Sometimes I have the feeling our lives are governed by the orbits of giant cosmic cogs turning in enormous orbits behind the red velvet curtain of our consciousness - (whoah, think I just stumbled onto Swatch astrology). forget that, anyway a week ago I was in the warehouse standing face to face with egg farmer and owner of Willowzen Free Range Eggs, Kelvin Slade, and it was as if a big cog had just clicked full circle.
In 2003 a fresh faced Kelvin visited CERES Organic Farm; in the green farm paddocks that were once an old tip site, Kelvin saw a flock of chickens in with milking goats and dexter cows, a little market garden and fruit trees and there were people, clearly city folk turned city farmers, and Kelvin became inspired because if they could be farmers, then so could he be a farmer. A seed was planted.
Years past, there was travel and a marriage to Kumi from Japan and work and life in many countries. And all the while the seed grew in Kelvin and coincidentally or not (big wheel keep on turning) the same kind of seed was growing in Kumi too. They found 23 hectares at Willow Grove in the foothills of the Latrobe Valley near Trafalgar which they chose for the rich soil, reliable rainfall and a strong local community.
They also made friends with fellow egg farmers (Dan from Dan's Free Range Eggs) who they learned from and met new farmers who they taught what they knew. Soon they would be taking each other's eggs to town and co-operating in ways that would improve their farms and their lives. And then the other week Kelvin turned up at the Fair Food warehouse, telling his story of how he came to CERES all those years ago and now here he is delivering his first load of eggs and I can almost hear the big cog click over.
So there's been a lot of talk about "free range" and what it means to be free range and how many chooks big egg companies can legally squeeze into a paddock and still call free range. The range of free range interpretations is as wide as this brown land - your average supermarket egg hen shares a hectare with 9,999 other hens. Fair Food egg farmers are at the other end of the spectrum - maybe even in another dimension. Kelvin and Yumi run 130 hens per hectare, Dan of Dan's Free Range runs 200 and Madelaine runs 80 chooks per hectare at her place. My 2 cents worth to the free range debate is that if you are going to put a picture of chickens on your egg box then it should show the actual stocking density of chooks on your farm.
You can find Willowzen Eggs (that's them in the picture up top reflecting actual stocking densities above) in the webshop.
Just like that 5 tonnes of saucers sold!
When you throw a party or a Crowdsaucing there's always a moment when you have the crushing fear- "What if nobody comes?" A couple of weeks ago this thought did cross my mind - along with visions of me shunned and alone in the warehouse, crying amongst 500 boxes of rotting, oozing tomatoes. But this afternoon that anxious lycopene tinted shadow was lifted by a text from Crowdsaucing organiser Monique Miller, it reported that sometime in the past 24 hours the last 10kg box of 2014 AusVeg Young Farmer of the Year, Nathan Free's 5 tonnes of organic saucing tomatoes had been snapped up.
Five tonnes of potential passata - that's quite a first up effort oh saucers of Melbourne. But now with less than a week to go there's no time to rest on Laurels or Laura's or even Lara's - it is time to prepare. A saucing day is no laughing matter, well on the day it is but beforehand it's deadly serious. Every minute of preparation before the day is worth 15 minutes on the day - I don't know if that's true but it's the sort of credible thing they say at workplace inductions so I'm going with it.
Now I'm plugging this webpage hard, because no one wants to go into a Crowdsaucing under prepared. The sauce-sanista herself, Monique, has put together one hell of a comprehensive resource page of sauce-making info and videos. So if you need to know anything about different ways to make passata or get a list of all the things you'll need on the day (and where you can find them)or, for those who like a position description, there's even a division of labour describing the various saucing roles and once you are done there's even an easy to use Avery saucing label template you can put through you home/work printer.
P.S. I just noticed the Thursday recipe newsletter that was shifting to Saturday was only sent to 47 people instead of the usual two thousand - I'll send it straight after this email in case there's something in it you want to order quinces or something else from it this week.
Have a great long weekend
CERES Fair Food's weekly update with stories from our farmers and producers, Food Hosts, the Fair Food warehouse and theworld at large.