The Conferences and Forums, gave a strong and impressive voice to alternative thinking. The program aims to encouraging us to widen our perspective and discover how, for better or for worse, food can change the planet. Speakers of international fame will confront the global economy, human and animal welfare, happiness, the environment, the kitchen, food in the arts, and more. Terra Madre Salone del Gusto events program
Can Agroecology Feed the World?
Miguel Altieri,a Professor of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.
Miguel commenced the forum by summarising the major problems with industrial agriculture and global food empires:
Agroecology applies ecological principles to food production, taking care of natural resources and values biodiversity.
Agroecology is not a farming practice as such but provides the principles or the ethos for food production. It links ecology, culture, economics, and society to sustain agricultural production, healthy environments, and viable food and farming communities.
It is about:
Yacouba Sawadogo is a Burkinabe farmer Burkina Faso who has been successfully using a traditional farming technique called Zaï to restore soils damaged by desertification and drought.
Yacouba Sawadogo spoke next. He is an older man known as “the man who stopped the desert” He is responsible for developing or readapting a farming technique known as Zaï.
“Zaï or Tassa is a farming technique to dig pits (20-30 cm long and deep and 90 cm apart) in the soil during the pre-season to catch water and concentrate compost. The technique is used to restore degraded drylands and increase soil fertility.” Wikipedia
Yacouba talked about his life and how his interest in Zaï came about. He explained that he was a merchant with a small plot of land around his home. In the 80’s there was severe drought and his countrymen were hungry and sick. He knew that there were traditional medicines that came from the trees and bushes, but most of the the trees and bushes had died. He had small number of trees on his land and decided he should grow more and so this is what he did. He drew on old knowledge to get his trees to grow and they did.
“If we take care of our earth we can get anything from it….Each of us needs to live in our environment…Chemicals destroy the soil, where there is lack of truth there is destruction…”
10,000’s of hectares that were no longer productive had now been made productive using Yaciuba’s techniques. He shares his knowledge and conducts training programs.
Anuradha Mittal, founder of the Oakland Institute, is a considered an "expert on trade, development, human rights, democracy, and agriculture issues". It is headquartered in Oakland, California
The final guest speaker was Anuradha Mittal who explained the work of the Oakland Institute. “The Oakland Institute is a progressive think tank founded in 2004 (by Anuradha Mittal.) It’s ethos is Change Begins with Informed and Active Citizens.”
Anuradha talked primarily of the land grabbing taking place in Africa with the support of the World Bank. The Oakland Institute has been looking at this issue for a number of years and is deeply concerned by what is taking place. She stated that currently 40% of the landmass of Africa is owned by global companies. Anuradha further explained that governments are coerced into these arrangements.
…”Recent initiatives have focused on supporting industrial agriculture and large agribusiness companies at the expense of family farmers. The World Bank’s “Enabling the Business of Agriculture” (EBA), is one of these initiatives. The EBA is a benchmarking tool created in 2013 to foster “policies that facilitate doing business in agriculture and increase the investment attractiveness and competitiveness of countries…With the EBA, the World Bank is adapting its Doing Business index to agriculture, ranking countries according to“the ease of doing business.” In a series of reports, the Oakland institute has documented how the ranking system of the Doing Business index has created harmful competition among countries to reduce or remove economic, social, and environmental safeguards and regulations… https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/about
The last part of the forum was about considering change with the focus on consumers as being a major part of the agricultural system. Terminology was considered paramount in this discussion. Is the usage of the word consumers useful? Anuradha put forward the view point that consuming is a very negative term; to use fuel, time, resources; fire consumes, it is a term that implies a lack of control or powerlessness. We need to change the language so that we see ourselves as active positive enablers.
Slow Food has introduced the term co-producer. “A conscious consumer who goes beyond the passive role of consuming and takes an interest in those who produce our food, how they produce it and the problems they face in doing so. In actively supporting food producers, we become part of the production process. The term co-producer was coined by Slow Food to highlight how collectively our consumer choices can bring great change to how food is cultivated, produced and distributed.”
Food for Thought
When further considering the concerns raised about 40% of the landmass of Africa being owned by global companies, I decided to do some research on foreign land ownership in Australia. Successive Australian Governments have and are continuing to allow foreign countries to “invest” in our resources and land. According to the Guardian Newspaper the proportion of foreign ownership of Australian farmland in 2013 was as follows::
Totally foreign owned = 12.4%
50% or higher foreign ownership = 7%
Foreign ownership between 10% and 50% = 5.2%
This equates to a total of 24.6% of Australian farmland being in foreign hands along with 1.8 million megalitres agricultural water entitlements.
