The Delicious Produce Awards

The Delicious Produce Awards...  This year, we had the privilege to meet and collaborate with chef Paul Wilson who shared with us a community of people passionate about food.  Last night at Pier One in the Sydney Harbour Hotel, I was overcome with gratitude for the world class chefs and food industry leaders and the team at Delicious who put forward their time and effort to showcase Australian ingredients, inspiring small and sustainable producers, farmers’ markets, innovators, chefs and regions.  We feel humbled to have won the "From The Earth" category in the 2016 Produce Awards. 

It was truly an honour to be in a room with other producers who's practices inspire us and products are of such high quality.  And chefs who's passion for ingredients meets our passion at growing them.  Peter Bignell, a Tasmanian Whiskey maker, honoured for not only his product but his carbon zero distillery stated that he was a farmer, a creater (with his distillery) and an artist enjoying ice sculpting.  I left last night feeling as if I was a part of an industry of artists, us producers inspired by nature and all of her treasures and the chefs who transform ingredients bringing many culinary delights together on one plate.   In a preview of a series Delicious is creating, Shannon Bennett states, "One of things that creates conversation is what sort of story is on the plate. And the Delicious Produce awards is bringing that back."

It's Spring time and with over 10,000 seedlings in the glasshouse, every seed is a dream stretching back generations.  Each seed has parents, a cultural history, a genetic imprint of the conditions that it thrives in.  For us as vegetable producers, these stories give us clues as to how to best nurture crops in the hopes of tasting the textures and flavours that evoke a sense of place, a season, a celebration, a memory, a story.

 'Marina di Chioggia' Pumpkin.  This pumpkin evolved around Venice in the latter part of the 1600s. It takes its name from the fishing village of Chioggia, which became a major source of produce for Venetians once the salt marshes nearby were drained and cultivated. Sliced and grilled on the barges which deliver them, the pumpkin is simply brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with rosemary and salt and sold throughout the streets of the city.  Imagine uniform clad children racing to vendors for their after school snack of this intensely flavoured seasonal delight.

'Marina di Chioggia' Pumpkin.  This pumpkin evolved around Venice in the latter part of the 1600s. It takes its name from the fishing village of Chioggia, which became a major source of produce for Venetians once the salt marshes nearby were drained and cultivated. Sliced and grilled on the barges which deliver them, the pumpkin is simply brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with rosemary and salt and sold throughout the streets of the city.  Imagine uniform clad children racing to vendors for their after school snack of this intensely flavoured seasonal delight.

 Peter, myself and Paul Wilson

Peter, myself and Paul Wilson

Spring 2016!!

 Tomato and Capsicum Seedlings - Sept 2016

Tomato and Capsicum Seedlings - Sept 2016

It's Spring time here in Australia.  The frogs have awoken.  The days are getting longer.  And when there is sun, the warmth is welcome!  Our seeding for the next season began in August.  Tantalizing seed packets arriving in the mail, the excitement of germination and daily growth,  the joy of seeing green manures incorporated and soil being readied for planting...Spring is definitely in the air!

 Summer vegetables and herbs - September 2016

Summer vegetables and herbs - September 2016

 Winter Green Manure Crops covering the farm - August 2016 - We work on covering as much of the farm as possible when our Autumn crops are pulled out - to keep the soil covered and to feed the soil life in preparation for Spring/Summer plantings.

Winter Green Manure Crops covering the farm - August 2016 - We work on covering as much of the farm as possible when our Autumn crops are pulled out - to keep the soil covered and to feed the soil life in preparation for Spring/Summer plantings.

 Chicken Tractors working their way through the Winter Cover Crops - August 2016

Chicken Tractors working their way through the Winter Cover Crops - August 2016

 garlic plantings AUGUST 2016

garlic plantings AUGUST 2016

We finished our Autumn/Early Winter season in late June.  2015-2016 was our fourth full growing season.  While our CSA members were disappointed by our decision to take the Spring off from harvesting, we found the time spent reevaluating the farm goals and the farm plan to be extremely beneficial.  Not only did we find the season to be smoother and more efficient then the first three seasons, we also produced the highest quality and tastiest food to date!

 The "Market" style CSA pick up was a great success with CSA members loving the vegetables on display.

The "Market" style CSA pick up was a great success with CSA members loving the vegetables on display.

On reflection, the first three years of any new business is a flurry of learning and experimenting, perfecting your trade and understanding your market.  For us as farmers, it was also about building soil, working on the intense weed pressure we had with "new" land and learning what grows well here...with the unique natural forces and resources available.  The vitality and flavour of the crops grown last season were a great reward for not only giving the land extra time in the Spring but also the hard work we had already put in.

