Winter is a time on many farms when production slows down and although there is still plenty to be done and spring to be prepared for, there is a chance to breathe out and gather your energy for the coming seasons.
A few months ago a seed of an idea was planted. The idea was to take advantage of this mid-winter slow down and get together with a few like-minded food growers and people working in various ways to create alternatives to the industrial agriculture system. The seed quickly germinated and culminated in an incredible gathering last weekend of around 150 of these movers, shakers, world changers, and trendsetters coming together to share ideas, networks, knowledge, and experience.
We were honoured to be invited to the gathering and as it was hosted by Jonai Farm in Eganstown, we didn’t have to travel a fraction of the distance that many of the others did. There was an incredible mix of growers and advocates from all states and territories except the Northern Territory. What totally blew us away was the presence of not only a large number of young farmers like us who are just starting out but also, of the new farmers, the large proportion that are women!
We got to meet and share ideas, mistakes, resources, and solidarity with this great crew of farmers, both old and new. It was so inspiring to sit and hear stories from the breadth of wisdom and experience in a room full of people who have been doing this stuff for much longer than us. It gave us an opportunity to meet face to face and make real connections with people who are busily doing amazing things in their spheres but may not often have the time to speak more widely about their work.
One of the inspirational discussions had was around changing the language that is used to describe farmers. Often the words ‘struggling’ and ‘farmer’ go hand in hand, and another common misconception communicated is that farmers aren’t the sharpest tools in the box. The discussion was around how we change that language to focus on how we are ‘prosperous famers’; not just in monetary sense and by thinking outside the box in terms of how we grow our food sustainably and viably. Highlighted too was the actual diversity of intelligences it takes to run a successful and regenerative farm; sensitivity and understanding of land and ecology, marketing, communication, managing people, managing a business, accounting, weather reading, teaching, lobying…and much more!
We have come away from the weekend inspired to keep in contact with our new farming friends, visiting each other’s farms when possible and learning together as we create this new (old) way of growing food and communities. We also now have direct connections with some of the elders of the movement who are passionate about ‘growing the growers’ and helping newbies like us to learn from their experience. It’s so special to spend time with these ‘elders’ as they don’t often stop long enough to ‘talk the talk’ coz they’re too busy ‘walking the walk’ – and that’s what we’re about too!
A definite highlight was the incredible edible spread of handmade and hand grown cheeses, breads, cakes, biscuits, salads and hearty dishes at the bring-a-plate meals …the food and the heartfelt yarns shared over a steaming bowl of soup. Thanks Jonai Farm for hosting us all and for all the passionate earthy folk who travelled from far and wide to share their stories and experiences.
Sas and Mel
Gung Hoe Growers