17 October 2013


As I said in my first post I am happy to be led down the garden path by you guys on topics, and Kelli got me thinking about one of my favourites. SEEDS.

I am always in awe and amazement at what a seed contains. It is mind blowing that tiny seeds can hold all the information needed to grow into their full potential whether it be a humble radish (maybe not so humble when you consider this beauty), or a majestic tree.
The diversity and complexity of each seed is nothing short of magical, and as I think about how high my favorite scarlet runner beans will get by late summer, I can easily understand the origins of the story of jack and the beanstalk .

Sow how do we grow our veg here (not a spelling mistake just my sense of humour)?

We grow all our veg from seed and almost always have. The few times we have bought in seedlings we haven't really had any success with them.

I'm not saying you should do this as each gardener or farmer has to find the way of growing that feels comfortable with them. If you want to buy seedlings from the nursery then awesome and if you want to buy seed and then save you're own seed to plant again then awesome to you too. But don't get caught up in which is the best way, or the way you should do it, just do it.

We have tried many different seed companies and I would say that my obsession with diversity follows through to them too. I usually end up ordering seed from at least a few of them, mostly because not one of them has all the seeds I'm after. I also try and buy only Certified Organic seed as it is a requirement of our certification but it also means I am supporting other Organic growers.

One of my favorite seed catalogues would have to be Diggers because of their diversity and their commitment to sourcing heirloom varieties. We have had a lot of success and enjoyment from heirloom varieties. The flavours, vigour, colours and diversity are astounding and something to be cherished.

We have almost always sourced open pollinated seed so that we can save our own seed if we want to.

I just love planting seeds and patting them down and eagerly checking on their progress. Sometimes I just can't wait and I will carefully dig around looking for the seeds and checking for any movement. I shouldn't really disturb them, but I do love seeing the tiny shoots sneaking out of their cases.

Kelli also wanted to know about our "planning and preparation process - such as raising seedlings for transplanting and succession planting.", but I don't think we are as organized as we could be and rather than me give you a how to I would like to suggest to you some wonderful resources that we have used through the years.

Joyce Wilkie & Michael Plane from Allsun Farm are farmers that I have long respected and followed. I have been long a long time customer of their great garden-farm supply company and purchased their CD-ROM very early on in our farm adventure. It is an invaluable resource and I am always amazed when I suggest it to people and they haven't heard of it. I remember sitting on our porch surrounded by our first garlic harvest with the printed out pages from the CD-ROM learning how to make beautiful plaits.

Steve Solomon is a man who knows a lot about seeds. His book Growing Vegetables South Of  Australia has been one of those books I refer to all the time. It is about growing in Tasmania and our climate here is pretty similar, but there is so much other useful info in there it would be worthwhile wherever you are. He also started an online Soil and Health Library that has hundreds of great free ebooks, most of which are out of print and public domain.

Well I think that's enough from me now.
Please keep commenting and asking as you see I do take your suggestions on board and a quick reminder that I have been replying to a lot of your comments, so flick back and check.

Farmer Bren.

05 October 2013

Free Range?

Free Range Eggs

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald a few days ago got me thinking. I don't actually read the newspaper or watch the news on TV. I call it the bad news. I'll never forget an interview I heard once with a psychologist who was not surprised at the the number of people who struggle through their day having been woken by their clock radio telling them all the bad things that are happening in the world.

Wow I can see how people can digress in this blog thing.

What are Free Range Eggs?

I should have the answers. Some of the facts are relatively simple:

Certified Organic eggs are always free range. Something that I find people still don't understand. There are 7 different certifiers and logos in Australia.

Free Range Farmers Association , FREPA , Humane Choice, and others have strict regulations limiting numbers between 750 to 1500 hens per hectare. Check the Sustainable Table's site for a good comparison table.

Stocking rate is important but doesn't actually take into account grazing management.

Certified Organic producers are independently audited and inspected every year. As for the others, it's not so clear.

Eggs that say Free Range but don't have any Accreditation Logo could be anything.

But even these facts aren't that simple to find, or to understand, and I'll admit I might not even have the facts all right, and I am an egg farmer.

No wonder the consumers are bewildered and choice has made a super complaint (great name) about the situation.

Understandably producers are scrambling to identify themselves, with new labels such as Pasture Ranged Organic, and Beyond Organic. But I'm not sure if this helps or just adds to the confusion. I mean what exactly is beyond organic anyway?

If you're waiting for my wise conclusion you might have to wait till I'm older and more cynical because as I heard Tim Minchin say recently to his old Uni;

"A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like arse-holes, in that everyone has one. There is great wisdom in this… but I would add that opinions differ significantly from arse-holes, in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.

We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others.
Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat.
Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege."
I think these may be some of the wisest words I've heard in a while, and what this means to me is that I don't have the answers, I'm still trying to figure it all out.

I could tell you that the best thing to do would be to get to know you're local farmer, shop at farmers markets, do you're research, even visit the farms you buy from, and these things probably will help you make an informed choice.

Or I could say that you should raise your own chickens and that is the ultimate way to know where you're eggs come from.

BUT I don't believe I should tell you to do anything. Do what you want. If it's important to you you will try, like me, to figure it out for yourself and not be told what is best for you.

Well what a rant. When you sit down and start writing like this it can certainly open up a can of worms, but as the earth would not exist without worms, maybe that's a good thing.

Farmer Bren