By Roz Phillipson
Two months on from the promise of apocalyptic weekend weather in December when the farm visit was postponed, the day arrived for a re-try. Together with the Beechworth Food Co-Op, Seed Savers members took the opportunity to learn from Charlie and Jade about setting up a poly-orchard on permaculture principles. From Seed Savers, Lou and Emma provided the knowledge to start growing food then saving the seeds. The Saturday in February was a perfect day for walking around the 18 acre Black Barn Farm which will – two years hence – offer “pick-your-own” facilities.
One group of people chose the morning tour while others joined the seed workshop, then in the afternoon, swapped activities. In the break a pot-luck lunch provided an opportunity to share a wonderful choice of delicious (real!) food brought by attendees, while chatting to others. People had come from all around the region – serious farmers to small back yarders. The property has been an orchard in years past with a beautiful old home and a Packing Shed which is now the focus for activities. And how stylish the shed is – decorated with recycled items in a rustic theme by Jade. A delightful space for them to welcome visitors and to students for the workshops run by Charlie.
A walking tour was preceded by geologist Charlie describing the soils and climate of the spot he and Jade have chosen to develop their orchard from scratch. It seems many of the small orchards in the Stanley area are folding, leaving big business to grow fruit on a large scale. Charlie wants to avoid all that that entails. Using pheromones to deter some pests and working on the permaculture principles to provide good soils and helpful insects to get a good crop instead. The nursery area is packed with stone fruit, apple and quince trees – along with berry bushes – in preparation for planting out. The propagating work so far has been long and arduous, but there is a vision and progress is being made.
Stanley has only four months a year with no frost which can be a challenge. Positioning of the trees is important and the water to keep them alive is from a dam with a pump using solar energy. There is much yet to be done but Charlie and Jade are up for the challenge. To help business roll along Charlie runs Grafting Workshops and Jade hosts Community Events; then there are “farm to plate” feasts … Jade has a great collection of vintage plates and cutlery in the packing shed that are used for the many types of gatherings there.
There are chooks, of course, and veggies and plans to actually construct a BLACK BARN in preparation for the opening of the orchard.
Lou and Emma spoke about the best way and time to collect seeds from our own plants. It was an opportunity to introduce people to what Seed Savers is all about and they led meanders around the kitchen garden on the property. Growing nutrient dense food small-scale is what motivates Charlie as he sees current big agricultural farming methods being viable for a maximum of only two more decades. Our own individual production and seed saving have the potential to avert major shortages … So grow stuff – then grow some more, Seed Savers!
A reminder that you can view and download our various handouts featuring techniques for seed saving from the resources section of our website.
*** Big thanks to Lou Bull and Emma Street for presenting the Seed Saving sessions as part of this day, and to Roz for this terrific account. Photos on this page courtesy of Roz and Joanne Diver.