just rookies really

Farming is such a wonderful adventure. Full of challenge, learning and beauty. Not everyone’s cup of tea, no doubt, but accessible for most people. Sure, it’s physical… but there is great physical reward in being physically fit and strong and being outdoors rather than stuck in an office. Rachel has had back problems in the recent past, but she is holding up to the challenge beautifully. And in fact, even though we have both been a bit sick with a gut infection for a few weeks, we have both been surprised how much work we have been able to do. I think its because when you are farming, you are mostly plodding about, not really rushing. The only time there is somewhat of a rush is when we are harvesting, and even then, you just have to go at your own pace. Everyone seems to have a ‘pace’ of their own; and doesn’t seem like there’s much you can do to change it. The other great thing is that you are changing jobs on the farm quite a bit; so just as one set of muscles get tired, you start using another set. And with most jobs, you can change the way you physically position yourself as you do it to help spread the load on your muscles.

There have been a lot of aching muscles since we went from 2 days farming per week to 5 days, but we can feel ourselves beginning to adapt to our new lifestyle. One great positive is that none of us (that is Rach, Harry or I) have had much trouble with sleep since we started here!

Speaking of Harry, I know a few people are keen for an update on our little pooch. He joined us here at the farm, after an extended stay with my folks, on the 16th December. We have both been impressed with how well he has adapted to life being a farm dog. He comes out with us everyday, sits in the field while we weed, plant and pick. He hangs out in the shed while we pack and clean the veggies. And he is holding his own admirably with the other bigger, stronger farm dogs. Its so cute to see him becoming part of a new pack, joining in when the other dogs bark, claiming his territory and just generally hanging out at the farm. And his appetite has never been so good – before moving here he had a tendency to be fussy. Not anymore! He will eat whatever we put in front of him and he is literally wolfing it down.

One of the most fun aspects to working here at the farm is doing the markets. We started helping out immediately upon arriving, as Tania and Rod wanted to bring us up to speed so that we could run the Christmas and New Years’ markets on our own while they went on a short holiday. We had just 2 short weeks to get our heads around the entire thing. Rachel had helped out at a couple previously, but it was my first time. Tania assigned us two very different jobs for the market – Rachel was put on customer service and I was put on presentation.

A day at the markets starts at about 3.30am when the alarm goes off, and by 4.00am we are both up at the cold room helping one of the boys, usually Rod or Steve, to pack the truck. We then drive about an hour from Tyalgum to Miami on the Gold Coast for the weekly Organic Market. After arriving at around 5.45am we start setting up, often customers are already there and wanting to buy produce, so we get it all out of the truck as quick as we can. We set up 4 marquee’s into a big square and lay out 6 long tables around the outside to create a little shop front. Then it’s my job to unload a couple of crates of everything, while Rachel sets up the till and scales and helps me arrange the food on the tables.

Its frenetic! And it usually doesn’t slow down for at least the first 3 hours. Finally about 9.30am we might get to briefly catch our breath, before the next rush of customers come through. My job is intensely physical, and Rachel’s, intensely social. We both love our respective roles and are well suited to them. I enjoy helping customers select from the range of different veggies and chatting with them about recipe ideas and general life. Rachel keeps the checkout under control and gets to know all the customers on a first name basis.

There are awesome perks to being a market stall-holder – like the free organic breaky and drinks throughout the morning; and cheap organic produce from the other stall-holders. By  12.30 its all over and we pack everything back into the truck and head home. The day usually finishes around 3.00pm, so its a long day and we are both wiped out by the end of it.

You can see from these pictures how amazing everything looks. The food we grow here is some of the most beautiful food we have ever seen and eaten in our lives. You probably remember that we came to know Rod and Tania through the Lismore Organic Market and we were just so blown away by the quality of their produce – really that’s what started this whole adventure…so its kind of fun and amazing to be on the other side of the stall now, growing the food and sharing it with a whole new appreciative audience. People are just amazed at the enormous variety of stuff that we grow and sell. And for us, its an awesome feeling to be bringing such fresh, healthy food to people’s plates!

As you can imagine, it has been an absolutely massive learning curve over the past 5 weeks. We are slowly learning every aspect involved in running a commercial organic farm. Its a big operation and we aren’t even close to having our heads around it. But that’s part of what’s exciting – the opportunity for so much new learning. Prior to moving here, we had been helping out largely with weeding and planting. Since arriving, we have been involved in every aspect of the farm’s weekly operations. Harvesting; propagation, sprouts, harvesting, preparation, packing, markets, and of course, weeding and planting. We have both had our challenges as we learn so many new skills and routines. Every vegetable requires a different treatment in the way it is planted, weeded, harvested, processed and packaged. It’s a lot to get one’s head around and thankfully Rod and Tania are boundless in their patience.

Even in these few short weeks, our skills have rapidly improved. But we can see it will take years before we have the kind of knowledge that one needs to be a true farmer – its that ‘overview’ that Rod & Tania both have – gleaned from years of experience; multiple successes and failures; working the same parcel of land through all the various climatic changes and seasons; gradually growing your understanding of each crop’s every need… that’s what it takes to be able to grow food well right throughout the year! We are so blessed to have such amazing teachers at our fingertips – and if our heads don’t explode first, we might just learn a thing or two!! And as we do, we will happily share it with you. Right now, we are content to be the ‘newbie’ farmers.

Time to sign off. It’s bedtime now.

Cheers

Michelle (on behalf of Rachel & Harry)

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2 thoughts on “just rookies really

  1. Oh, that penultimate photo… holy wow! Love it, Michelle!

    “A day at the markets starts at about 3.30am” – Ouch… don’t think I’d get on with that too well. Back when I lived in England I’d hear the market people setting up their stands from about 2 or 3am on the weekend… A lot of hard work. They didn’t grow their own produce though – to grow it too, and see the whole process through from beginning to end must be enormously satisfying.

    Great to see Harry dashing about 🙂

    • Thanks Charles, its pretty gorgeous scenery up on top of the hill, just gotta keep remembering to stop and appreciate it every day.

      The market is really fun, but I can imagine over time it could get tiring. We are rotating weekends at the moment just as a way to give us each a break. Rach will go this weekend with Tania and I will go the following weekend. Last weekend Rod and Tania gave us the weekend off for my birthday so that was nice!

      Harry has been the real surprise – he is loving his new life. Stimulated, exercised naturally, doggie mates to romp around with… its great to see him so content.

      Cheers M

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