Spring Planting - Spring Weather ...lots of photos!

There are three weeks to go until we start harvesting for our CSA!!  Even though it has been a grey, cold Spring with lots of rain, most crops are growing well and thriving.  The greens and onions are loving the weather and we have managed to get on top of the weeds during the sunny days. And the polytunnel tomatoes are flowering and setting fruit.

Lettuce and herbs growing in Mandala

Lettuce and herbs growing in Mandala

Tomatoes for the Christmas boxes coming along in the Polytunnel

Tomatoes for the Christmas boxes coming along in the Polytunnel

Salanova lettuce

Salanova lettuce

Zucchini mulched and gaining size with the few warm days we have had - still covered at night for extra warmth and late frost protection

Zucchini mulched and gaining size with the few warm days we have had - still covered at night for extra warmth and late frost protection

Frosty morning late October

Frosty morning late October

The eggplants and capsicums have been held a few extra weeks in the greenhouse while Peter and my visiting nephew Aleix constructed a new polytunnel.  Getting the plastic on in between the wild winds we have had (70km gusts for days!!!) was a challenge but it is ready for tomorrows planting!!

We are growing eight different varieties of capsicum this year -  white, yellow, orange, red, purple, brown and of course green - bell shaped and the Italian longs.  We are also growing several varieties of "frying peppers' who's flavour is enhanced through a quick toss in a hot pan. Some are sweet and make a great addition to pastas, salads and sandwiches and some like the 'Pimiento de Padron' may have a bit of a bite...one of their endearing attributes!  Others can be pickled to enjoy through the Winter.

And we have extended our eggplant varieties as well to include more heirlooms known for their lack of bitterness.  These are great to put on the barbecue or over a fire as well as using them in ratatouille, stir fries and curries.

Eggplant ready to plant out in the field

Eggplant ready to plant out in the field

Capsicums ready for transplanting

Capsicums ready for transplanting

Polytunnel being built in Front Paddock

Polytunnel being built in Front Paddock

new (recycled) polytunnel almost completed and ready for planting this seasons eggplant, capsicums and chillies

new (recycled) polytunnel almost completed and ready for planting this seasons eggplant, capsicums and chillies

The snow peas we want to harvest for Christmas are looking good.  And while the carrots have germinated, we expect them to take off with more warm weather. The beetroot are happy with the cold.  And the potatoes and first bean planting have just started emerging from the soil.

We have been using Biodynamic 501 (ground quartz crystal) which helps plants to tighten their pores (ward off fungal diseases) and supports their use of light!! We hope this will help the tomatoes, garlic, zucchini, and cucumbers ward off any fungal diseases during this moist and cool Spring. And have continued to use Biodynamic 500 when we incorporate green manures to help the transformation from organic matter into hummus.

Snow peas and carrots for the Summer Share

Snow peas and carrots for the Summer Share

Applying BD501 in the early morning - Kale and bok choy growing well

Applying BD501 in the early morning - Kale and bok choy growing well

Manadala Fruit Trees, Herbs and Flowers

Manadala Fruit Trees, Herbs and Flowers

Chicken tractors working through the market garden

Chicken tractors working through the market garden

While we attend to the crops, our CSA for the Summer (15 weeks from 30 November - mid March) is filling up with members purchasing their shares through our online shop.  There are 20 CSA shares still available for Wednesday pick up - the Friday/Saturday pick up option has sold out. If you wanted the Friday/Saturday option, you can join for Wednesday and send us an email to go on the wait list for Friday/Saturday.  If a space becomes available, we will let you know. 

We have had many families making small pickup co-ops to share the weekly vegetable collections.  Some have used the Facebook group TRANSITION FARM CSA to find each other.  If you would like to find other families to share the weekly vegetable collection, and use facebook, please find the group and ask to join.  There may be other CSA members in your area. We have members in Balnarring, Merricks, Red Hill, Frankston, Langwarrin, Mt Eliza, Mt Martha, Dromana, Rosebud, Rye, Blairgowrie, Sorrento and Portsea...I could be forgetting a suburb. 

We have a few work share volunteers joining us for the summer share.  A few more would be great!  Our work share volunteers commit to working with us one day a week throughout the 15 week season.  In exchange for their help, they learn alot about our ecosystem and market gardening techniques and leave each week with a box of vegetables.  We have loved working with our work share volunteers and have also loved seeing them branch out...some have started their own market gardens!!  There is more information here...

