Abundance Farm Eggs / A Haiku for Crowdsaucing

Monday, April 10th, 2017 at 9:10 am

When Alex from Abundance Farm stopped into the Fair Food warehouse for a chat recently I was reminded of all the times I’ve heard someone say how they’d love to get out of the city, buy some land, plant some trees, keep a few chooks and grow their own food. 

Alex and his partner, Kali, recently took that leap.  After lots of looking they found a 97 acre piece of land near Beaufort that no one seemed to want. Walking the slopes they saw possibilities others hadn’t and upon discovering three springs those possibilities suddenly seemed even more possible.  

After buying the land friends came to help; pitching-in to plant 35,000 trees, help build the chook and green houses. It’s a couple of years later and Alex and Kali are living off the grid in their beautiful teepee along with 330 chickens, a small herd of cows and several alpacas (no, they’re not in the teepee with them). 

Chatting about cow/chicken pasture rotations and growing amaranth, plantain and dandelion for supplementary chook feed I  feel like Alex could be the love-child of permaculture-founders, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Their 12 guiding principals seem as 

We get onto chook predators, some farmers use maremma dogs to guard their chickens from foxes, but Alex reckons their llama’s make just as good a “guard dogs.” Llamas, however, aren’t effective against the occasional wedge-tail eagle, though Alex believes this is a part of deal when your aim is to increase biodiversity.

Alex calculates their free range stocking rates at around 23 hens per hectare, which puts the 10,000 hens per hectare allowed under new Federal Government regulations into perspective.  I ask him how far their chickens can range before they hit a fence, “I don’t know”, he says, “we don’t have any fences.”  

You can find Alex and Kali’s Abundance Farm eggs in the webshop.


Filling your gumboots with goodness. Crowdsaucing more of the very latest

Sunday, March 19th, 2017 at 8:15 pm

What is “goodness”?  Is it like “attractiveness” or “tastiness” or “weirdness” – hard to define but you know it when you see it, eat it, feel it? There’s a day each year at CERES, more than any other, when you walk around and the overwhelming feeling is “goodness”. This day is CERES Harvest Festival and maybe it feels “good” because Harvest tries to reflect the selfless, endless giving of Nature. 

Harvest Festival is the day CERES says thanks to our good earth for the water we drink, the food we eat, the fibre we wear and for the farmers, the cooks and the makers who work with it.  Part of the goodness of Harvest Festival is that it’s a bit corny and unselfconscious; people grow and make things and share what they – like the bakers in the cake competition (that’s the cakes and the CWA judges in action above), like the jam and pickle makers and the giant vegetable growers showing off their big gourds.

This will be the first year we’ve called on vegetable growers to bring in their outsized produce and to celebrate the occasion we’ve invited special guest, Penelope Swales from the band Totally Gourdgeous, to play her gourds and talk about turning humble garden variety cucurbits into beautiful musical instruments.

There are a couple of launches too; the CERES Bee Group have been itching like a day old bee sting to unveil their new observation and education hive – they’re also bringing honey to taste. And the Tamil Feast crew are  launching their new signature range of Chai which there’ll be plenty of to try out. 

Plus you’ll find free food workshops to learn from, farm animals to commune with, our favourite musicians to fill your ears, talented face-painters, serious food stalls to fill up on and a harvest makers market to delight you with homemade wares.

A word to the wise – cake judging will take place from 11am with winners announced at 12pm.  Cake eating will commence soon after.

So, if you’ve had too much world news feed and need something for your overwhelmed and battered heart – then come give some thanks at CERES and fill your gumboots with goodness.

CERES Harvest Festival Saturday 25th March 10am-3pm CERES Brunswick East.


Hopeful photos from the heart-land. Crowdsaucing latest

Monday, March 13th, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Last week  Dori from Tamil Feasts gave us a couple of feast double passes to give away for the two most inspiring and hopeful food photos.  The picture above with the rhubarb about to be fermented is from the first of our winners, Elizabeth Long. Here’s Elizabeth’s story…..

“On a visit to my mother’s house today I told her about about my adventures with vegetable fermentation, and the particular success I have had with fermenting rhubarb – delicious in salad sandwiches!

