In the long days of summer...

In the long days of summer…we harvest. As farmers we spend more then 50% of our time harvesting and in late summer when the field tomatoes are on, the capsicum are maturing, the corn is ready, onions have bulbed and are ready for drying, beans are happening…we spend a lot of time harvesting. We also need to keep on top of the weeds which love the heat too, seed and transplant Autumn crops and keep everything hydrated. We brew herbal teas for the crops and battle insects - all with the hope of harvesting!!

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Our CSA moves forward with an eight week Late Summer share. You can learn more and purchase the boxes via the Farm Store on our website . Our Late - Summer CSA will start Friday 1 February and run through Friday 22 March. It will be followed by an Autumn and Early Winter share.

If you are curious what the shares this season have looked like, please look at these photos or these photos from shares last CSA season.

Here is how the farm is looking…

In the long days of summer, tomatoes ripen…

In the long days of summer, tomatoes ripen…

…in all shades and colours!!!

…in all shades and colours!!!

Capsicum and eggplant mature.

Capsicum and eggplant mature.

Corn tassels.

Corn tassels.

Pumpkins flower, are pollinated and grow!

Pumpkins flower, are pollinated and grow!

New varieties of beetroot are grown and sent to restaurants.

New varieties of beetroot are grown and sent to restaurants.

Heirloom lettuce form heads and climbing cucumbers enjoy the shade created under a canopy.

Heirloom lettuce form heads and climbing cucumbers enjoy the shade created under a canopy.

Seed crops are thriving.

Seed crops are thriving.

Sunflowers in the green manure bud while flowers in the tomatoes and hedgerows bloom. These green manures our our next crops food. Soon they will be mowed and incorporated, the soil life with transform them into stable humus which holds carbon and feeds the crop! Working within the natural cycle is amazing.

Sunflowers in the green manure bud while flowers in the tomatoes and hedgerows bloom. These green manures our our next crops food. Soon they will be mowed and incorporated, the soil life with transform them into stable humus which holds carbon and feeds the crop! Working within the natural cycle is amazing.

The farm is a rotating tapestry of green manure crops growing, soil prepared, and food crops at all stages of maturity.

The farm is a rotating tapestry of green manure crops growing, soil prepared, and food crops at all stages of maturity.

Language barriers are overcome as Robin gives a group of Japanese farmers interested in organic farming techniques a handful of soil to smell, taste and touch.

Language barriers are overcome as Robin gives a group of Japanese farmers interested in organic farming techniques a handful of soil to smell, taste and touch.

Honey bees build comb

Honey bees build comb

and cap honey in comb filled with old pollen stores.

and cap honey in comb filled with old pollen stores.

Honey is harvested, pressed and jarred.

Honey is harvested, pressed and jarred.

Our honey is available to our CSA members at farm pick up and also to the general public at Yoga in the Park in Sorrento. This is Baxter’s 10th year hosting morning yoga classes near the wooden park overlooking the ferry terminal and the Sorrento pier. You can visit her website to learn more about the daily classes and Intelligent Health - a collaboration between three wonderful local legends/health care professionals here on the peninsula.

As the earth exhales its dazzling array of colours, flavours, and textures, we continue to sow the Autumn crops and try and keep up with the weeds and the harvest! We will be hosting a series of farm tours to share our biodynamic regenerative practices. Please look for another email about them.

Wishing you all a fruit-filled summer!!

Robin and Peter

Join our CSA as we head into Summer

Spring has charged along -with the days lengthening, grass growing, summer crops being sown, transplanted and taking off, lush lettuce, sweet peas, juicy radishes, tomatoes ripening, potatoes flowering, and plenty of planting- bringing us to the edge of Summer solstice. The season has had it all - cold nights, strong winds, hot days, and deluge rain. Through all of the extremes, and the beautiful days in between, most of our crops are showing resilience and vibrancy - signs of good health.

