The kitchen and classroom
Today a friend and I had the pleasure of attending a "Preserves Workshop" at the Beelarong Community Farm. The morning was a real delight, with Leona Olling and Helen Paynter doing a fabulous job of showing us this wonderful community space. Both ladies have been involved with the farm for roughly 15 years.
A friendly welcome
"Beelarong" is an aboriginal word, meaning abundance and it's hard to imagine a more appropriate name for a place that's full of fresh fruit and veg.The farm is a Not-for-Profit organisation which was established in 1997. At the time the land (approximately 1 hectare) was an overgrown horse paddock which required a lot of hard work to clear. The land is leased from the Brisbame City Council and the farm is run solely by volunteers.
Rows and rows of fruit, veg, herbs etc
The Brisbane City Council pays the farm to run workshops as a part of the Council's GOLD, Active Parks, and Chill Out programs
, and the money raised covers the maintenance of the property. The cost of water, however, is becoming a big expense so heads are being put together to see if the group can devise a means of providing their own water. You can imagine how much water all those thirsty plots guzzle!
The community and the general public are encouraged to walk through the farm at any time but if you'd like to have a chat with one of the volunteers, opening times are Wednesday from 9am - 12 noon and Sunday from 3pm - 5pm.
The cob oven cooks great pizzas
So who grows their fruit and veg here? There are no parameters set for membership of the farm. Families, unit or apartment dwellers and people who don't have the right spot at home to grow fresh produce all form this gardening community. A local special school has it's own plot and students and their teacher visit weekly to work their patch. They have been doing this for the last seven years so obviously the students are enjoying the experience.
There are two ways to become involved here: you can become a member which entitles you to join in with others who work and reap the rewards of the market garden section of the farm. Annual membership costs: $30 Concession, $40 Single, $60 Family/Group, $30 Youth. Produce from the market garden is placed on the "share table" for members to help themselves. Alternatively, you can become a member and then pay $70 each year for your very own plot to tend and enjoy. At the moment there are 50 allotment holders. A small shed holds a great variety of gardening tools and wheelbarrows are also provided so you just need to turn up, glove up and get to it!
Two worm farms provide fertiliser
The farm is completely organic and chemical free and boasts two worm farms, six large, tumbling compost bins, a water flushing composting toilet (no need to pay for sewerage) and 8 solar panels which provide electricity so there are no power bills.
Compost bins are tumbled weekly
What's grown here? Just about every vegetable you can think of and then a couple of extras that are a bit out of the ordinary. Ethiopian cabbage and Ochra (originating from PNG) can be found growing here. Coffee trees, banana trees, macadamia trees, passionfruit, pawpaw trees, rosella bushes, peanuts, strawberries, herbs and bush tucker - it really is amazing and inspirational. I forgot to mention they also have a cob oven and run workshops on cooking things like pizza and scones in it.
One of the many trees you'll find in the garden
Now back to the reason my friend and I were visiting today. We were at the Farm to see some preserving and we certainly did. Leona prepared something I would never have thought of - banana jam - and it is delicious! We all brought home a jar at the very reasonable price of $1 for a small jar and $2 for a larger helping. I'm looking forward to having mine for breakfast tomorrow morning.
Banana and vanilla bean jam in the making
After our preserving effort, Helen gave us a guided tour of the property which was very informative and interesting. Maybe I'm just ignorant, but did you know that peanuts grow in the ground? And that eggplants come in colors other than .... eggplant?
Eggplants of a different colour
Something else I learnt today - did you know there is such a thing as a preserving funnel? Well, there is!
A preserving funnel saves mess and wastage
I highly recommend a visit to Beelarong Community Farm, whether it's to attend a workshop, get inspiration for your home vegie patch or to join up as a member. It's worth a visit just to see what a community that works together can achieve. President, Marion Forrest says it's great to show people that you CAN grow fresh produce in the city and at the same time nurture the land. She also stresses the importance of showing the next generation where real food comes from and how to grow it yourself.
Lavender and scented geraniums lap up the sun in the spiral garden
The mission statement for the Beelarong Community Farm is "To encourage, educate, share and nurture interest in sustainable living by creating a vibrant community farm within an urban environment." And they definitely live up to their mission statement!