My mother then told me a friend of hers was having some tummy trouble, so eating a lot of fermented foods – but she was buying her ferments, not making them herself. So we harvested Mum’s rhubarb and I am now preparing a batch for her and her friend – I hope they (and their biota) enjoy it as much as I do!”

I’ve never thought about fermenting rhubarb before and now I’m intrigued, I hope you can share your recipe with us as well Elizabeth.  Our second favourite photo, a blossoming cook after my own heart, came from  Debra Rose…

“This is teaching my daughter how to cook from ‘scratch’ including paratha….with a funny cheeky attitude. She’s a bit of a ‘clown’ which makes for interesting times! 

My hope is that she keeps loving engaging with food… knowing where it comes from and exploring all kinds.  I think it’s really important to share that message of cooking with our kids. Doesn’t have to be MasterChef style… just cook I say.” 

Thanks to everybody who sent in their photos of preserving, their gardens and their food-loving families. And thanks to Tamil Feasts, congratulations on your new home at CERES’ Merri Table Cafe.


Sap Rising: The Complete Urban Farmer. 21 Days of Crowdsaucing

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 at 11:44 am

Everything feels political these post-truth days – if you search the phrase “gardening as a political act” you will discover no end of articles talking up vegetable growing as an avenue of resistance.  You may even come across “Gardening is Gangsta” a Texan rotary-hoeing rap crew’s call to community gardeners world-wide to opt-out of the financial-military-industrial complex and plant more cilantro.

And I get it, but I feel like gardening’s so much bigger than identity politics. I’ve felt the awakening and seen it happen in others; out of nowhere, an undeniable drive, a gnawing need to plant and grow things, to compost and make fertile the earth. 

And there’s nothing like planting lettuce seeds into damp autumn soil, watching green first leaves emerge after rain, watering and weeding and then one morning finding your now empty salad bed criss-crossed by slimy snail trails to cruelly remind you that we are all one; blood & bone, shell & feather, in this life together.  

OK so the point of all this is that CERES has produced its first ever book based on the hugely popular Complete Urban Farmer Course, written by the hugely popular Justin Calverley who also teaches said course.  It’s written for that moment you feel the gardener’s sap rising irresistibly but don’t know what to do with these new feelings. 

You may know Justin as Digga from Triple R’s gardening show Dirty Deeds,he and The Urban Farmer  are one and the same.  More than anyone I know Justin lives and breathes soil, seeds, compost, pruning, bees, chickens, fruit trees and his talent is sharing what he’s learnt.  He’s also climbing trees in his forties so you can tell he’s one of the good ones.


Diary runneth over / No box left behind > 2018 Target

Monday, February 20th, 2017 at 12:10 pm

There’s so much going on over the next month I had to make a program……

Passata Making Workshop –  Sunday 26th February

I’m not sure how many tomato saucing devices Monique Miller has at home, but she’d easily be in the highest percentile of sauce equipment ownership in Australia. Monique, in preparation for this year’s 21 Days of Crowdsaucing, is holding a passata making workshop at CERES. Aimed at turning the uncertain sauce-maker into a feisty nonna ready to lead loved ones through the travails of passata production.  After spending a day saucing with Monique you’ll never look at a cheap tin of Italian tomatoes quite the same way again.  Bookings here

Tamil Feasts at The Brunswick Bowling Club –  Sunday, 26th February

First I was going to plug the second Tamil Feast at Joe’s Market Garden tomorrow but it’s sold-out again! There is however, for all you lawn bowling fans, Tamil Feasts’ Lawn Bowls & Curry Bowls at Brunswick Bowling Club.  For the uninitiated Tamil Feasts are put on each week by Niro, Sri, Nigathan, Nirma, four Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers who spent six years in Australian immigration detention centres.  Ably assisted by the wonderful Dori (tears of joy) Ellington, over the past 2 years this unlikely crew has shared food and stories touching the hearts of thousands in sold-out feast after sold-out feast. 

The String Contingent at Joe’s Market Garden –  Friday, 3rd March

CERES farmer, Emily Connors, is always thinking outside the waxed cauliflower box; this time she’s come up with the garden companions of classical music and urban agriculture. Now a market garden might not be the first venue that comes to mind when you’re considering catching some high-end classical strings  – but just float the image of sunset down by the Merri Creek, a garden-side picnic blanket, some nibbles and the world class String Contingent and it all starts to make perfect sense.    Bring a chair, rug, cushions and some extra cash for a CD and a special veggie show bag.  Tickets here.