Now is the time to join Our CSA for January Summer boxes
We have broken our CSA into smaller seasons this year - with the January share being for the four Fridays in January (4, 11, 18 and 25). There are weekly or fortnightly shares available. To learn more or join, go to our online farm store.

If you are curious what the shares this spring have looked like, please look at these photos or these photos from shares last CSA season.

The January share will be followed by a mid-summer share which we hope will be at the height of the tomato harvest. We will be harvesting for our CSA through June.

Foreground - Green manure crops ready to be incorporated (left) and newly sown (right); Background - Onions (left) and potatoes (right) - Nov 2018

Foreground - Green manure crops ready to be incorporated (left) and newly sown (right); Background - Onions (left) and potatoes (right) - Nov 2018

Similar view in Mid Dec 2018

Similar view in Mid Dec 2018

Green Manure crops (foreground) and field tomatoes (back ground) - Oct 2018

Green Manure crops (foreground) and field tomatoes (back ground) - Oct 2018

Field Tomato crop mid Dec 2018

Field Tomato crop mid Dec 2018

Polytunnel tomatoes - Dec 2018

Polytunnel tomatoes - Dec 2018

Capsicums - Dec 2018

Capsicums - Dec 2018

Small caterpillar tunnels with basil, capsicums and eggplants - there are flowers to feed beneficial insects throughout - mid Dec 2018

Small caterpillar tunnels with basil, capsicums and eggplants - there are flowers to feed beneficial insects throughout - mid Dec 2018

Heirloom field tomatoes - Dec 2018

Heirloom field tomatoes - Dec 2018

Potatoes, lavender hedgerow, beetroot and onions - mid Dec 2018

Potatoes, lavender hedgerow, beetroot and onions - mid Dec 2018

After taking a break last season from our CSA, we happily began harvesting produce for our community with our boxes beginning again in mid November.

Peter harvesting for the CSA - Nov 2018

Peter harvesting for the CSA - Nov 2018

CSA market style pick-up - Nov 2018

CSA market style pick-up - Nov 2018

Late Spring CSA share - Nov 2018

Late Spring CSA share - Nov 2018

Garlic - Harvested and hanging mid Dec 2018

Garlic - Harvested and hanging mid Dec 2018

We also continued our growing for restaurants, including variety test trials - sending chefs a collection of varieties of butter lettuces, gem lettuces and sugar loaf cabbages thus far and asking them to judge the appearance, usability and flavour of the different varieties tasting them in three ways such as raw, with an acidic dressing and salt and with a touch of heat. The results have been so interesting for us and the chefs and have guided which crops we are growing for both them and our CSA members as well as which crops we have put into seed production.

Gem lettuce variety trials received by chefs and our CSA members - Nov 2018

Gem lettuce variety trials received by chefs and our CSA members - Nov 2018

Carrot variety trials - Dec 2018

Carrot variety trials - Dec 2018

Ladybettle larvae love to grasp and bite aphids - Nov 2018

Ladybettle larvae love to grasp and bite aphids - Nov 2018

Baby praying mantis - Dec 2018

Baby praying mantis - Dec 2018

And Spring has been filled with insects, which is quite normal. There is always a flush of aphids in early Spring. Hungry for the fresh new growth, their numbers breed ahead of the beneficial insects which arise and flourish restoring the balance on the farm. It is so wonderful to trust in the ecosystem that we have nurtured, knowing that the beneficials will see and eat the pests sooner and with more zest then we will!!!

Our biodynamic practices continue to deepen through teaching on the farm and communicating more with other farmers. Each season our green manure crops diversify, supporting a larger range of soil microbes and helping us grow soil on this sand dune. As our plants feed only from our humus layer, understanding how to actually create soil filled with life is our most important work.

Applying biodynamic 500 - Nov 2018

Applying biodynamic 500 - Nov 2018

In the past week, we have checked all of our bee colonies.  Our bees reside in bee- friendly Warre hives which allow the bees to build their own comb, living in a "wild" manner. The central ethos of Natural Beekeeping is that it provides for the needs of the bee above that of the beekeeper. We ensure a 12 month supply of nectar and pollen by mapping the flowering plants on our farm and surrounding it, and filling in any gaps through species diversification.   We believe that careful attention to the health and well-being of our bees, not only keeps the colony thriving, it also greatly improves the quality and purity of the honey. 

