatives behind a fair chunk of commercial egg production.

On the Sunday I headed to Lal Lal - a tiny little town a few minutes out of Ballarat, a railway town, once besieged by tens of thousands of people at a time when the trains used to run through it on the way to the local horse races. So for quiet little Lal Lal the staging of the first ever 'Growers and Makers Market' was big deal. Great to see so many locals making the effort to head to Lal Lal for the day and support the market - let's hope it happens again.

Ten or so years ago when I'd shop at Greek and Italian markets in Melbourne - I had no idea whatsoever what to do with globe artichokes - now they're one of my most anticipated seasonal vegetables (or flowers really).

And as I was the one that convinced Farmer John from Yendon Gourmet Tomatoes to put in a patch of artichokes - I'd been promising him for ages that I'd help him actually sell the harvest, by showing people who are a little intimidated by this unusual produce just exactly how to cook them.

Globe artichoke preparation demo.

My favourite way to prepare artichokes is to pare them back to almost the heart and braise them in butter, garlic and lemon juice. It's amazing how enthusiastic people are to try something new when given just some basic tips for preparation. For step by step tips - check out my youtube video below.

Halfway through the market John had to race back to the farm (just down the road) to pick more artichokes and grab more tomatoes because he was selling out. Gotta love getting your food so close to the source that it's literally getting picked on demand. I think by the end of the market I'd convinced him that growing the artichokes wasn't a complete waste of time - it might just take a while for your average Ballaratian to start seeking them out in future. 

It is interesting to see how people react to something outside of their usual food comfort zone. When local organic farmer David Tatman from Spring Creek Organics (and his three lovely kids) stopped past the market stall - they didn't bat an eyelid before confidently tasting the braised artichokes. Then again not many kids would name kale and kohlrabi as their favourite veg. So inspiring to see how accepted beautiful fresh produce is when kids have grown up with it. So I got the invite to stop at Spring Creek Organics in Navigators (between Lal Lal and Ballarat) on my way home. Considering the bulk of my bought veggies have been purchased from David and Lisa's farmers' market stalls for the past couple of years. . .it was pretty exciting to finally have the chance to see the farm. 

 Nestled in between Mt Buninyong and Mt Warrenheip - Spring Creek Organic Farm in Navigators. 

David Tatman - tour guide for the afternoon. 

 Cattle are rotated onto the end of season veggie beds to clean up before the next crop. Grass fed / organic veggie fed cattle - yes please. 

So after one weekend of getting out of the kitchen and into the paddocks it seemed as if Joel Salatin's advice to 'get to know a farmer' was really not that unattainable at all. In my experience the producers that I'm getting to know in the Ballarat region are all really proud of what they do and are more than happy to get to know their customers. After all - as Salatin says, it is the supportive customers that are the real asset to a farmer. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Taranaki Farm Tour with Joel Salatin

Taranaki Farm near Woodend, Victoria opened it's gates today and welcomed several hundred people in to meet their meat in a way. But visiting the farm today, especially under the guidance of guest Joel Salatin, was so much more than just saying a passing hello to a potential pot roast - as warm and fuzzy as that may be. It was a couple of hours of food revelation - standing in the pasture surrounded by pigs, hearing such wisdom and common sense from Joel and Ben about how well a food production system can work at it's best. How simple principles like 'animals move, move with them' and replication of wild relationships - like birds follow herbivores for pasture health, are so very visible and so obviously working. 
Having been to Dumbo Feather's Joel Salatin in conversation with Rohan Anderson evening on Tuesday, I'd spent a lot of the week thinking about some of Joel (and Rohan's) philosophies. Most of all Joel's advice to "get to know a farmer, get in the kitchen and cook from scratch".

I expected to be a little cold this morning, maybe a little muddy. . .but I didn't expect to be tearing up in the first couple of minutes of Joel's talk, as Joel choked back the tears. He seemed quite overcome with emotion when he first addressed the crowd - by how proud he was of the Taranaki crew and Ben for having the courage try his brand of farming. After that he promised he wouldn't cry anymore. Humble. Inspiring.

Farm reared chickens slowly roasting over charcoal pits.

The portable dairy

“You know if you’ve gotta walk through sheep dip and put on a hazardous materials suit to go visit your food you might want to eat that food”. JS

“Why can’t they sell the milk to drink? The powers that be have so ordained that it’s perfectly safe to feed your kids Twinkies and Coco Pops and Mountain Dew but it’s unsafe to feed them raw milk. . .I’m a big advocate of consumer freedom of choice”. Joel Salatin

Happy pigs - expressing their true piggy nature.

Portable water points - electric fences. Everything's portable.

Herds, flocks and crowds.

Beyond Organic Pastured Egg Production

 Happy hens in the portable chook tractor.


Happy kids, lunch on a tractor. 

 Delicious Taranaki pasture reared chicken roasted over the charcoal pit.

More happy pigs - doing their piggy thing in the newly made poly tunnel.

You can follow Taranaki Farm on Facebook HERE. They'll be selling direct to their supporters soon. 

Audio and more to come.