CERES’ Harvest Festival  Saturday, 25th March

The biggest thing happening anywhere in Brunswick East this year, the Harvest Festival is where CERES give thanks to our good earth.  There’s the famous baking competition judged by hard but fair Country Women’s Association judges. The competition is fierce and the best thing is you can buy the cakes afterwards.  This year there’s a new preserves competition section judged by Caroline from A Bit of Jam and Pickle .  There’s also an animal petting zoo, free workshops, music, face painting, food and 10 acres of CERES  – info here  

Crowdsaucing – March & April

If you’ve ever wanted to get your family, friends and neighbours together, put your favourite accordion album on and turn a small mountain of romas into delicious passata – then this is the event for you.  Last year on Crowdsaucing Day we supported Australian farmers and preserved 5 tonnes of local tomatoes at over 100 crowdsaucings across Melbourne.  This year, to maximise the number of local tomatoes sauced and weekends to sauce them, we are going for 21 days of Saucing through late March and April.  read more here

Put A Zucchini on Your Neighbour’s Doorstep Day –  Saturday, 25th March

PAZOYND Day, as it’s fondly  known, will coincide this year with CERES Harvest Festival. PAZOYND Day is a spontaneous celebration of backyard produce sharing and neighbourliness.  Not restricted to zucchinis or squashes, PAZOYND Day encourages the informal distribution of any home grown fruit or vegetable item, fresh or preserved in order to promote greater harmony and less food waste in your hood.  (A warning – zucchinis and other produce can be a trip hazard – please place your produce with care). 


The passata is the political. When the amaranth calls your name.

Sunday, February 5th, 2017 at 9:42 am

When the world seems out of control and people all around seem to be sipping from the bubbler of blame and fear, there is something positive and practical we can do. Something simple that brings us together, that makes us nutritionally and emotionally happier, that makes our communities stronger and supports local tomato farmers.  It’s Crowdsaucing Day – Fair Food’s annual passata making event.

Crowdsaucing is simple; Fair Food buys tomatoes from local growers and delivers them to you. You organise a Crowdsaucing for friends, loved ones and neighbours or just do it by yourself if you’re a solo-saucemaker (no judgement here).

Last year Fair Food delivered tomatoes to 165 Crowdsaucings and over 300 people . Most had their Crowdsaucing Day with friends and family. Some people and organisations held public Crowdsaucing Days open to anyone – if you want to do one of these Monique can advise you and help you with promoting your event.

This year we’re launching Crowdsaucing during CERES Harvest Festival in late March. After our adventures last year organising 5 tonnes of tomatoes to be ready and delivered on one day we’ve decided to spread delivery out over three weeks to make it easier on the growers, our poor hearts and so as many people can sauce as possible.

And if you want to get your  passata making technique down and ready before your Crowdsaucing Day our own sauce-master Monique Miller is holding a Passata Making workshop on Feb 26th in the CERES Community Kitchen, 10 am-4pm.  We’ve also got a whole lot of passata making resources here.

Got any Crowdsaucing related questions – email Monique


Winter drops in. Love Crowdsaucing? Now try Krautsourcing.

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016 at 2:20 pm

It’s funny, last week I read that the 2016 El Niño was officially over, the very next day the cold front hit and it was like summer had leap-frogged autumn and gone straight into winter. Suddenly it’s too cold for Shelley and Craig Heppel to grow lettuce, Coolibah Farm’s roquette got frozen in Monday’s frost and overnight broccoli got scarce and doubled in price. For many farmers the message is clear – time to take stock, rest up, breathe out.

So now his broad beans are up (that’s them above) CERES farmer Vince is leaving the garden to farmer Emily and has gone to visit cousins in Italy, at Hazeldean Forest Farm fruit picking has finished and Marg and Jason are off to see their daughter in the UK and over at Foothills Organics in Colac, Joe Sgro is taking a couple of weeks to sort out a dodgy hip.

For the rest of us city dwellers, apart from it being a little harder to get out of bed these cold dark mornings, there’s not a lot of feedback compelling us to change our routines and rhythms. Beyond the odd long weekend and the start or end of sporting seasons we sort of go about our daily lives the same as ever. There are seasonal clues however; when we can’t find that salad mix for love nor money or it seems like there is a bit more cabbage in our lives than we’d normally care for.  That’s the world whispering to us; a gentle reminder we are here at her pleasure not the other way around.  Just in case we forgot.