Checking on the bees. We use natural bee practices where the bees build their own comb - Dec 2018

Checking on the bees. We use natural bee practices where the bees build their own comb - Dec 2018

Tea tree nectar - dehydrated and capped - the bees sign that it is honey! Dec 2018

Tea tree nectar - dehydrated and capped - the bees sign that it is honey! Dec 2018

As we continue into summer, enjoying the amazing reverie of the earth’s exhale - even while we try and keep up with the busy farming schedule, we hope that the light of the season fills your homes and hearts and shines throughout the New Year!

Best Wishes,

Peter and Robin

Transition Farm - Summer CSA- 2018

Pear Tree blossoms Oct 2018

Pear Tree blossoms Oct 2018

Its Spring! The fruit trees are flowering, the winter green manure crops are being incorporated, the glass house is full of seedlings, radishes are popping out of the ground, the bees are busy!

Heirloom tomatoes in the glasshouse Aug 2018

Heirloom tomatoes in the glasshouse Aug 2018

French Breakfast radish Oct 2018

French Breakfast radish Oct 2018

Snow peas climbing Sept 2018

Snow peas climbing Sept 2018

incorporating green manures in preparation for the planting of field tomatoes Sept 2018

incorporating green manures in preparation for the planting of field tomatoes Sept 2018

Spring weather Sept 2018

Spring weather Sept 2018

Our biodynamic practices have continued and feel further enriched as we connect with more bd farmers. Having traveled to farms in North America this June and July, we realise that our practice of building humus to feed the “cash” crops as opposed to using organic/synthetic fertilisers is not frequently done. Our principles of nurturing our whole farm ecosystem, using flowering hedgerows throughout our growing space and making soil health a priority all support the vibrant diversity of life on the farm - Healthy soil leads to healthy plants, animals and people.

After taking a break last Season, we are happy to be growing crops for our CSA again - the harvest will begin in November! We will be growing a smaller number of weekly/fortnightly boxes this time around and we have put those for sale on our website. We have split our seasonal blocks up into shorter commitments - to try and work in with School Terms, Christmas Holidays etc - our first 6 week box season will start Friday 16th November and run through until Friday 21st December. If you would like to get a box for this 6 week season please purchase it via our website at http://www.transitionfarm.com/farm-store/ - you have the option of a weekly or fortnightly box. All boxes are available by Farm Pick Up only and the Farm Pick Up Hours are Friday 10am to 6pm.

Market style farm pick up at transition farm

Market style farm pick up at transition farm

This season, we will also be growing to order for four restaurants - collaboration with these chefs is exciting and offers us a different perspective of our produce. We will be running variety trials this season - “blind” tastings of different varieties of carrots for example and asking chefs to fill out a questionnaire about the taste and texture of each variety. It is a wonderful opportunity for them to experience different flavours - and it helps us as farmers to have further information about the flavour and usability of certain varieties as we pursue the art of seed saving and selective breeding. We are growing several new onions, lettuces, carrots, capsicums, cucumbers, pumpkins and beetroots which we will be trialing in the field and on the plate. Many of these varieties will also be in our CSA shares.

Onions transplanted in the field Oct 2018

Onions transplanted in the field Oct 2018

Tomatoes transpiring - these early tomatoes have been planted in a polytunnel with the aim of having christmas tomatoes for our csa - Sept 2018

Tomatoes transpiring - these early tomatoes have been planted in a polytunnel with the aim of having christmas tomatoes for our csa - Sept 2018

The majority of growers, large and small scale, use hybrid varieties. Plant breeders are offering growers disease resistance, heavier yields, crops which “travel” and, in the case of supermarkets, lettuces which do not rust when cut. And while these are all great traits and/or advances in plant breeding, we have found that many of these hybrids have less flavour.