This season we are focusing on growing higher quality crops - better tomatoes, bigger capsicums, a larger variety of greens and herbs.  We are excited by the variety we are growing and by the challenge of continuing to harvest tasty food grown using biodynamic principles.  We have chosen to try and grow better -as opposed to growing bigger- and are trying to ensure that our precious resources are preserved and enhanced throughout. 

And while I ponder concepts that seem highly managed, I also continue to be amazed at the intricacy of the natural system and inspired to work within it.

Integrated Pest Management...Lady bird in the chervil!

Integrated Pest Management...Lady bird in the chervil!

The bees drinking their honey...and capping virgin comb.  The bees are enjoying the abundance of nectar this season,  We have housed a swarm and are converting two langstroth hives into warre boxes - 4 warre hives on the farm all thriving!!

The bees drinking their honey...and capping virgin comb.  The bees are enjoying the abundance of nectar this season,  We have housed a swarm and are converting two langstroth hives into warre boxes - 4 warre hives on the farm all thriving!!

Peter and I continue to share photos of the farm and thoughts on farming on instagram (@ transitionfarm  and @transitionfarm_robin ) and facebook.  We wonder if home gardens are having an easier time with the frosts and wind.  Here's hoping you have fruit setting, greens thriving and beans and potatoes popping out of the ground!!

Summer Share November 2016

As we prepare more of the paddocks for planting and keep on top of the seed sowing and transplanting schedule, we move closer towards our harvest season.  Our CSA shares for the Summer season are now available through our online farm store!

Prepping the fields

Prepping the fields

Tomatoes in the 4" soil blocks being transplanted in the polytunnel

Tomatoes in the 4" soil blocks being transplanted in the polytunnel

Zucchini tucked under a row cover to protect them from the wind, hail and cold nights of Spring.

Zucchini tucked under a row cover to protect them from the wind, hail and cold nights of Spring.

Lettuces, endive, escarole and celery - hardening off to prepare for field transplanting

Lettuces, endive, escarole and celery - hardening off to prepare for field transplanting

Kal, bok choy and broccoli hoed in between Spring rain.

Kal, bok choy and broccoli hoed in between Spring rain.

We are excited that our CSA Summer Share boxes will be starting on Wednesday 30th November. The Summer Share will run for 15 weeks and then will be followed for a 15 week Autumn Share.

CSA harvest box from Autumn 2016

CSA harvest box from Autumn 2016

In taking the time last year to thoroughly evaluate our business - reviewing everything from the health of our soil, the quality and variety of our crops, our business model and our financial viability, we thought alot about our CSA model, pondering the advantages and disadvantages.  We are often asked why we do not have a farm store? Why don't we sell our produce at markets? Why do people who would like to buy our produce need to sign up to our CSA? 

Heirloom Carrots - June 2016

Heirloom Carrots - June 2016

Currently on the Mornington Peninsula, there is not a consistent weekly farmers market.  There are many markets available throughout the month but they are in different locations on different days of the week.  While we did consider trying to attend the accredited farmer's markets, it is impossible to grow produce for harvest on two days each month.   And if we took to traveling to a different market each week, it would be very hard to establish a consistent clientele who would know and value our produce.  This was one of the first reasons we choose the CSA model.  We wanted to connect with those consuming our produce.  And we wanted to provide them the opportunity to interact with where and how their food was grown.

Heirloom Greenhouse Tomatoes - January 2016

Heirloom Greenhouse Tomatoes - January 2016

Once we started our CSA, we realised that one of the biggest differences between this model and the way we had sold the produce from our first farm in 2003, was the concept of market value.  We had experienced the stress of the rise and fall of market value with our first potato crop.  There are many variables in farming which are completely out of the farmer's control.  We could bear up to those that came with nature.  But it was disheartening when the variables controlling the "worth" of your produce could offer you a fair income one week and then not even make it worth the effort to harvest the next.  But market value extends to the consumer too.  How is it that the first season tomatoes or zucchini or beans are so much more then those later in the season?  We enjoyed that through our CSA model, our produce was removed from market value.  Instead we have based the cost of the share on the actual true cost of growing the food, using biodynamic and organic methods, hand tending, hand harvesting.  It has taken us several years to work out what this "true" cost is.  And it has also taken us several years to become better growers.  I feel as if throughout the process, our CSA members supported us and in return they received wonderful produce at a great price per kilo.

