X5 2017 Masthead
Rich and Liz

Fig Tree Farm: A Farming Community

Molly McLaughlin

Ever wondered how we can buy asparagus in the supermarket in the middle of winter, or bananas all year round?

A complex international network of food transportation means we never have to eat seasonally or have any contact with the farmer who grows our food. Rich Carey, a sixth generation farmer at Wee Jasper, believes there is a better way to eat.

Along with his fiancée Liz, he is bringing Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) to Canberra by growing vegetables at Fig Tree Farm.

CSA is a model that means members buy into the farm’s produce before the start of the season, and then receive the vegetables as they are harvested. Your initial finance supports Fig Tree Farm through its growing season, leaving you to reap the rewards from October onwards.

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“This is something I’ve worked towards for a couple of years and it seemed like a really good fit for us,” he explains. “We’re the ones actually growing the food from seed right up until harvest and we want to really form a community with our members, so we invite them out to the farm and if they want to know anything about it they can ask us.”

After a couple of years in the police force, Rich decided to combine his passions for gardening and sustainability at Fig Tree Farm. While CSA has been popular in the U.S. for decades, it’s just starting to catch on in Australia.

SO WHY CSA FOR FIG TREE FARM?

“CSA appealed to me because of the connection with your food,” says Rich. “You can walk in to a supermarket and expect it all to be there, but that’s not what it’s like in the real world. Our food has travelled only around 80 kilometres to get to Canberra so people are getting the veggies less than 12 hours after they’ve been picked, whereas at the supermarket it’s a week old at best.”

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Fig Tree Farm grows heirloom varieties of vegetables, sourced from rare seed banks. Rich’s favourite at the moment is a unique breed of tomato called Green Zebra, which never turns red as a camouflage technique to protect in from birds.

“People have moved away from heirloom varieties because they may not look as pretty or they don’t store as well,” he says. “But if you’ve got a vegetable that your grandparents used to grow and you haven’t seen it since, you can put us onto it and we’ll try to track it down.”

SO HOW DOES IT WORK?

Members of Fig Tree Farm will begin receiving vegetables once a week from the end of October.

Rich will pick the veggies and then bring them into two collection points in Canberra, one in Dickson and one in Mawson.

Rich does caution, however, that in CSA the subscribers buy into both the risk and rewards of farming.

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“So if we have a bumper crop of tomatoes our CSA members will be making sauce for days,” explains Rich. “Conversely, if we have an extreme weather event or a major insect attack there is a potential for us to lose part of the crop and there may not be as much in that weekly box as we would have liked.”

The contents of the box will vary depending on what is in season, but Rich believes that it is all part of the farming experience.

“Hopefully it can take some time out of your shopping trip because you’re not wandering around the veggie department,” he says. “It’ll get more veggies into your diet and challenge you to learn new recipes. You may end up with more food than you know what to do with, which will encourage you to learn pickling or preserving. You can even share with the people around you, like people with veggie patches used to.”

Rich is currently in the middle of planting for the upcoming season. Farming is a never-ending and sometimes unforgiving job come rain, hail or shine, but he knows that producing something as important as food in a sustainable way is worth it.

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“For me this is not just a job, it’s definitely a lifestyle, as clichéd as that is. We’ve already planted garlic and the broad beans are going in in a few weeks. With the rain we’ve had lately, if now we get a bit of sun we’ll be off to a great start.”

Fig Tree Farm is offering early-bird pricing until 10 June, and will be sending out a monthly newsletter to members with recipes and updates.

the essentials

What: Fig Tree Farm’s Community-Supported Agriculture
Where: Vegetables are grown in Wee Jasper and pick up locations are Dickson and Mawson
When: Buy into this year’s harvest from now until June. Pick up of vegetables will be from October onwards.

You can find out more here. www.figtreefarmweejasper.com.au

Images by Martin Ollman.

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Molly McLaughlin

Molly McLaughlin is new to Canberra and is attempting to prove to her friends that the capital city can be cool. This mostly involves frequently going out for brunch and then posting about it on social media, along with trekking up hills and around art galleries. She is half way through her uni degree but spends most of her time reading, writing and planning her next adventure. More about the Author