We are pursuing farmer led breeding - choosing varieties which have great flavour and texture and then selectively breeding other traits we need as market growers such as disease resilience, hardiness through unusual climate events (such as 5 straight days of 40C+ temperatures) and high yield. We are trying to produce seed that can rival a hybrid making it worth the space in a market garden. This is a new endeavour for us and we are excited about how it furthers our goal of local food security.

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This season, we are growing 45 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes. And we are also growing heirloom/open pollinated lettuces, onions, celeriac, cabbages, capsicums, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, pumpkins, radish, turnips, eggplant…the list goes on! With all that, we also do trial hybrids as we have found some great ones which preserve flavour even while offering the other benefits. We believe in flavour and strive to offer our CSA members and restaurants produce with beautiful colours, textures and tastes.

Lettuce trials - october 2018

Lettuce trials - october 2018

We wrote a post last Autumn and then never sent it…If you are interested in our “time off” musings, you can read them here… http://www.transitionfarm.com/seasonal-notes/transition-farm-autumn-2018.

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And as we are in the season of wildflowers…our six Warre bee colonies are prospering, having survived Winter very well! We continue to find them a source of interest and their honey is outstanding! The Warre hives are managed so that the bees are constantly renewing their wax and the honey that we harvest (when there is excess that the colony does not need) is filled with fermented pollen. This will be available at farm pick up to our CSA members. We are so lucky to live in an area where our major nectar flow is leptospermum…manuka honey - It’s healing qualities are amazing!

You can follow the seasonal changes on the farm on social media:

www.instagram.com/transitionfarm

www.instagram.com/transitionfarm_robin

www.facebook.com

With Spring comes hope - with more small farms striving towards regenerative practices growing throughout Australia, we hope that more people can access clean local food. You can view a directory of CSA’s online and also there is a directory of farmers accredited markets. Know your farmer and support those who are nurturing our earth and our communities through their great growing practices!

Wishing you all a wonderful growing season ahead!

Robin and Peter

Randomly selected CSA weekly share Autumn 2017

Randomly selected CSA weekly share Autumn 2017

Transition Farm - Autumn 2018

Peter sowing the winter green manures APRIL 2018 - Autumn/Winter brassicas

Peter sowing the winter green manures APRIL 2018 - Autumn/Winter brassicas

It has been almost a full year since Peter and I admitted that we were dead tired.  We had hit a wall in late February, which is pretty normal for us vegetable farmers.  We can usually manage to pull together the last of our strength to get through March.  But when summer stretched into April...late Autumn/early Winter 2017 feels a bit like childbirth- we got through it and even though the Winter rest blurred how exhausted we had become,  we decided to take a year off from running our CSA. The 2017-2018 growing season saw 2/3 of the farm fallowed with green manure crops. We grew just for our family and a few restaurants.

sunflowers, pumpkins, squash, rosemary - FEBRUARY 2018

sunflowers, pumpkins, squash, rosemary - FEBRUARY 2018

And we took time. Time to spend with our children and each other. Time to nurture ourselves. Time to enjoy where we live. Time to research more about soil, farming techniques, seed. Time to connect with other growers.

We continued to experiment with new crops and also grew to order for the restaurants - the chefs ordered in July 2017 for the whole season ahead.  We were a state winner for our chicories in the Delicious Produce Awards - in great company with many other small scale sustainable producers.

Cicoria Photo Credit Mark Roper Photography for Delicious Australia - MAY 2018

Cicoria Photo Credit Mark Roper Photography for Delicious Australia - MAY 2018

So what have we been thinking about...this whole growing season… 

We love growing food.  We love soil, soil life, ecosystems in relationship, plants, vibrant produce, health and community thriving.  We love why we started farming and we believe that those ideals are the ones to carry forward.

