Hello to all our wonderful Farm Friends and welcome to our Summer Newsletter.
Things have been a little busy here at the Farm since reopening so there’s quite a bit to fill you in on!!
Since our last newsletter in September, we’ve happily been able to reopen to the public! Its been wonderful to have the Farm full of children and families and filled with the sounds of laughter again – it has been too quiet for too long. We also extend our thanks to both the public and the Farm members for you collective patience and support as we adjusted to operating in this very different ‘Covid-normal’ environment. We know that the teething problems with online ticketing and memberships have been frustrating, but you have shown great understanding for a small non-profit operating in unchartered waters and we are very grateful.
We are also grateful for the level of understanding you have shown embracing what is arguably a very different Farm experience to what you previously enjoyed pre-Covid. So many of our regular activities were incompatible with physical distancing and visitor density restrictions, but you took up our self-guided activities and reveled in the opportunity to spend time in nature, with animals and community. You have been patient as we got back on our feet and because we are a non-profit that is majority funded through trade, your choice to return and spend your precious dollars here at your Farm has not just meant we have survived, it has also helped us gallop into 2021with confidence.
And that takes us nicely to a second piece of wonderful news…
Victorian State Government’s ‘Working for Victoria’ employment scheme
We are thrilled to announce the CCF was successful in its application for funding through the Victorian State Government’s ‘Working for Victoria’ employment scheme. This significant funding package has allowed the Farm to embark on a major recruitment campaign, resulting in a seismic increase in CCF’s capacity to manage its land and animals, deliver inclusive programs, engage with the wider community and increase its financial sustainability.
This scheme is a real game changer for the Farm and its wider community, so get excited!
Working for Victoria sees the Farm welcome a volunteer coordinator, community program support worker, carpentry instructor, farm-experience officer and education officers to the community engagement team. As we look to revamp and relaunch our community and education programs and ramp up our visitor experience for 2021, this couldn’t come at a better time!
We will welcome a team of horticulturists and full time buildings and grounds maintenance officer to the Farm Operations team and with acres of gardens, orchards, pastureland and communal spaces to keep beautiful, productive and accessible, we are stoked to have more hands on deck.
Out front, we will welcome administration officers who will be on hand at the front desk! They will be welcoming you with a big smile and answering all your questions and also diving into the systems and processes to make your time at the Farm more user friendly and enjoyable.
Our new Events manager will bring an exciting calendar of programs, workshops and events to the Farm! This events program will see an ever increasing number of people introduced to the hidden gem that is Collingwood Children’s Farm and will generate the revenues needed to keep our doors open, our animals healthy, our spaces productive and beautiful and our community programs humming!
In January we harvested 848kg of fresh produce from our new market garden! It’s been transformed from a paddock into a thriving garden and we’re reaping many rewards. Along with visitors, we’ve been delighted to watch crops such as corn emerge to tower at 6ft and now eagerly await to share the joy of eating such goodness fresh – even raw! An old saying goes … ‘have the pot boiling before you pick’ as the corn sugars turn to starch quickly – so farm fresh corn is something you’ll all want to try!
Our zucchini, greens, fresh herbs, beetroot and cucumber have been on regular sale at our farmgate, now operating every week Mon through to Thursday 9:30am – 3pm. We’re looking forward to keeping consistent produce available for sale outside reception – so feel free to tell a friend too! We’re so happy we get to share the experience of growing fresh food, from kids watching the logistics of planting through to harvesting, washing and direct sale, as we all enjoy more food grown directly on the Farm. Come say hi!
We’ve also donated several hundred kilograms of fresh food to Moving Feast last month, as part of our ongoing collaboration with several organizations to support those who need relief.
The Farm has been working in collaboration with the Narrap Rangers on a host of projects including the First Nations Showcase Food Garden. In December the Narrap Rangers team and CCF staff members gathered for a professional development day to learn about each other’s work. We listened to different approaches of how to care for country and share observations and knowledge about growing, land management and talked about future projects and how we can look after this section of Birrarung. The Bennelong Foundation funded the staff to attend this day and we are very grateful to have their support to build capacity in these teams to grow our knowledge together and continue to look after this special place.
Aunty Di, her daughter and granddaughter came in the morning and welcomed us to their country. We harvested murnong with sticks together. It was a great pleasure to share this experience with Aunty Di, her family and the Narrap Rangers.
We were also fortunate enough to have Katherine Horsfall of University of Melbourne share her research in progress about establishing grassland species from direct sowing of seed in a number of trial plots in Royal Park. Listening to different techniques and practices like this is extremely valuable and we thank you Katherine for your time and look forward to hearing more in the future.
Summer is a busy time in the orchard with lots of growth from both the fruit trees and weeds!
We started the season by netting most of the fruit trees in the orchard and also other places on the Farm. This is a huge undertaking as some of our trees are several metres high and so ladders and brooms were essential!
