In November 2012, Sophie, Asher and I finalised our acquisition of just under 50 acres near Second Valley, on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. This comes after a number of years looking for land, weighing the merits of buying and dreaming of a regenerative, permaculture-based small farm. It’s an exciting adventure, and the process of our developing relationship with this patch of ground is now being documented at the blog Trees, Bees and Cheese. We invite you to check it out.
Greenhorns: 50 dispatches from the New Farmers’ Movement
Edited by Zoë Ida Bradbury, Severine von Tscharner Fleming and Paula Manalo
Published by Storey Publishing
A few years ago, a young graduate and aspiring farmer with the spectacular name of Severine von Tscharner Fleming began profiling new American farmers. What began as a documentary film project has, in the ensuing years, grown into a thriving network with the mission of recruiting, promoting and supporting a new generation of agrarians. Drawing on the diversity of their members, the Greenhorns network utilises “avant-garde programming, video, audio, web content, publications, events, and art projects that increase the odds for success and enhance the profile and social lives of America’s young farmers.”
North America, like Australia, has an aging farming population. As a majority of farmers drift into their late 50s and early 60s, the absence of a new generation of aspiring farmers taking on the responsibility of food production has furrowed brows in farmers’ organisations for some years. The recruitment of “millions of rough and ready protagonists of place to care for our ecosystems and serve our country healthy food”, a “critical meeting of minds, bodies, and land”, forms the foundation for the Greenhorns work, it is not just a new crop of farmers they seek. Rather, it is the transformation of the food system into one that nourishes communities through a model of farming that is ecologically sound, locally-focussed and small(er)-scale.
Newly planted seedlings in the salvaged vegie bed.
Living in a rented house, we’ve been slowly, subtly expanding the reach of our potted garden over the under-utilised spaces of the strata. Sophie recently spotted a broken produce crate in hard rubbish, and we thought it was time to set-up a herb and leafies bed in a sunny corner.
In the inner southern suburbs of Adelaide, a small group of permaculturalists have been gathering to experiment with artisanal food skills. From cheese-making to sourdough, they’ve been exploring and sharing the skills that make good food. To herald the end of summer, we sourced 180kg of tomatoes from local farmer’s markets and had a go at making passata. A 15-hour food preservation epic, our kitchens are now lined with long-necks filled with crushed tomatoes. This film is a little something I shot amid the spraying tomatoes and bubbling barrels.
Getting our 2010 documentary An Urban Orchard online has been high on my list of things to do for some months now, yet I’m delighted to discover that someone else has already done it for me! The delights of the wired world! You can now watch the full film (divided into 3 parts) below (and thanks to iJohn880 for doing the hard yards!)
An Urban Orchard, Part 1/3
Some friends of ours recently had a baby – Mathilde. In the lead-up, we organised a Baby Anticipation Celebration as we wanted both men and women to be able to share in the culture of looking forward to bringing a child into the world. Though don’t worry, we did still organise some traditional baby shower games such as “Guess the flavour of the baby food!” (as well as some other baby-themed games of our own creation).
Our parent-to-be friends bought a chest freezer to be able to store large amounts of cooked food prior to the baby’s birth. So as a gift idea, we asked guests to the Baby event to bring along a frozen meal to help tide the parents through the crazy months ahead. After all, every parent needs food!
At the event, we set up a craft station where guests could sit and make various kinds of origami animals and nice things out of nice paper (we had books showing how). We also asked people to write messages inside the origami, wishing the baby well. This origami was then constructed into a mobile and given to the parents later which they then strung up above the baby’s bed. Years down the track with the child they will be able to open up all the shapes and read the messages together!
The completed baby mobile
As a gift for the baby, I made a knitted tortoise (my first attempt at stuffed toys!). It seemed a good way of using up lots of small amounts of leftover wool. I found the instructions in a book called “Knitted toys: 25 fresh and fabulous designs” by Zoe Mellor. I did sew on buttons for eyes, then realised buttons are a choking hazard, so I will add felt eyes instead. I really like the idea of making a series of Depression-era toys – toys that don’t require you to go out and buy any items whatsoever, you just use up things you already have – bits of string, cardboard boxes, wood scraps, buttons, fabric or thread. Wool could even be ripped back from an old jumper or something. Joel has a great old black and white family photo of his Dad and uncle as small boys, playing nude in a tiny pool of mud in their backyard with a boat made of wood shards and a leaf sail. Awesome!
The completed knitted tortoise
An experiment in marking time: the year of two houses, two bikes and four pumpkins, illustration by Joel.
Ever since reading Jay Griffith’s book Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time, I’ve been fascinated by the extent to which our relationship and understanding of time is culturally constructed. Our system of numbering off the days and years and months and weeks, and splitting the year into four neat quarters bears little relationship to the reality of their origins: the cycles of the moon, the changing of the seasons.