The countries in order of highest foreign investment in agriculture, forestry and fishing are UK, USA, Canada, Singapore, China. This however is somewhat insignificant compared to the mining sector which had an estimated $230bn in foreign investment at the end of 2013. The Reserve Bank Of Australia estimates that four fifths of Australian mining operations were effectively owned by foreign interests. 83% of mining profits were accrued to foreign interests in 2009-10. Looking at the three largest 'Australian' miners, foreign ownership accounts for three-quarters of BHP-Billiton, over 80% of Rio Tinto and 100% of Xstrata.
Combing the foreign ownership of Australian farmland along with foreign investment in mineral resources may well see Australia equal that of Africa’s 40% land mass owned by foreign or global companies. Definitely an issue of concern and worthy of further discussion.
Terra Madra 2016 Food for Thought… or should that be Thoughts on Food
Terra Madra Salon del Gusto is all about food. Where it comes from, how it is grown, who has grown it, how many ways can we prepare it, what does it taste like, can you store it...
We had the pleasure of participating in a number of cooking schools including two with world renowned and Michelin star chefs.
The Vegetable World of Xavier Pellicer
“Barcelona has recently declared itself veg-friendly, and restaurants where vegetables take center stage are sprouting up around the city like mushrooms. But none have yet reached the heights of Xavier Pellicer’s Céleri. After winning two Michelin stars for Àbac and taking over from the late Santi Santamaria at El Racó de Can Fabes, Pellicer has chosen to dedicate himself to the world of plants, overturning the central axis of cuisine by putting animal protein at the service of vegetables. You’ll taste two of his dishes, including the famous beet gazpacho, a perfect example of the marriage of tradition, flavor and technique. These will be paired with a selection of wines from Les Caves de Pyrene, who’ve been specializing in the finest French and Italian estate wines for over 25 years.” Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2016 events program
Xavier explained that Celeri emerged after a transforming time in has life in which he discovered real food grown bio-dynamically and Ayurvedic medicine. Out of his understanding of these two practices has emerged Celeri, where paying tribute to the produce is paramount and menu combinations are designed with an Ayurvedic understanding of the delicate balance between mind body and spirit. The focus of the meals has shifted from protein to vegetables. Menus are prepared with meat or fish not exceeding 20% of the meal.
Celeri is especially designed with an open kitchen with chef’s work counters which extend out towards diners to create a unique dialog between the two. “The public will be able to be with the chefs, observing the meal’s creation form start to finish, from cooking the dish to serving it and bringing it to the table,” stated the chef. The cooking and the dining experience being a transparent process. All the food used in the restaurant is grown without the use of synthetic or chemical substances and the origin of the product, and how it was produced is of key importance.
He created two dishes for us to experience; a beetroot gazpacho and another featuring the white aubergine. Xavier explained the reasons for his choice of ingredients. “Beetroo tis connected to the earth; grapes add sweetness to the acidic gazpacho…” The white aubergine was cooked “Asian style with white sherry, spices and onions; I used vermouth today as this location is the building where vermouth was made”
Needless to say both dishes were sensational There was a presentation of simplicity in the gazpacho but the subtlety of the flavours was truly wonderful. The white aubergine had a rich deep flavour profile enhanced by a weblike slither of a regional cured sausage. Both dishes were a tribute not only to the featured vegetable but also of the chef who is creating a new philosophical approach to the dining experience.
Sergey and Ivan Berezutskiy, Travelling Along the Trans-Siberian
“The Berezutskiy brothers are reconstructing the common perceptions regarding Russian dishes by focusing on regional diversity. The most famous chefs of Russian nouvelle cuisine, they craft their dishes using modern technologies and traditional ingredients, revisiting culinary traditions in an explosion of flavours that will soon win you over to the gastronomic joys of this country.To drink, a selection of wines from Batasiolo, La Morra (Cuneo)."Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2016 events program
“We are more interested in Russian products and tastes from different regions. Russian cuisine before the revolution was very regional, like in Italy: people in the Urals did not really cook or eat similarly to the people in St. Petersburg. In our kitchen we try to combine foods peculiar to different regions to create an integral Russian taste. We try to innovate pre-Soviet dishes and reflect on the contrasts and similarities between regions and are committed to using ingredients that originate within the country.”Sergey and Ivan Berezutskiy," Terra Madre Salone del Gusto Media Centre 2016
Sergey worked behind the scenes supervising the meal service and Ivan talked us through the creation of the dishes. He explained they develop their recipes by exploring how to capture the ecosystem where an ingredient is sourced. The first dish is “a kind of ecosystem illustrated by mushrooms.” The recipe features a mushroom that grows at the base of birch trees and is prepared in Autumn. “We have tried to analyse the ecosystem where the mushrooms grow.” The first stage of the recipe was a broth prepared with the mushrooms and the twigs, leaves and bark from the birch tree. The second part of the the dish was a mousse made with the same ingredients as the broth with the addition of onions. The onions had been marinated with powder made from dried birch leaves. The third part of the dish was smoked mushroom prepared by using very dry thin birch bark to create the smoke. “This process gives the mushroom a particular flavour, it is giving the mushroom a Russian twist.” The use of the same ingredients through all aspects of the dish is one of the key aspects that they focus on.