Since welcoming visitors back onsite, we’ve been trying to keep the free-range hens within the orchard to reduce the number of lunches being stolen from plates and hands in the cafe area. The ladies have brought much charm and are always thrilled to find stone fruit, tomatoes and apples that have dropped to the ground. They also do a great job of keeping the area under the shady citrus trees free of weeds and pests like slugs!
In late December we started harvesting the first of the stone fruit. Damage from insects, pests and other critters meant some of the fruit wasn’t fit for sale… much to the delight of our pigs/champion composters Myrtle and Jacob. Sadly, we arrived one day to find that one of our Plumcot trees, which was ready to harvest, had been stripped of its fruit overnight (presumably stolen). Despite such setbacks we managed to harvest bucket loads of stone fruit which was both sold at the Farm-gate stall and donated to Moving Feast food relief.
With the end of the summer fruit comes the huge job of summer pruning some of the trees to prepare them for the ongoing years of production.
Summer in the community gardens
The varying weather conditions of storms to high temperatures and hot dry winds this summer has led to very productive growth. Great for veggie production but weeds and grass also grew annoyingly fast.
Many of our plotters go away for the school holidays, but luckily for everyone, there are some very committed people from the Community Gardens Working Group, gardeners and community members that maintained the plots at ‘Come As You Can Working Bees’ coordinated by Peter Barber .Thank you to all for a mighty effort in weeding, watering and maintaining a productive, welcoming and safe gardens. Now it’s up to all the regular plot holders to maintain this standard, and help each other when needed.
Peter also works with a group of volunteer gardeners who grow and deliver fresh veggies to a number of community groups. If you would like to learn more or join this group which meet every Sunday from 9:00am to 12:30pm, contact the Farm and we will put you in touch with Peter.
Original Plot Holder Honoured and Plot Repurposed
Angelo’s Plot has been named in honour of Angelo Athanasiades, an original plot holder. It has now been taken over by our Moving Feast partners Cultivating Community and STREAT to further a collective endeavour for food security for those in need. This space will enable training and mentoring opportunities to these organisations. Cultivating Community has dismantled the shade/mesh framework which Angelo built to put in new retaining walls. An ethical social enterprise, their workers are available to hire for such works and as you can see, they do great work. See photo above right..
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Community Gardens and you live in the City of Yarra, you can apply on the website. There is a wait list, but you can then join the communal gardeners in the meantime.
The Gardens during COVID –
It became clear by the middle of March 2020 that the COVID pandemic was a very serious global threat and would have a huge impact on the Farm and the Community Gardens. Little did we realise the extent of its impact.
As the crisis deepened and people left the gardens to self isolate, a small but determined group of gardeners saw the need to maintain the site and ensure it remained in a manageable condition. The first action was to make sure they did not become overgrown. Several people in the local area were wanting to garden and were offered the opportunity to help out around the site and as a result we have some great new gardeners.
The staff at the Farm had their hands full with their own problems but they always found time to assist when they could with weed disposal and mowing and slashing. Initially this was on an as needs basis but as warming spring weather accelerated plant growth, these tasks were undertaken fortnightly with the result that the Community Gardens have never, in recent times, looked better.
During the entire period, there was no action plan, lists or allocation of tasks. A spirit of gentle cooperation focused on one goal pervaded the work, self organisation guided the actions and our love of and for the gardens, enjoyment of being outdoors and with each other plus a sense of achievement kept the group on the move week in, week out. And as well as helping the neighbourhood it was great for building relationships and our well being and mental health in this time of crisis and change
As a result of these efforts we were able to welcome people back to a revitalised site, let them see the potential of the gardens and have them join us in continuing the work this small group had done. The scene is set for future improvement and development focussing on Safety, Access, Productivity and Community with a committed, unified group of gardeners in this extraordinary place.
With a La Niña event well underway this Summer, we have managed to keep the paddocks looking lush and green for longer than usual. With more rain comes more grass and most of our animals have been taking full advantage of it, fattening up just in time for our smiling visitors to re-join us on the Farm!
We were so happy to finally see the Farm reopening to the public after such a long break. The farmers have been working very hard while we were closed, so please keep your eyes out for them and have a chat about all the great new changes. Our animals had been itching for a scratch from our Farm friends.
You may have noticed that all our sheep had quite a makeover in November after a visit from the shearer, who gave them all smart haircuts to keep them cool in the Summer heat. The wool can now be spun and made into jumpers or beanies for a cold Winter’s day.
Our baby lambs and goat kids have been growing up quickly. Some are almost as tall as their mums! Four of our goat kids have gone to new homes. As much as we would like to keep everyone here, we do not have the space. Our 7 lambs have now been weaned which means they no longer need to drink milk from their mother. They still love to frolic and you can see them regularly bouncing through the long grass.
Our cow Daphne is due back to the Farm very soon after a lovely holiday at our friend Will’s farm. Her belly has been growing bigger and bigger as her due date approaches. We cannot wait to welcome her back and meet her new bub. – Kate and Mia