I started at my next WWOOFing destination last Saturday, out at Blampied, between Ballarat & Daylesford.
The week before I was in Ballarat to do the first weekend of the Ballarat Permaculture Guild’s “All Seasons Permaculture Design Course”. The first day we did a tour of the “Urban Food Garden” in Ballarat. John Ditchburn grows a large proportion of his family’s food here, on a suburban block. This small and slow solution provides an example of the amount of food that can be grown in an ordinary house block, it’s not neccessary to have a couple of acres in the country. He has a website here: www.urbanfoodgarden.org
While in Ballarat I planted some leeks and brassicas (cabbage, broccoli & pak choy). The veggie plot was prepared first by clearing it of the lettuces that had been growing there, leaving a few to go to seed so hopefully self seeded lettuces will appear later. Compost and mulch were then added, and the seedlings planted into nests in the mulch. My WWOOF host here at Blampied suggested that Winter veggies might be a good thing to grow in Ballarat – there’s water in Winter and you can create microclimates in backyards with a bit of frost protection. The “BREAZE Ballarat Region Best Organic Veggie Competition”, held last year at the Ballarat Show in November, is a great example of the large range of veggies that can be grown in Ballarat in Winter. Have a look here for some pictures – www.breaze.org.au
I started my WWOOFing here by helping at the Lakeside Market in Ballarat. My host here is a certified organic farmer. He sells his fruit & veg at the local farmers markets, as well as running a veggie box scheme to the surrounding towns.
The veggies are grown in a large patch out in a field. The area they are grown in is on a rotation of about 10 years & includes grazing by sheep, planting a crop of lucerne, red clover, grains etc. The amount being grown is huge in comparison to the amount I’m used to seeing, this is the first place I’ve visited that grows commercially. The soil had enough fertility in it to grow the plants without any form of fertiliser being necessary, the only thing brought to these plants has been water. The soil is volcanic and a lot of work has been done over the last 20 years to restore it using permaculture and organic methods. Early on a Yeoman’s plough was used for example to break up any hard pans created by ploughing in the past. The plants here held up extremely well in the heat wave of four days over 40C, it shows what can be done with soil which has had the work put in to improve it’s fertility and water holding capacity.
Last Sunday I went to the Talbot market and worked at the stall selling the fruit and veg. We sold them in bunches or by weight. We sold Nicola potatoes, carrots, parsnips, yellow squashes, zucchini, corn, cabbage, swiss chard, broccoli, mizuna, rocket, tatsoi and apples. He keeps the pricing pretty simple, so it wasn’t too difficult to remember. I found I could even start to estimate the price before I weighed out the produce.
This is my first stay on a commercial farm. They are able to grow fruit and veggies here, without the use of chemical fertilisers or pesticides. They also grow a large variety of produce to supply a good mix in the veggie boxes & at the Farmer’s Markets. It’s interesting to see a place where the income relies on what can be grown.