Apples are back in season. Over the weekend I was talking to Jason from Hazeldean Forest Farm about the faith involved planting an apple orchard. It takes around five years before a new planting starts to pay back and often the planting doesn't work out first time. Jason reckons over the last 30 years he has regrafted or replanted about a 1/3rd of his orchard, sometimes regretting it later.
"The faith you have to have is that generally human needs don't change; people will still want what they want now; crisp, juicy, flavoursome fruit"
Jason talks about farming in a way where all the things that make it an occupation too scary for many to contemplate; challenging pests & disease (coddling moth & scab), a changing climate (last year it stopped raining in September), inconsistent income (the Alexandra's have had zero profit seasons) have all been digested and put aside long ago.
I ask about the stress of a whole year's work coming down to a few weeks of harvest, facing an uncertain market and the race to sell everything before it starts to rot in the bins. Again Jason sort of lets the worries wash over him.
"Sometimes, not often, you just leave a part of a crop unpicked, but I guess the diversity of our apple varieties has really protected us and then we make juice and lately there's been our cider and apple cider vinegar."
Day to day on the farm Jason says it's like conducting; there's lots of material handling and timing things. Not just doing things but doing things at the right time. The bonus is that it tunes you into natural cycles and this is the work that really lights Jason up.
"In nature everything is food for something else and the trick is to work with that."
They plant trees and shrubs to encourage predatory spiders, bats and birds. Last year Jason and Marg put out 180,000 parasitic wasp eggs to suppress coddling moths and other insect pests. And it's not just a practical relationship, Jason speaks so proudly of the nest of golden whistlers he was having a half-hour whistle-off with the other day - adding as an after thought that they also help control insects.
The resilience, connection to country and big picture vision of fruit growers like the Alexandra's constantly impresses me. Makes me think our governments would do well to have a lot more orchardists in its ranks (maybe there could be a party).
This week Jason and Marg's new season Summer Red and Akane apples are in the webshop. Spartans primas, galas, golden dels jonathons and fujis will follow. You can also buy Hazeldean fruit and meet Jason and Marg at Collingwood Childrens Farm, Abbotsford Convent, Gasworks, St Kilda, Boorandarra, Fairfield and Hawthorn Farmers' markets
New Food Host in Town
A big welcome to Daniel our new Food Host in Fowler Crescent, Newport. Pick-ups start this Thursday between 5pm-9pm. Inner West locals may also know Daniel as the owner of Woven cafe in Yarraville and he also has a cat called Ninja. Daniel is taking over from Amanda our Bena St,Yarraville Food Host. Amanda has been one of Fair Food's longest standing Food Hosts and we'd like to express our gratitude and all out best for the future - thanks so much Amanda.
If you don't know about Food Hosts, they're Fair Food's volunteer-run neighbourhood pick up points where you can collect your Fair Food groceries (delivery for the host and their participating neighbours is free by the way). There are over 70 committed families, individuals and businesses generously sharing their verandahs, carports & shopfronts. In a time where fear-mongers seek to divide us Food Hosts are an inoculant to intolerance, an antidote to individualism, an opportunity to contribute and serve and a place you might say hi to your neighbour. They're another little piece of positivity in our human puzzle - undoing selfishness with a bit of simple generosity.