Field Crops on the farm - January 2016

Field Crops on the farm - January 2016

And here we are today with award winning produce.  Why don't we open a farm store, making our produce available to our greater community without them committing to our season?  While I appreciate that there are many people within our community who would like to support our farm but do not want to join our CSA, we cannot quite get our heads around having a farm gate.  Firstly, we would need to build a farm stand closer to the front gate and then ensure it was always attended to protect the quality of the produce (and honesty in payment).  But another draw back to the farm gate in our opinion is the first come first serve nature of it.  At this time, our harvest is completely divided fairly between all of our members - whether they are the first to pick up their box or the last.  They all receive the same.  I love this concept of sharing.  I also love that there is virtually no waste within this system.  We are not left at the end of the week with extra produce.  And if we do have a huge surplus, we give it away to several organisations within our community which offer meals to those in need.

Another reason why our produce is so tasty, nutrient dense and also why we can grow it without chemicals is our crop rotation plan.  We have a ten year crop rotation which ensures great diversity and balance throughout our farm.  While we have spent the past five years gathering information about what our CSA members like and what they would like less of, and we have used these guidelines to plan our crops, our crop rotation does limit what we can grow.  The CSA boxes allow for the diversity. We are unsure if a farm stand would.

Transition Farm - Market Style Farm Pick Up - June 2016.  This was a huge success last year and we look forward to tables piled with the colours of the season at CSA pick up days.

Transition Farm - Market Style Farm Pick Up - June 2016.  This was a huge success last year and we look forward to tables piled with the colours of the season at CSA pick up days.

Commitment and shared value.  Our CSA members pay in advance for their produce.  Their payment comes when we have spent thousands on seed, have already invested hundreds of hours nurturing crops, have purchased additional specialised tools and/or new systems which allow us to grow better.  All of these costs happen throughout Winter and early Spring.  And in return for their commitment, we grow the best food that we can.  We put row covers on and off each day...sometimes three times a day...to try and ensure early season warm weather crops.  We shade crops to help them withstand the intense summer sun.  We seek out the best tasting varieties.  We share the triumphs and the struggles of the season.  We establish a community that has the health of its food and of the system that grows it at its core.  This is a very different system to that of a farm gate.  It is quite amazing!!

I would like to have more options for the community to access local food.  But for this year, we are only offering our CSA.  Within that model, though, there are options.  Members can receive their share weekly or fortnightly.  They can share their box with a friend.  They can choose the zucchini they want or the size carrots they like.  They can swap items with other members at pick up. They can have a say in what we grow by communicating with us about what they have liked and what they would have liked more of.

This season, we have also made the decision to only offer our Market Style Farm Pick-up of our CSA boxes - no longer delivering them. While we understand that this decision may prohibit some of our past CSA members from supporting our farm – we feel that having members come to the farm to collect their produce offers our CSA members more choice and furthers our goal of connecting people to the farm, how it changes with the seasons, how the crops are growing and how the season affects the harvest.

Our farm continues to evolve.  The CSA model is a new concept to most Australians.  We have sought to educate the community about its benefits.  We hope that the community continues to support a model based on reciprocity.  Our experience thus far shows that farmers can grow great food in a sustainable manner which directly benefits the community supporting them.

If you would like to learn more about our CSA and join our Summer Share – the boxes are now available on our website Farm Store.  We continue to reflect on how best to serve our community while farming in the way that we do.  We feel supported by our CSA members who work together through joining our CSA for the season, sharing the pick ups and/or sharing boxes to make this model work for all of us. If you are interested in communicating with other CSA members about these options, please request to join the Transition Farm CSA facebook group

As our CSA season gears up, it is interesting to compare our small scale, regenerative farming practices and the hand tended vegetables we harvest to this NY Times Magazine photo essay of large scale industrial farming.  The UN states that small scale farming can feed the world. 

Sending our best wishes for a fruitful growing season!

Robin and Peter

Receiving the National Trophy for the 2016 Delicious Produce Awards from Matt Moran - September 2016 - only marginally out of our comfort zone - but thrilled to have our vegetables judged alongside so many wonderful growers for their taste by Matt Moran, Andrew McConnell, Peter Gilmore, Alla Wolf-Tasker, Maggie Beer, Guillaume Brahimi, Christine Manfield and Shannon Bennett.