View the 2016 weekly CSA shares.

 A randomly selected CSA share. 

A randomly selected CSA share. 

In May, we were nominated by one of the country’s top chefs to enter the Delicious Produce Awards for 2016.  Our Brode Galeux d’Eysines pumpkin was honoured as one of the Victorian state winners in the "From the Earth" category.  In July, we advanced to the national judging with the results being revealed on Monday 12 September.  We have been invited to Sydney for the announcement.

This is the first time that our produce has been judged not just on appearance but on TASTE while our sustainable farming practices and ethics have also been taking into consideration. 

 Close up picture of our Brode Galeux d’Eysines Pumpkin - selected as a State Winner for the 2016 Delicious Produce Awards.

Close up picture of our Brode Galeux d’Eysines Pumpkin - selected as a State Winner for the 2016 Delicious Produce Awards.

The late Autumn and early Winter were spent planting hedge rows in the market garden.  The diverse indigenous hedgerows throughout the farm provide great habitat for native flaura and fauna as well as hot beds for soil microbiomes.  What we needed though was more wind protection throughout the intensive market garden.  These rows are single species natives and herbs chosen for their habit and nectar.  As they mature, our crops will greatly benefit from the wind protection as will the diverse pollinators and insect predator who feed on nectar.

 hedgerows being planted in our market garden sprinkler rows - pic. correa alba, planted may 2016

hedgerows being planted in our market garden sprinkler rows - pic. correa alba, planted may 2016

 Rosemary propagation for more hedgerow plantings in the market garden - August 2016

Rosemary propagation for more hedgerow plantings in the market garden - August 2016

 Winter Lemons - August 2016

Winter Lemons - August 2016

In addition to the hedgerows, we also changed our irrigation system and reworked our growing beds to be all the same length.  These changes should help make our market gardening much more efficient as well as allowing us the ability to better facilitate the all important task of crop rotation.

We also continued to spread the word about CSA farming and our biodynamic practices through an article in Better Homes and Gardens (China)...we haven't actually translated the article yet so we can only guess at all the content... and Robin giving an interview for Justin Russell's podcast Studio Rustica

 spreading the word about csa farms april 2016 edition of Better Homes and Gardens (China).

spreading the word about csa farms april 2016 edition of Better Homes and Gardens (China).

 Fruit trees - pruned and pasted with a biodynamic tree paste which nurishes the tree - August 2016

Fruit trees - pruned and pasted with a biodynamic tree paste which nurishes the tree - August 2016

 Blooming Apricot!

Blooming Apricot!

And so as we step on to that Spring express train, enjoying the fruit blossoms and busy bees and seed germination and the smell of compost and sinking our hands deep into soil, we are very grateful for all the support of our CSA members past and present.  Without you, we wouldn't be the growers we are today.  Our CSA harvest begins in December.  There will be a CSA newsletter going out in the next week with details.  We will send another general newsletter when the shares are available in our online shop.

Hope you too are enjoying your season!!

Moving into Autumn at Transition Farm

 Sunflowers in full bloom at the end of Summer

Sunflowers in full bloom at the end of Summer

The start of March signals the end of Summer and the move into the Autumn. Our Summer crops have done well in what has been a particularly dry year for our farm - we really have had only two good rainfalls since September! Hopefully the Autumn will bring a little more rain.

Our Summer CSA boxes finish at the end of March and then we will be providing Autumn CSA boxes through April May and June. Autumn is the season to "reap what you sow", with many of the crops having been grown throughout the Summer.  The fields are full, the greenhouse still with late Autumn/early Winter crops to transplant and so many greens and roots taking advantage of the warm earth to grow before the cold sets in and days get shorter.

 First Bok Choy planting going into the weekly boxes at the start of March

First Bok Choy planting going into the weekly boxes at the start of March

Our Autumn CSA boxes will be filled with Pumpkins, Parsnips, Carrots, Broccoli, Cabbage, Spinach, Kale, Sweet Potato, Celery, Peas, Potatoes, Celeriac, Cauliflower, Onions, Garlic, Lettuce, Bok Choy, Beet Root, Turnips and more... some of these crops we have been growing since September.

 Autumn brassica plantings in the background, carrots, parsnips and celeriac in the foreground

Autumn brassica plantings in the background, carrots, parsnips and celeriac in the foreground

Our potato harvest this season has been a good one and the potato crop will be harvested fully in the next few weeks.

