The buzz word… “Sustainability…”

It is very much a buzz word, and has been for a little while now. But what does it really mean? One definition I found was pretty apt: “Practically, sustainability refers to three broad themes, economic, social and environmental, that must all be coordinated and addressed to ensure the long term viability of our community and the planet.” (http://www.benefits-of-recycling.com/definitionforsustainability.html)

True sustainability is, I believe, hard to achieve, but once there, should be, by definition easy to maintain. 1 years ago, I started researching mudbrick, ramed earth and strawbale houses, 11 years ago, Hayley and I purchased our first house in The Basin, at the foothills of Mount Dandenong and a little over 1 year ago, we purchased our little piece of heaven south of Buninyong. Here, we have tried and continue to try to live a life that is as sustainable as we possibly can, in every sense of the word. Our market garden is in it’s infancy, but is slowly producing an income, socially, we have made a number of new friends in the local area and have kept the friendships we have made from the places we have lived over the past 12 years and environmentally we are trying to minimise our impact on this planet both on a local level but also a global level.

In the coming months, the farm will have a new sustainable addition in the form of a small greenhouse to house my Aquaponics Mk III and to raise our seedlings, a shade house and a strawbale work shed which will be the hub of our market garden operation. The plan is to have the aquaponics system running purely off solar and also electrify the shed via the same off-grid solar system. This is all a big ask to get done with little to no money while working full time and market gardening in the my spare time, not to mention be a loving and caring dad and husband, but in the long run, it will be worth it. I am a stubborn mule, and maybe a little OCD (OK a lot), so when I get stuck on an idea, I don’t stop until I follow it through. Lucky Hayley and the kids are understanding and also see the bigger picture!

But it doesn’t just end here on the farm. At work work, I have the privilege to be closely involved in the “sustainability” development. This includes both the academic element as well as the practical element. I am in the midst of planning a “Tiny Farm” at the school, which, over 3-5 years will hopefully feed the school ie canteen and home economics department, as well as provide excess to sell to the immediate community. Hopefully all this work will make an impact on the students and they begin to understand why this buzz word is so important.

Food Miles

Food Miles is a term  used to measure the transport distance traveled by food products between production and consumption. A research study into distances travelled for food items found in a typical Melburnian’s shopping basket revealed that food items like oranges, sausages, tea, baked beans etc with ingredients sourced from overseas have seen more of the world than most people. The report estimates that the total distance travelled by 29 of our most common food items is 70,803 km—that’s nearly two times the distance around the Earth! Struth Ruth! 

Although we are only a small farm, at the moment being able to supplement the larder of about 10 families, we can be proud to say that we are making a slight dent on global carbon emissions, albeit very small. We are regularly supplying a variety of vegies to people in Ballarat, Ballan and Bacchus Marsh, and although Bacchus Marsh is 80kms away, it is where I work work and thus somewhat reduces the food miles calculations. It’s great to be able to supply local people with local produce, with our surprise bag being very popular, while others preferring to by items individually.

Daylight hours are slowly reducing and it is making it much more difficult to keep up with the demands of work and the market garden. Soon I will be leaving in the dark and returning in the dark and market garden work during the week will grind to a halt. Hopefully by that stage, all of our winter crops will be in and the staggered plantings of staples like lettuce, cabbages, bok choi, pak choi and a handful of root veg, will be all that is required on the weekends. But then there is the stockyard to build, the greenhouse to build, the shed to build, the animals to tend…

Would I change anything? Not on your life 🙂

Back to work… need more hours…

This was my first week back at work. It is going to be very interesting managing my time, splitting it up between work work and the farm as well as making sure I have enough energy to be dad and husband. So far so good though, with daylight savings and irrigation, managing time is a bit easier. After work, dinner and when the boys are in bed, it’s a couple of hours (give or take) doing urgent farm jobs, Saturday it’s 6 hours of solid work to catch-up on what wasn’t done during the week and the rest of the day is family time and Sunday is a lay couple of hours here and there for chores and then family time for the rest. A tricky balance, but manageable.

A few more sales over the last couple of weeks, totaling 8 in all. Word is spreading and soon we will have a solid customer base in which we should be able to meet demand. Autumn/winter planning and seeding starts now, ready for planting at the end of the month, just in time for everything to be ready for steady harvest. A busy time coming up…. bring it on!