Lavender, green manure crop and pumpkins - DECEMBER 2017

Lavender, green manure crop and pumpkins - DECEMBER 2017

When we were thinking about starting a CSA, we  identified several sustainability indicators that we wanted to achieve on our farm:

  • Providing local food security

  • Conserving the natural resource base

  • Being socially responsible

Interesting that one large sustainability indicator that was left out was us and our family.  We approached our farm as a business...which a financially viable farm should be. But farming is so much more…

We now think if this farm is to continue as a CSA- instead of asking how can this business make money, we need to question what does the farmer need; what does the farm need; what does the community need.

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What does the farmer need?  Our farm is like another child.  Its needs are acutely felt, with high priority.  This is not unusual...we are learning...among farmers. So we need to accept that the farm needs to be equally balanced in our lives with the health of ourselves and our children

buckwheat, rosemary and sunflowers - FEBRUARY 2018

buckwheat, rosemary and sunflowers - FEBRUARY 2018

What does the farm need?  The farm needs to be healthy...that seems like a given.  To keep the farm healthy, we need to view it as a whole ecosystem, protect its resources, help to build humus, continue to proliferate diversity, and grow nutrient dense produce to sustain ourselves and our community - The farm needs the community just as it needs the farmer.

summer lettuce

summer lettuce

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trialing new crops

trialing new crops

What does our community need?  That is such an interesting question.  Our larger community continually tells us that they want access to our produce - BUT...not everyone likes our CSA system nor do all restaurants want to preorder.  Throughout the last eight years of running our CSA, we have spoken of balance, crop rotation, food waste, economic sustainability.  And balancing all of this with offering what people want when they want when it suits them is not always possible. We would love a consistent weekly farmers market here on the peninsula but as of yet, the farmers markets move from place to place. And we have explored farm gate options with the council. We costed building a suitable farm stand, putting in the ample parking required and the additional costs of manning that stand. At this time, we are not able to pursue that option and question the amount of land we would need to clear.

We continually feel such gratitude to our CSA community and the restaurants we supply for supporting our farming endeavours and ideals and really making us the farmers we are today.

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We have looked at this time off as a sabbatical - a learning holiday. But as that time draws to a close, we are finding ourselves lingering in the space of being - and staying committed to our promise to each other to not make any decisions until July-2018. We just wanted to share with you our musings and gratitude for all this season has brought.

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We do hope that you are all revelling in late Autumn too.

Robin and Peter

Moving from Summer into Autumn

A randomly selected CSA share from Week #10 of our Summer Share

A randomly selected CSA share from Week #10 of our Summer Share

With Autumn approaching, and a forecasted hot week ahead, we are reflecting on the cool, moist summer we have had here in Southern Victoria.  Many of our farming friends in other states have been coping with very dry and hot Summer conditions, while we have been hoping for more heat to ripen field tomatoes and doing what we can to ward off the mildews and fungal diseases encouraged by the moisture.

Our Autumn CSA begins on Wednesday 8 March (Fortnightly Boxes) or 15 March (Weekly Boxes). If you would like to learn more, read through our online Farm Store. You can also use this link to see what crops we are growing this Autumn and/or check out our album of CSA shares from last year on facebook.

Growing within polytunnels has helped our harvest of warm weather crops like tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants and chilies through the summer and with some of the bounty of these crops just starting, we are looking forward to continuing to harvest them into the Autumn.

Eggplants...the plants are over a metre high now.  We have been using string lines to help them support their fruit.

Eggplants...the plants are over a metre high now.  We have been using string lines to help them support their fruit.

Capsicums maturing within this unheated polytunnel Peter and my nephew Aleix built this Spring

Capsicums maturing within this unheated polytunnel Peter and my nephew Aleix built this Spring

Field tomatoes and pumpkin patch

Field tomatoes and pumpkin patch

Field tomatoes finally ripening!

Field tomatoes finally ripening!

The beans, potatoes, greens and other roots have been thriving in the fields. Most have enjoyed the cooler weather although sudden heat waves have caused more stress then we have seen in the past...the plants have not had the chance to acclimate to temperatures over 30!