 Potatoes for the Summer and Autumn boxes

Potatoes for the Summer and Autumn boxes

The first of the pea plantings went in a week ago and we plan to harvest Snow Peas and Sugar Snap Peas in April - we have done more work this year in preparing the pea planting area using our chicken tractors, green manures and weed management to try and increase productivity.

 First Snow Pea plantings for the Autumn boxes

First Snow Pea plantings for the Autumn boxes

The pumpkins are ripening and we are getting ready to start harvesting soon - the varieties we have grown this season will ensure we get some pumpkins into the Summer CSA boxes as well as having plenty for Autumn/Winter.

 Pumpkins ripening in the field

Pumpkins ripening in the field

We built more chicken tractors at the end of our season last year and this has enabled us to use the chickens to do more work in preparing areas on the farm for crop plantings by working in green manures and eating the bugs and grubs.

 Back paddock at the end of Summer - chicken tractors preparing the ground for the Autumn peas

Back paddock at the end of Summer - chicken tractors preparing the ground for the Autumn peas

Our Autumn Share CSA can be joined through the Farm Store on our website from Monday 7th March. We will be providing our Autumn CSA boxes for 12 weeks from the start of April through until the end of June.

During the Summer season we added a "one off"  CSA box option for people who are interested in our farm produce to trial our service - They were able to receive a box for one week to see what they thought. We had quite a few people try this and then commit to the seasonal CSA - so we will be providing these "one-off" boxes for the Autumn as well.

It has been a bumper Summer for our Tomatoes -

We have been really pleased with the quality of our produce and the flavour this Summer. We look forward to filling our Autumn boxes with a diverse range of vegetables grown here on our farm!

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

Our CSA has a limited number of shares each season.  If you are interested, please sign up now to avoid disappointment.  If you are new and would like to trial a box first, we suggest doing so sooner rather then later.  Our Summer CSA sold out. More information is available on our website.

 CSA Farm Pick Up

CSA Farm Pick Up


Our Summer Share

Our CSA Summer Share began two weeks ago.  One of the new changes we have made is the market style CSA pick-up!

 Market Style Farm Pick Up

Market Style Farm Pick Up

 Week #1 Market Style CSA Pick Up

Week #1 Market Style CSA Pick Up

The Market Style pick up offers CSA members the chance to pick the bunch of carrots they want, choose the variety of cucumber they love, and sort through the zucchini searching for the ones that suit their recipes.  As the season progresses, and rotating items are offered, members will be able to choose which week they want eggplant, pimientos de padron, tomatillos,etc. allowing for more flexibility within the CSA share.

Despite our incredibly dry Spring and early Summer, the farm looks wonderful - lush and healthy. The time that we have spent nurturing the soil is really noticed as we are using about 30% less water and have very little pest issues.  Here are some harvest day photos...

 Field tomatoes with marigolds and basil

Field tomatoes with marigolds and basil

 Black Russian Tomatoes

Black Russian Tomatoes

 Long tropea onions

Long tropea onions

 Carrot Bunches

Carrot Bunches

 Cos Lettuce

Cos Lettuce

 Bush Beans

Bush Beans

 Listada de Gandia Eggplant

Listada de Gandia Eggplant

 CSA Summer share box week #2

CSA Summer share box week #2

The market style pick up is also offering us the chance to spend more time talking with our CSA members about the farm, growing biodynamically and what their favourite recipe from the week was.  We really enjoy the relationship we are building with the people eating the food we grow.  We love the commitment and support they offer our farm.  We have looked at many growth opportunities this past year...but when we see this CSA model in action, when we see the interaction members have with their produce and where it was grown, when we are receiving a fair wage for our efforts and offering our community chemical free, sustainably grown vegetables at an affordable price, we think that the mutual commitment being made between members and ourselves, the farmers, is a really great way to sell and buy food.  We love that our produce is being removed from the "market" value.  And we love that our local community is being offered food security even through times of extreme weather.

When we mentioned to some of our CSA members that we still had some Summer CSA Shares available, they recommended that we offer a one-off weekly box for people who may be interested to try out our food before they commit to our seasonal CSA.  We thought that was a great idea and have added the one-off box to our Farm Store.  The one off box offers interested people the chance to come and see the farm, speak with us about our CSA and try the produce and the concept of eating from the box for a week to see what they think.  Please pass the word on...there are a limited number on offer and they will only last until our CSA shares are sold out.