The broth was served separately and Ivan advised that we should taste the broth first and then explore the other part of the dish. For me the dish had a glorious mushroom taste with a depth of flavour; a sense of earthiness but also very clean.
The second recipe was a meat dish prepared from a small mammal native to Russia possibly similar to a rabbit. The meat was prepared using a solar oven, cooked at a very low temperature. It was served with a blackberry mouse on a very thin slice of pumpkin; and a sauce made from pumpkin and spices. The final aspect of the dish was an olfactory element. A mist to endow the dish with the aroma of the Russian Autumn, the smell of leaves and the humid earth. To eat, the meat was quite different; the pumpkin sauce was delicious and the scent almost evoked mushrooms.
The third recipe was another incredible food experience. Essentially it was a simple chocolate ganache made from pure chocolate and cream. But of course there was a twist. This being that the cream used for the ganache had first of all been used to cook Morall, a type of Russian dear. The cream infused with venison is mixed with chocolate. A very different take on a dessert. The dish was not overly sweet with an essence of something difficult to define - the Morral
The dishes were the most amazing food we had ever tasted. Absolutely sensational. The concept of exploring and escapulating the ecosystem in to the design of the dishes was an exciting innovation to experience first hand.
These stories have been written from our extensive notes taken at the conference.
This month is the time to explore the wonders of Stinging Nettles.
Stinging nettle has a long history of culinary (and medicinal) usage especially in Europe and they grow abundantly in the highly fertile soils here at Wynlen House. Nettles are a good source of fibre; are very high in vitamin A; and are also a good source of dietary calcium, iron, and protein. Nettle is recommend as a high-protein, low-calorie source of essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins particularly in vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, or other specialized diets.
In our region Nettles are at their best at this time of year. They thrust themselves up from the barely warm ground in late July /early August and this early fresh young growth is the best time to eat them. By late September nettles are starting to become coarse and hoary, and they should not be eaten once they begin to form flowers. It is important to remember that they are called Stinging Nettle for a reason. Nettles have fine hairs that even only brushed lightly on bare skin, create the feeling akin to dozens of little syringes injecting fiery pain. Wearing gloves and long sleeves is essential attire for harvesting and in the kitchen it is essential to wear cloves for cleaning and preparing. Cooking or drying neutralises the stinging (toxic) components. Nettles can be used as a tea, in soup, blanched for a salad or even added to pizza. I am exploring the culinary wonders of nettles this week with plans to make nettle pesto for the stall. Nettles can be used to replace other green veg, particularly silverbeet or spinach in any recipe.
In the garden stinging nettle is often just seen as an annoying weed, that is literally a pain to remove. However like many weeds they can have a role to play. They're a good indication that the soil is quite high in nutrients, especially phosphorus; and nettles are high in nutrients such as iron, magnesium and nitrogen. They can be turned in as a green manure crop; used in compost; can be made into a liquid fertilizer (tea). We are currently using them as a living mulch. Of course if using nettles for these purposes it is best that they be turned in or removed before the seed has set. If they have gone to seed you can still use them for a fertilizer tea.
A simple recipe for a fertilizer tea.
There are many recipes available using specific ingredients and quantities, however the following is a good standard recipe:
We are now moving into the coldest part of our winter, with daily frosts and minimum temperatures in the minus. Our garden beds are not defrosting until about 10.30am. Not that I mind the late starts to the morning. A bit if extra time reading by the fire at this time of year is very pleasant. My eclectic reading this week turned up some articles and a great book on the Chinese market gardeners in Australia particularly in the Gold Fields of the Southern Tablelands of NSW .