Receiving the National Trophy for the 2016 Delicious Produce Awards from Matt Moran - September 2016 - only marginally out of our comfort zone - but thrilled to have our vegetables judged alongside so many wonderful growers for their taste by Matt Moran, Andrew McConnell, Peter Gilmore, Alla Wolf-Tasker, Maggie Beer, Guillaume Brahimi, Christine Manfield and Shannon Bennett.

PS. Peter and I have both been posting photos of our farm activities on our instagram accounts.  You can view them using this link and this link .

CSA Summer Share 2015-Week #12 (25 March/27-28 March)

CSA SUMMER SHARE WEEK #12 The last week of the Summer Share...Thank you for your support of our farm and growing endeavours.  You have been a vital part of our continued desire to grow nutrient dense food for our community in a sustainable way. We look forward to the next 12 weeks of our CSA season.

NOTES ON WHAT'S GROWING Tahlia Gregori, the intern that has been working with us for the past three months leaves next week.  She has been a fantastic intern and we wish her the best in her growing endeavours!

We have started harvesting the first of the Autumn broccoli crops.  If you did not receive any this week, you will next! All of the brassicas love the cool nights we have been having and the rain has been welcome, too.  We have also started harvesting our third zucchini planting.  We hope that it will be able to ward off powdery mildew and keep growing until the frost. The next corn planting will be ready next week.

The sweet capsicums are still coming on.  If you are receiving more than you know what to do with, you can slice them and freeze them to use in stir-fries and sauces through the winter!

We will have lettuce this week and next and then there will be a gap in the head lettuce.  We have planted many other greens so that this gap will hopefully not be felt in the boxes.  The lettuce seed does not like to germinate when it is hot.  We do several things to work around this but had three weeks of lettuce not germinate in the glasshouse.  The current lettuce seedlings are doing well but not even in the ground yet.

All of the Autumn brassicas are glowing and the parsnips and turnips are growing well.  The transition into Autumn is always softened by the great flush of Summer vegetables still enjoying the warm soil.  The bean picking Tuesday was not as heavy as summer weeks.  There will be more beans next week.

The tomatoes are starting to succumb to summer disease.  We are still picking though! The cherry tomato crop is still producing for “Pick Your Own” during farm pick up times!  Please bring your own containers. Limit a 1 kilo bucket per family.

Farm pickup is 2-5pm Fridays and 8-11am Saturdays. Box pickup is available at other times by appointment only.  Cherry Tomato picking is only available during farm pick up times.

NOTES ON STORING THE HARVEST Please check out our Vegetable & Fruit page on the website to find tips on maximizing the life of your veggies.  We envisage that many of the vegetables you are receiving this week will last for two weeks with careful attention to storing upon arrival. Although we do wash all the greens after harvest, we are washing to take the heat out of the plants and wash away some surface dirt, not to prepare them for consumption.  We also spray a seaweed/herb brew about every ten days.  While this will not harm you, it does have a taste. We do suggest washing your produce prior to eating.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX The following are the items harvested this week.  Items and quantities in your box may vary depending on your harvest day and the total harvest of each crop.  The boxes are completely governed by what is ripe and ready for harvest and how much of it there is.  We endeavor to divide the harvest fairly. 1/4 share: 5-7 items   1/2 share: 8-10 items   Full Share: 10-12 items
Beans Bok Choy Red Cabbage Capsicum Carrots Chilies Coriander Lettuce Spring Onions Sweet Potatoes Tomatoes Watermelon

Extras Broccoli Cherry Tomatoes Chilies –   'Pimiento de Padrons'. Eggplant Melons Zucchini

RECIPE SUGGESTIONS

Roasted Sweet Potato, Sweet Capsicum and Carrot Soup - An internet find soup with delicious flavour Watermelon, Feta and Toasted Pumpkin Seed Salad Tassajara Warm Red Cabbage Salad - This is an adaptation of a fantastic Tassajara Restaurant recipe Broccoli, Capsicum, Carrot and Bok Choy Stir Fry - This recipe can include ay protein source - tofu, chicken, beef, mung bean sprouts. We made it with onions, capsicum, carrots, broccoli and bok choy and it was delicious! Bok Choy Salad - Crispy and delicious with roasted veggies and crunchy Asian noodles

You can search our recipes by looking for the key ingredients on our website recipe page

Please note - Photo is a randomly selected full share box.

