So there we were, Lachie and I, standing in the unexpectedly welcome shade of gums, liquid-ambers and golden ashes. There we were looking across manicured gardens leading out to a rock-beached, dam shimmering in gentle morning sunshine, the Valley of A Thousand Hills as the back-drop. This tranquility was our welcome to the first Flowerdale Organics Workshop.
I loved this day. There were 40 very keen and committed participants from Flowerdale and Strath Creek who, through their Land Care and Junior Land Care Groups, work closely with Flowerdale. The whole Flowerdale Valley was represented with interest coming from people on small ¼ acre holdings up to larger acreages.
The always busy John Burgess welcomed us and introduced each guest. Airlie Worrall from the VFF acknowledged the importance of organic agriculture and threw the weight of their support behind the day. There was a great power-point presentation on the workings of CERES, prepared by Pete Auty – so inspiring to see how far this project has come since its humble beginnings. Pete was followed by Rowena and Owen from RDV who gave us an overview of Future Farming Strategies, and outlined the processes involved in certification. Alecksy, also from RDV gave us an insight into the importance of knowing annual rainfalls, water needs, water harvesting, water pumping rights etc in relation to the type of organic agriculture being attempted. He also explained the concept of soil profile to improve water efficiently.
We were treated to a demonstration of soil testing by Gerhard Gesser. (Of course not everyone gets excited about dirt.!!! I have many friends who would roll their eyes in disbelief that I could be thrilled to witness a soil test, but I’ll tough out the ridicule.) Gerhard knew lots about soil and compost and shared some very interesting information with us.
It’s no good having a great product unless there is a market for it. So Wayne spent some time giving us the big reality check, and explaining how important “supply chains” are to the organics project. He outlined many options which need to be carefully considered and planned to make the venture successful.
To end the day, Mandy and Ian McLaren from Yapunyah, near Greytown Vic gave us the benefit of their experience as people working towards eventually becoming Certified Organic Gardeners. We got to see some great pictures of their property, to hear about their personal highs and lows, and to meet their cute little son.
It was a day where we could ask lots of questions. It was a day when we could meet new people and strengthen & broaden networks. It was a day when we could take home our dreams and ideas and explore their possibilities. It was a day when we could enjoy the excellent hospitality, delightful staff, delicious food and serene environment of the Flowerdale Estate.
A lot of people couldn’t get to the workshop for different reasons, but I’m sure everyone who could attend would be happy to share the information and lessons we learned.
For me it was a great day, and Lachie had lots of fun too. I love the concept that, some time in the future, our dreams and ideas can become reality and help to bring a little more employment and prosperity to our own community.
Annie Robertson & Lachie Hunter