It’s been a big a week in sauce. Turn right to Dench.

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 at 9:54 am

As the sun went down on Saturday’s first Crowdsaucing Day a tired, happy sauce-stained sigh of relief and a little disbelief could be heard from various Fair Food staff around the city.  Probably none more so than organiser, Monique Miller, who on Friday morning an hour before tomatoes were supposed to be despatched wasn’t sure whether there’d actually be any tomatoes to sauce.  Just in the nick of time the tomatoes came (I could kiss you Mick Ponte from Melba Fresh) and the next day in 160 kitchens and backyards around Melbourne about 500 people washed and cut, blanched and peeled, moulied and puréed and bottled and boiled about 4,000 bottles of passata.

On Saturday I dropped into two local Crowdsaucings; first down at Joe’s Garden in Coburg my heart soared seeing Jean Garita, our market garden mentor Joe’s wife, holding forth over the largest stainless steel pot in Melbourne (that’s Jean with the two hirsute gents in the photo at the top left corner).  Meanwhile down at the CERES Community Kitchen there was kind of a beautiful calm you see when a group of like-minded strangers come together to do something purposeful.

So there it is, 4000 potential meals sitting on shelves around Melbourne and every bottle cracked brings back memories of this day we spent together with our familiars or people we didn’t know before, when we made sauce and supported tomato farmers, talking and laughing and working out how we do this preserving thing that our grandparents and their grandparents did without thinking for generation after generation….


The cosmic cogs of Kelvin & Kumi Slade. 5 tonnes of saucers sold!

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 at 8:37 am

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.


Crowdsaucing – 1 week to get your tomatoes. Jenny & Steve’s Spanish Reds.

Sunday, April 17th, 2016 at 12:03 pm

If you’ve been promising yourself that this is the year you’ll make passata, it is not too late, but it almost is. There’s one more week to get your tomatoes for Crowdsaucing Day and sauce it up like they do at the Fitzroy Community Food Centre (that’s them above and yes, they’re hosting a Crowdsaucing if you’d like to go).  You can find all the public saucing events on our Sauce Host Map.  And although Crowdsaucing Day is on 30th of April we’ve set the cut-off date to buy your saucing tomatoes as midnight Sunday 24th April.  That’s one week away and they’re going fast.

There’s been some questions about Crowdsaucing Day and whether you can just buy a few boxes of tomatoes and sauce them at home.  The answer is “Yes, absolutely”  You can be a “self-saucer” or you can invite a few family and friends to your private saucing or if you’re that way inclined you can open up your saucing day to the whole community. It’s up to you.

Want to be part of Crowdsaucing Day?  Just do these 3 to 4 things:

1. Sign up on the Crowdsaucing website

2. If you are hosting a private or public saucing and want to invite people then “Create a Crowdsaucing Event” (if you’re not just go to step 3).

3. Go buy your tomatoes (click on the “Buy Tomatoes” button).

4. Then choose to either have your tomatoes delivered to a Crowdsaucing event (see the  Sauce Host Map) or to your home.

It doesn’t matter if you sauce solo or with half the neighbourhood, the key thing about Crowdsaucing Day is that we’re making sauce in our own community with tomatoes grown by our own farmers – like AusVeg Young Farmer of the Year in 2014  Nathan Free (that’s him there growing the 5 tonnes of organic tomatoes we’re saucing this year).

Nathan, who was the first organic farmer to win the young farmer of the year award, started growing vegetables when he was 15.  He first sold his produce from a roadside stall. Today he’s managing all the fruit and vegetable production on his family’s Lake Boga farm aka Alkira Organics.

Nathan’s a fifth generation farmer and through events like Crowdsaucing we want to play a part in making sure Nathan Free’s children might also get a guernsey at growing our food (if that’s what they’re into!).

Oh and lastly, if you’re passionate about passata-making but need a bit of direction, Crowdsaucing force-of-nature Monique Miller, has put together a comprehensive resource page of sauce-making info and videos, she’s even created an easy to use label template you can use on a home printer.

Read more … c