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Hard work and a tiny garden grown large

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Dimity May worked doggedly in her 20s for a career in communications, publishing and even celebrity management.

But hitting her 30s saw her focus drawn in almost the complete opposite direction – downwards, toward the earth and the possibilities in nature.

“I wish I’d discovered it when I was footloose and fancy free in my twenties but instead the passion hit in full force right when I was most tied down, busy with my career, paying a mortgage and having babies.”

“I had pretty severe postnatal anxiety and depression after my first son, and strangely, that really difficult time was the impetus that started me properly down the path of growing and has subsequently given me so much joy.”

Dimity has started a tiny seedling project from her backyard in suburban Reid (under the name Reid Tiny Farm) and in the last six months has joyously expanded to a Pialligo plant poly tunnel.

Her therapy of playing in the soil has transformed into a burgeoning business.

“Growing seedlings was never my plan, I wanted to farm but had a tiny baby, so couldn’t gallivant off doing the kind of intensive practical internships and on-farm jobs I was dreaming of. So seedlings sort of came about by accident as a way to keep growing in my own backyard, whilst my primary role was as a full-time mum. And then it just grew from there. It’s been a very happy accidental career!”

The big move to Pialligo came about after Dimity set up a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription for seasonal seedling boxes last year.

“I had 50 members sign up in just two days, people were just incredibly receptive and supportive. I did one CSA season at home, but almost immediately outgrew our backyard. So looking around for land, I cold-called Roy Priest, who owns a large property in Pialligo where he lives and farms, and where he and his wife Barbara also run a beautiful community garden called Pialligo Garden Lots, and asked if he’d consider leasing me some space to set up a poly tunnel.”

Roy was not only really keen but has been a brilliant source of support and advice, even building a huge stand and setting up a new water tank for Dimity.

She now has 100 CSA Members and her lush baby vegetables are now on sale at the Ainslie IGA where they do a roaring trade.

“It’s one thing that’s really stood out to me doing this, I feel like if you take a risk on something that matters to you, it kind of gains its own momentum, good things seem to happen, opportunities arise, and good people pop up to help you along the way.

“It was scary giving up the security of going back to my old corporate salary, and working out if we could actually make ends meet. I’m pretty sure no one gets into organic farming for the money, so we really had to consciously make a decision to choose a less secure path, knowing the gains would likely always be more in terms of fulfilment and contribution to the environment, rather than financial.”

Dimity now basks in the glow that she can feed her two growing boys on gloriously nutritious organic food she grew herself but also knowing she is making a sustainable difference to the city.

“I truly believe that growing our own food is one of the most valuable ways we can make a difference, reducing food miles, packaging and waste. Knowing there are people all over Canberra growing their own food with my seedlings is the best. Despite it only being the tiniest little business, it makes a lot of sense to me in terms of what really matters and how I want to live. It’s extraordinary the difference that makes to your life!

When asked her opinion of the most misunderstood vegetable, Dimity offers up the radish.

“I can see the slightly forced expressions on CSA Members faces when I include radishes in their boxes, they’re polite about it but definitely not overly excited. Yet radish are so good! Crunchy and pretty in salads, lots of gorgeous dressings you can use to add tang, they’re great for you, easy to grow and they fill the carrot gap perfectly. I’ll convert people to the radish lovers club eventually.”

Dimity also offers this advice for first-time growers who are keen to turn their own little patch of suburbia.

“I’d just pick one thing to start with, something that you love to eat and are buying every week. Maybe herbs, or leafy greens, lettuce or baby spinach or whatever, and just grow that. Focus on eliminating one thing from your weekly shop, that one bit less packaging. It will make a huge difference over a year. Get some good quality compost to add to your soil, I use local Landtasia organic compost. And once you’ve got your plants in, protect them from pests using netting if needed and keep a close eye on them. Then once you’ve got that first thing growing regularly and well, choose the next bit of veg on your grocery list, and keep going! It’s addictive and rewarding, so good for you and the planet.”

You can check out what’s growing at Reid Tiny Farm here.

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