This week for the Gung Hoe Growers blog Claire has taken the spotlight. We are working with her and Aunty Julie and Melinda Harper to transform one of our plots into bush foods. This project is super close to our hearts and we are beyond excited to be working with such wisdom and wonderful, strong women. We’ll let Claire tell the rest!
An appreciation and connection to food has always been an integral part of my life. My earliest memories are of growing up in my parents fruit and veggie store in a small town where my father was affectionately known as ‘The Spud Man,’ my childhood was filled with days of my Nana regaling us with stories of her dairy farm, the passion she had for her Jersey cows and the mischief they would get up to.
As I got older my love for cooking came to the forefront and I established my passion for quality produce. Although it wasn’t until the local food movement really took off that I started thinking more critically about the impact of large-scale agriculture, the environmental consequences of importing our foods and the importance of knowing where your food came from.
I was introduced to Mel and Sass at Gung Hoe through Melinda Harper and Aunty Julie McHale who have both taken me under their wings in the last year and quickly become important figures in my life. Melinda and Aunty Julie have been an incredible help in getting me involved in the indigenous and local community in Castlemaine. Through working with Nalderun at Murnong Mama’s catering and helping out occasionally at The Meeting Place, both have been quick to help steer me toward opportunities that align with my goals and interests.
Fostering a connection with local, seasonal produce has become one of my passions and Gung Hoe has truly nurtured that connection. After moving to Campbell’s creek two years ago I’ve realised the true importance of community, and Gung Hoe and the Harcourt Organic Food Co-operative exemplify all of these ideas and values that now mean so much to me.
Whilst weeding and mulching has become the main focus right now, the excitement of planning an Indigenous food garden with Sass has been a driving force for myself and something exciting to look forward to in a time with few certainties ahead. It will be a new venture for all of us and a much anticipated one at that, whilst I’ve learned so much already from Mel and Sass over the past several months I hope I can bring the knowledge that the irreplaceable Aunty Julie has taught me to the table. Right now we’re focusing on planning the layout and prepping the soil for planting, but I can’t help but already feel the excitement of watching the plants grow and thrive, which will then be used in the Murnong Mama’s kitchen.
With the incredible rain we’ve been having the soil is soft and rich and I’ve noticed the amount of beautiful big worms wriggling through it has greatly increased, the heavy morning fog is starting to lift and the sun is no longer retreating behind the clouds. With the view of all of the rows of flowering plants with the shadow of Leanganook in the background, the farm is absolutely idyllic and reflects the positivity and kindness of the people who work it.
During the pandemic I’ve looked forward to my Thursday mornings on the farm, my opportunity to have a yarn with everybody over a cuppa with the amazing milk from Sellar Dairy, get the chance to have a pat and play with the lovely dogs of the farm and step out and enjoy the incredible views and vibes that the location have to offer. It has quickly become my favourite day of the week and a much needed reboot for the spirit and soul.
For those of you who don’t know who Murnong Mamas or the Meeting Place are – find out here https://nalderun.net.au/
Photos and Words By Claire.