CSA Summer Share 2015-Week #11 (18 March/20-21 March)

CSA SUMMER SHARE WEEK #11 We started harvesting the leeks this week!  Perfect soup weather with the nights cooling down and the coming of the Autumn equinox. In France the 'Galeux d'Eysines' pumpkin is mostly used for soups, sauces and preserves such as pumpkin butter because the texture of the cooked fruit is very smooth. One of the tastiest pumpkins!

NOTES ON WHAT'S GROWING The next plantings of sweet corn and beans are not ready for harvest yet. The broccoli is heading up...unsure if it will be ready for next week but definitely the following.  The red cabbage is forming heads as well - Enter the Autumn brassicas! The third zucchini planting has many small fruit so we hope to able to start harvesting zucchini again next week.

Amidst tending the brassicas, curing sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes cured for a few weeks are sweeter then those straight from the ground!), harvesting all the potatoes and storing onions and seeding more greens and roots for Autumn, we are preparing areas of the farm for the green manure crops we LOVE!  These crops make a winter blanket, protecting the soil from the wind and rain of winter while providing all of the soil microbes roots to continue to feed on.  Then in Spring, they become the soil’s salad - a mixture of nutrient rich grasses, legumes and herbs which build the humus layer in the soil and feed the plants throughout the season. It is wonderful to watch the farm slowly transition from tired crops, to bare soil, to sprouting green growth.

Peter and I have been taking lots of pictures of the farm and posting them on instagram.  There are small thumbnails on our website home page.  You can click on these to see them bigger.

The cherry tomato crop is still producing for U-picking during farm pick up times!  Late summer is a great time to see the farm with late blooming sunflower rows, 2m high corn stalks, Autumn brassicas, beans, Autumn peas germinating, the pumpkins ripening, chickens in the buckwheat green manure crop...It looks fantastic and abundant!  Please bring your own containers. Limit a 1 kilo bucket per family.

Farm pickup is 2-5pm Fridays and 8-11am Saturdays. Box pickup is available at other times by appointment only.  U-pick is only available during farm pick up times.

NOTES ON STORING THE HARVEST Please check out our Vegetable & Fruit page on the website to find tips on maximizing the life of your veggies.  We envisage that many of the vegetables you are receiving this week will last for two weeks with careful attention to storing upon arrival. Although we do wash all the greens after harvest, we are washing to take the heat out of the plants and wash away some surface dirt, not to prepare them for consumption.  We also spray a seaweed/herb brew about every ten days.  While this will not harm you, it does have a taste. We do suggest washing your produce prior to eating.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX The following are the items harvested this week.  Items and quantities in your box may vary depending on your harvest day and the total harvest of each crop.  The boxes are completely governed by what is ripe and ready for harvest and how much of it there is.  We endeavor to divide the harvest fairly. 1/4 share: 5-7 items   1/2 share: 8-10 items   Full Share: 10-12 items
Basil Beetroot Capsicum Carrots Chilies Leeks Potatoes Pumpkin Silver beet Spring Onions Tomatoes

Extras Cherry Tomatoes Chilies –   'Pimiento de Padrons'. Coriander Eggplant Lettuce Melons Radishes Silver beet Watermelon

RECIPE SUGGESTIONS Carrot and Leek Soup Creamy Pumpkin Soup Breakfast Slab Pie - This is a hearty silver beet pie recipe that works great for afternoon picnics, breakfast in the car, Saturday dinner. It is from from Deb Perelman who shares loads of great food at www.smittenkitchen.com

PASTA WITH SWEET CAPSICUMS I find that sometimes the simplest of recipes allow each ingredient to be savoured. Ingredients 2 sweet capsicums sliced thinly into strips 2 cloves of garlic olive oil fresh basil leaves, ripped roughly salt and freshly ground black pepper Shaved Parmesian cheese Pasta of your choice (penne, bowties and angel hair really hold the flavours of this sauce) Method 1. Prepare pasta according to instructions 2. Put a generous jug of olive oil into a fry pan over moderate heat. 3. Add crushed garlic and sliced capsicums.  Fry until the capsicum is soft and slightly carmelised. 4. Add to pasta with fresh basil, salt and ground pepper and parmesian cheese.

You can search our recipes by looking for the key ingredients on our website recipe page

Please note - Photo is a randomly selected full share box except fot the whole pumpkin (full shares received 1/4).