From our paddock to your plate
–connecting producers to co-producers
In slow food we have read & heard much about how producers should reconnect to their co-producers giving them the joy of savoring fresh local seasonal produce. For some, farmers markets are a logical way to do this but it does not work for everyone. For the past 20 odd years Nirvana Organic Farm& Produce have been doing this in a unique way that goes beyond just selling produce.
As a small orchard in the urban fringe area of the Adelaide Hills just 20 minutes drive from Adelaide’s CBD (Capital city of South Australia) we have taken advantage of our location to develop a unique small business & lifestyle that not only brings the co-producers to us but also the world.
In the beginning we sold direct to retailers & restaurants .This required a lot of running around & selling, especially to restaurants whose chefs changed regularly & were never prepared to pay a fair price. (They often advertised they sold local produce but only in their dreams did they use such produce) We started selling our produce direct from our farm, constructed a small shop, & built up a clientele of individuals who appreciate quality produce.
Our produce is seasonally based, in early summer (Christmas) we produce raspberries, red & white currants & English gooseberries. Latter in summer we have blackcurrants & mulberries. Then autumn our main crop of chestnuts. In addition I make a range of jams & preserves from our produce which adds to the diversity we offer. Each crop has its own band of addicted co-producers. The advantages of this system are
· Fresh seasonal produce. When something is in season we put out a sign, many wait for the sign but some that can’t wait ring & order in advance. People are gradually beginning to understand the seasons & the shorter the season the special the taste.
· Co-producers meet the producers and visa versa. This is a great way to learn about what certain crops mean to different people, their recipes or that ‘these are the best raspberries I’ve had since I left Scotland’ on enquiring how long that was? ‘36years!’
· We can boast that the produce has traveled no more than 200metres & have been picked for opium quality.
· We can keep working. When someone comes to the shop they press a radio controlled beeper & we then can respond & serve them.
· Some of the crops are visible from the shop. This is an added experience especially with the chestnuts as often the grandfather will show the grandchildren the trees & burrs & tell them how it was in Italy 50 years ago.
Nirvana’s on farm shop
We also sell eggs to locals. Either they have standing orders or just turn up. To purchase the eggs they have to negotiate the chooks, geese & dogs to our back door where they leave their money & take the eggs. (We also buy our fresh raw milk & cream this way just down the road)
Selling our produce is only part of what we do to reconnect the city to their food.
Another part is conducting educational tours .These can be booked & fit in around our work. Being a small diverse farm all the elements can be demonstrated. The produce, native areas, poultry, home gardens both productive & ornamental are all there to experience & learn from. For those that want to know more in the Spring I conduct a range of courses that reflect how we do things. These include bio-dynamic methods, home vegetables, poultry keeping, fruit, nut & berry growing & very importantly composting.
We also host work experience students & WWOOFers (willing workers on organic farms) which brings the world to us.
Adelaide Hills slow food convivium programs also assist in the connection process. Nirvana Organic Farm has hosted a ‘meet the grower’ day with a farm walk & chestnut banquette & also a fundraising event catering for one of our open days
Another program. ‘SHARE A SKILL’ offers a real learning experience to our members.
Many of the skills we have we take for granted, yet someone may be eager to acquire that same skill. You may also be relucent to have a whole tribe of onlookers watching your every move Some jobs an extra pair of hand would be handy with a bonus of learning. Some skills would need a few sessions e.g. wine/beer making. Recently this proved very popular with Nirvana’s annual plucking goose party just before Australia Day. The response was so overwhelming we had to put names in a hat & conduct a draw to see who would attend. Although participant where apprehensive at the beginning they soon got into the tasks at hand & at the end of the evening where rewarded with a top quality dressed goose to celebrate Australia day & the knowledge of where it came from & how it got from our paddock to their plate. We refer this type produce & experience as something that money can’t buy.
Convivium Leader Adelaide Hills
Terra Madre delegate 2004