 Van loaded for wednesday deliveries...from Mt Eliza to balnarring to portsea

Van loaded for wednesday deliveries...from Mt Eliza to balnarring to portsea

We had a whole day of slow, soaking rain on Friday. The last day like that was in early September.  The crops LOVED it...and so did we!  It was a wet and very happy harvest day!  The melons are growing, pumpkins are forming, we are days off of corn harvest and the first of the Autumn brassicas are being planted - the sun is heading north...even while we are sticky in summer.

To read more about our CSA and our weekly boxes, please use these links:
CSA Weekly Boxes
How Our CSA Works
How To Receive Our Produce

 

What's Growing for the Summer Share

The farm in January...there is so much that is right on the cusp of being ready for harvest, some crops which are already being harvested, green manure crops knee high, and successive plantings at various stages of growth. 

It's been a different sort of growing season with us sowing a Spring manure crop instead of a Spring cash crop.  The produce is glowing though- a testament to the life in the soil and the diversity of microbes and insects populating the farm! With our Summer CSA starting on the 13 January, we are looking forward to sending all this lovely, tasty food into the kitchens of our CSA members.  Here is a picture walk around the farm...

 Sweet Corn, Potatoes and Tomatoes in the field. The chicken tractors are preparing the area for the Autumn brassicas

Sweet Corn, Potatoes and Tomatoes in the field. The chicken tractors are preparing the area for the Autumn brassicas

 Our tomatoes have been producing for a few weeks in the polytunnel and the field tomatoes are also starting to ripen.

Our tomatoes have been producing for a few weeks in the polytunnel and the field tomatoes are also starting to ripen.

 Summer Lettuce

Summer Lettuce

 Spring Onions

Spring Onions

The brown and red onions have grown well throughout the Spring and are now forming into lovely sized onions - we alternate these in our CSA boxes with Spring Onions and later in the season with Leeks.

 Tomatoes ripening in the Polytunnel

Tomatoes ripening in the Polytunnel

Sweet Corn is one of our favourite Summer crops for eating - we harvest the Corn the morning of the deliveries/farm pick up and highly recommend our CSA members eat it a soon as they can- the taste and nutritional value (like all vegetables) starts diminishing as soon as it is harvested.

 Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn

Chicken tractors are an integral part of our farming - the chickens help control bugs and pests and when crops are finished the chicken tractors are moved through them to work crops into the soil and improve fertility...the bonus is we also get beautiful eggs! The chickens are now moving through the green manure crop ahead of the Autumn brassicas which are growing in the glasshouse.

 Onions and Rhubarb ... and chicken tractors.

Onions and Rhubarb ... and chicken tractors.

 Summer beans starting to flower

Summer beans starting to flower

Our bean crops have been growing well - with successive plantings of green, red and yellow varieties.

 Zucchini

Zucchini

The zucchini has coped well with the heat we had over Christmas and we are harvesting a few different varieties for the Summer - Black Beauty, Italian Romanesco and a beautiful Golden zucchini.

 Basil

Basil

We inter-plant many of our food crops with herbs to increase the biodiversity and help with pollination and soil health. The Summer Share boxes will have plenty of Basil, Coriander, Parsley, Thyme and Rosemary

 Rocket

Rocket

 Carrots

Carrots

Our Summer carrots have germinated well and we will be filling the boxes with Orange, Purple, Yellow and Red Carrots

 Pumpkins and melons...undersown with clover to cover the ground and harness nitrogen and intercropped with sunflowers, to attract the bees we need for good pollination and to provide shade through the hot summer.

Pumpkins and melons...undersown with clover to cover the ground and harness nitrogen and intercropped with sunflowers, to attract the bees we need for good pollination and to provide shade through the hot summer.

 Capsicum, Chillies, Padrons...

Capsicum, Chillies, Padrons...

 Potatoes

Potatoes

 Cucumbers

Cucumbers

The Summer boxes will be starting in eight days and we look forward to harvesting again for our CSA members! It is one thing to plant a seedling, and another to raise it and then harvest it.  Seeing the resilience of the plants throughout the strong winds and periods of intense heat that we have had has been inspiring.  Tasting the first tomato in 7 months was really awesome.  We look forward to sharing all the flavours of soil, water and light with our CSA members...just eight more sleeps!

Best wishes to everyone in the New Year!!

Robin and Peter

PS. You can join us on instagram for more frequent photos of the farm:

https://www.instagram.com/transitionfarm_robin/

https://www.instagram.com/transitionfarm