Summer Beans

Summer Beans

Wheel hoeing beetroot.  Potatoes to the left, herbs to the right and Autumn leeks and celeriac in the background

Wheel hoeing beetroot.  Potatoes to the left, herbs to the right and Autumn leeks and celeriac in the background

Summer Beans and Lettuce - with green manure crops preparing soil for Autumn Pea plantings

Summer Beans and Lettuce - with green manure crops preparing soil for Autumn Pea plantings

We choose to not plant corn and melons this season.  Last year we lost three corn plantings to foxes...yes the foxes here eat not only rabbits and chickens but corn, melons, tomatoes, capsicums, berries!!  Corn takes up alot of space.  Without a great solution to keep the foxes from the corn, we choose to use the space for other crops.

Melons can be a hit or miss in our temperate climate.  The hot summers we have had have produced wonderful harvests.  But in cooler seasons, it is difficult for the plants to thrive. 

Our Summer Share CSA members have received Basil, Beetroot, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Beans, Capsicums, Carrots, Celery, Cherry Tomatoes, Chilies, Coriander, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Garlic, Kale, Lettuce, Onions, Pimiento de Padrons, Parsley, Peas, Potatoes, Radish, Rocket, Silverbeet, Spinach, Spring Onions, Summer Squash, Tomatillos, Tomatoes, Zucchini. Each week the shares continue to be varied - with each share receiving between 10-15 items.  You can view photos of the shares here.

Market Style Farm Pick Up

Market Style Farm Pick Up

We also changed our CSA structure so that all the shares have been collected on the farm this season.  Many CSA members have told us how much they enjoy seeing the seasonal changes and choosing their vegetables at the market style pick up.  Several have organised pick up groups sharing the weekly collection between 2-4 families.  We have enjoyed the more direct relationship with many of our members.

This season we have also been providing a few crops to restaurants - building relationships with chefs!  We are enjoying the shared passion about ingredients, the continued desire to grow high quality, tasty produce, and the exposure chefs can bring to small scale agriculture.  Our farm will be featured in this weeks Weekly Times and Organic Gardening Magazine Australia is also interviewing us for an article and photographing some of the beautiful pumpkins we will begin to harvest this week!!

Part of a restaurant order

Part of a restaurant order

Harvesting these  'P  otimarron' or 'Red Kuri'  pumpkins this week

Harvesting these 'Potimarron' or 'Red Kuri' pumpkins this week

Pumpkins growing this year for the Autumn CSA include: Marina de Chioggia, Queensland Blue, Galeaux d'Eysines, Red Kuri, Musquee de Provence. Japanese Futsu ... Pumpkins are starting to rival tomatoes in the availability of so many different varieties!  And while many squash originated in Mesoamerica, the heirlooms from all over the world are finding an audience.  We continue to trial new ones looking for varieties that thrive on our farm and that have great flavour!

Farm filling up with Sunflowers for the end of the Summer season

Farm filling up with Sunflowers for the end of the Summer season

Red Frilled Lettuce

Red Frilled Lettuce

coloured heirloom carrots

coloured heirloom carrots

The first broccoli for Autumn forming heads

The first broccoli for Autumn forming heads

Biodynamics describes this time of the season as the last big exhale of the earth.  We can see that in the expression of fruits and the height of many plants.  As farmers we too are still working hard to bring in the harvest of so many crops and seed, transplant and nurture the crops for Autumn - in the next few months we will be "reaping what we sow" as the seeding slows down for Winter, we harvest the crops for Autumn and Winter...some sown in August of last year...and store the pumpkins and potatoes that will feed us through the Winter. The colours and shapes of the Autumn CSA shares are a reflection of the Spring and Summer.  And just as the Earth starts to breathe in, as the days shorten we contemplate the growing season we had and plan for the next.

To our CSA members who support our growing endeavors - Thank you!! We could not grow the way we do without you!

Our Summer Share sold out and we expect the Autumn too as well.  If you are interested, please read more on our online Farm Store.