“Chinese market gardeners brought skills and knowledge from China as well as adopting and adapting local practices. Their labour intensive methods of farming, ability to manage and organise their own workforce in providing local markets with local produce became distinctive features of the Chinese market gardens across NSW.” Dr Barry McGowan (Australian National University)
Since moving to Braidwood and setting up our market garden I have been interested in the Chinese market gardeners of the region. Pictures show well established market gardens and it is clear from records of the time that yields were very high. On February 10, 1883, The Southern Argus reports: “…we are told the people of Goulburn are ill-provided with vegetables and that the European gardeners were solely to blame…the Chinese bring their vegetables to better perfection than the Europeans…the Chinese are model gardeners.
The Chinese have a very long history of vegetable cultivation dating back as early as 5000 BC. with continuity since that time. By the mid 1800’s when many Chinese came to Australia there vegetable production and agricultural practices were “superior” to many European practices and they were able to adapt and innovate to new environments and climates. Chinese market gardeners used growing frames covered with paper or hessian to protect delicate seedlings from frost.
Another interesting report from a regional Victorian newspaper in 1897 stated that European market gardeners in Melbourne were jealous of the Chinese hawkers who supplied suburban householders with such regularity, and also the Chinese market gardeners who sold directly to consumers. Gardeners who sold their produce directly to householders rather than through city markets obtained better returns. This is still relevant today.
There is always something to learn from the past as well as the present. I look forward to more interesting reading as we take a break through July. We will be taking a break from the stall and this blog until the 8 August, when our next newsletter will be published.
The last week has seen the coolest weather for this winter spfar, -6; -7; -5 and soil temps have also dropped. Soil temps in my garden are hovering around 6 degrees. These low soil temperatures really limit seed germination. Soil temperature is probably the most important factor affecting seed germination, and seedling growth. Finding information about soil temperatures at which vegetable seeds will grow can sometimes be difficult and often not consistent. This is because there are different terms for classifying soil temps for germination purposes. There is the minimum temperature required for seed growth, an optimum temperature, and a realistic temperature. The minimum temperature is reasonably self explanatory. It is technically the minimum temperature at which germination is possible. On the other hand, the optimum soil temp is technically the perfect temperature for germination. However in between is the realistic temperature. This is somewhere between the minimum and the optimum temps at which germination and healthy growth can be achieved. This happy medium is suitable for beginning plant growth with the assumption that optimum temperatures will occur as the season progresses.
So for example, peas sown in soils with a temperature of 15 degrees take about nine days to germinate, while peas sown in soil with a temperature of 4 degrees about 36 days to germinate. By this time most of us will have given up. The other thing that can happen with this very long germination time is that seed often gets damaged and is far more likely to become diseased. However a soil temperature of around 10 degrees (the realistic soil temp) will see a much faster and better germination rate of about 70% and strong early growth.
To ensure success at this time of year it is much better to plant seedlings at this time of year while the soil temps are very cold. As the soil temperatures warm up by late winter to early spring much better seed germination rates will be achieved.
Don’t forget Wynlen House Urban Micro Farm is running its winter gardening workshop where you can learn all sorts of practical information about chemical free all season produce gardening particularly in a cold climate.
The long winter evenings are well and truly here. The days are becoming so short. All the animals are gathering at the gates by 4.00pm demanding to be fed and to be let into their housing. By 5.30pm it’s the same for me. Time for snuggling up by the fire, dinner, watching cooking shows and reading.
I find filling in the long winter evenings is always a challenge. One of my occupations is to scour through recipe books. The other is re reading gardening books and exploring new “small farm” thinking through the internet. At this time of the year when we start the winter pruning program I re-visit my fruit tree production books. One of my standard refer to texts is Fruit for Australian Gardens by Paul Baxter, first published in 1991, and I have a couple of classics from the 1940’s Practical Gardening And Food Production in Pictures and A Handbook for Fruit And Vine Growers by the Chief Horticultural Instructor, Dept Of Agriculture South Australia. These older books provide wonderful detail and ‘how to’ pictures / diagrams.
So on to pruning currants. Paul Baxter states ‘Red currants are generally grown as a multi stemmed bush with eight to ten main shoots per plant. Pruning then consists mainly of removing some of the four to five year old branches each year so that new shoots will grow in the their place, ...also remove those erect shoots that grow in the center of the plant.”
The aim of pruning is to keep the form of the plant, remove any diseased material, to keep the plant’s interior open and to maintain fruit production. This involves removing about a third of the old growth away from the plant. The oldest growth is the thickest branches with bark that is very dark to the point of being black. Also remove any branches that are weak or very low and any crossing and or rubbing branches (cut the weakest or oldest). These cuttings can create new fruit bushes. Trim to about 30cm, and pot. With a bit of luck you should get a fairly good strike rate.
It has been a beautiful moist week, with some rain, lots of drizzle and delightful mizzle, that lovely heavy mist that is not quit drizzle. The vegetables adore this weather. The big broad leaves of the brassicas capture large drops of water like small pools; the soil has turned dark with moisture and looks rich and renewed. It is great transplanting weather. However as the soil has cooled right down seeds at this time of year can be very slow to germinate. Much better to plant seedlings.
This time of year is great for all those maintenance tasks in the garden particularly pruning, feeding and mulching of the orchard and berries. Food producing trees and bushes need to be well mulched so as to keep the roots warm and moist at all times and to ensure continuous feeding of the tree. A regular feeding and mulching program for the orchard should commence in winter when weed and grass growth has slowed.
The application of nutrient and mulching material should extend out from the trunk in a circle that equals the growth of the canopy. This material should be pulled away from the trunk, to keep the trunk healthy and avoid rot.
A winter soil husbandry program for food producing trees and bushes should include:
Other news from the farm. Jennifer the duck is still recovering well and has returned to the flock part time.
A good news update on Jennifer our sweet Aylesbury duck of strong heart who survived last week’s fox attack. While her wounds have mostly healed and she no longer requires medication, she still has someway to go to full recovery. She has sustained some brain damage that has affected her ability to stand quite upright. She has a list or a lean. But whether this will be permanent only time will tell. In all other ways she is behaving like a normal duck.
They wander around the garden together searching for snails and generally being ducky. They are very sweet together. They share lunch together then brown duck heads to the gate and requests to go back to the flock. It is truly wonderful to share this nurturing. Many thanks to Dr Louise.
We had a murderous visit by a sly Reynard to the duck pen overnight. Every time you become complacent Reynard will take advantage of the smallest opportunity. We lost Clarissa, a beautiful large white Aylesbury duck. We thought we had also lost Jennifer her pair (the Two Fat Ladies - Clarissa & Jennifer) however I found Jennifer wounded in the garden covered in blood and very traumatised.
Emergency first aid - a dose of Rescue Remedy primarily for the duck and a dose for me as well; clean the blood away, assess the wounds, antiseptic powder, then a warm contained space with plenty of water with glucose or honey. Jennifer slept most of the day, but it was clear that she would require antibiotics. A visit by the vet, some pain relief and antibiotics, now five days later Jenifer is still alive although not out of the woods. However it is clear she is a survivor and not of faint heart. She greets me every morning with a little quack and sits quietly during the day enjoying the sun.
Unfortunately I can offer no guarantees on how to fox proof you poultry pens other than for trial and error, but I can provide some basic information on poultry first aid. Shock is the major danger and cause of death for poultry when surviving the traumatic event. Rescue Remedy is excellent initial treatment for shock in all poultry and also can be a great help to you the owner. If there are no obvious injuries, keeping your traumatised poultry warm and contained is an essential component for managing shock. Make sure the bird has water with honey or glucose. Hopefully your beautiful hen or duck will survive the next 12 hours and will be well on the way to recovery.
Any injuries your bird may have sustained will require different considerations and actions.
It is possible to manage many injuries without veterinary intervention, but this should not be attempted without some basic knowledge of animal first aid and a basic understanding of their physiology, welfare and characteristics. Always consult your local vet with any concerns.
If you want to know more about animal first aid please see our on-farm course in July on Basic Animal Care and Welfare. The course aims to provide practical knowledge and skills to manage livestock on a small scale.
May has finally seen the arrival of some cool weather and frosts. After the very warm April it is not surprising that we are feeling unusually cold with this change.
Just as we are feeling the cold so is the garden. While many vegetables can cope with the light frosts we are currently experiencing, it is beneficial to provide them with some support. Seaweed products (Seasol) can be used to to increase plant resistance to frost. Foliar applications take about a week to be effective and can also be helpful when plants are damaged by a frost, to stimulate healthy new growth. Regular (weekly) applications of a seaweed liquid fertilizer during our cold months can be a beneficial routine. While the use of seaweed foliar sprays can provide some support for plants during light frosts, to maintain healthy strong plants that keep growing though our extremely cold climate and harsh frost season, frost protection fabrics are essential.
Plastic can provide very good protection, but does not necessarily create a healthy growing environment as it does not allow for good air circulation or water penetration. In our low rainfall location and our current drought, preventing water penetration into the garden is not recommended. Agricultural fabrics overcome both air circulation and water penetration issues. There are a number of fabrics that can be used to provide adequate frost protection.
The first thing to remember is that we are not aiming to grow things out of season, but we are aiming to provide support and a level of protection to our winter crops. This support and protection includes;
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm