Country Valley Dairy in Picton needs your help

Country Valley Dairy in Picton needs your help

Country Valley in Picton is suffering through a bad drought. This dairy farm with its own dairy makes and distributes Country Valley milk, yoghurt and cream – and is the last remaining dairy farm in the Sydney basin.  The drought is forcing John to buy hay throughout winter, which will cost him $1350 per cow.  He needs help: sponsor a cow, and bring your family on a farm visit to Picton, just 2 hours south of Sydney. Read his story below and contact him via Facebook (@CountryValleyMilk) or phone 02 4677 2223 to make a donation, big or small…read on below photo.

Country Valley farmer needs your help

John Fairley is a 5th generation dairy farmer in Picton.  The farm was established nearly 150 years ago and is now one of the last remaining dairies in the Sydney basin.  “With the urban sprawl getting ever closer, the harder it becomes to keep places like Picton rural. However, farming is more than a job, it is a way of life and it effects the lives of more than just the families who farm. To us it is not just about dollars and cents but about our heritage and the way we want to see our valley stay as farm land”, says John.

After deregulation of the milk industry in 2000, farmers like John were paid 26c per litre by the milk processors.  Which much of NSW in drought, John decided to become ‘Master of his own Fate’: he built his own dairy and started selling milk and yoghurt under the Country Valley brand into the Sydney and Canberra markets. It didn’t take long before he started buying milk from nearby farmers, paying them 20% more than what they got from the processors.

Country Valley went on to win prizes at the Royal Easter Show, and Pepe Saya uses Country Valley cream and milk to make his premium cultured butter.

For a few years, Harvest Hub sold Country Valley products.  Our members loved the creamy taste of the fresh milk and the thick yoghurt (without gum) – until the NSW Food Authority tightened the compliance requirements for storing and transporting dairy products which made it prohibitively expensive for small distributors like us.

However, times are lean on the farm right now.  Picton, and the wider Wollondilly shire, are in drought. Says John: “The time has come to swallow my pride and ask for help. The realisation that we will be fully feeding cows, all winter, has arrived. Even if it rains next week and we get crops in, it will get cold and we will still have no feed. My 83-yr. old Dad said he has never seen it worse than this.

“One of our options we put on the table to get through the drought was to shut the dairy down. I just can’t do it.

“We have developed the herd over time, milking daughter after daughter. We all grew up helping our Dad’s and Grandfathers on weekends and school holidays. The dairy is a part of who we are. ‘It takes a tribe to raise a child’ resonates with me.

“I want my grandkids to help my son and maybe my daughter in the future.

“I am asking our supporters of Country Valley to adopt a cow or a calf, to help my family get through to Spring. Any amount, with enough people, will help. You will receive a photo of your cow which you can name if you like. Then we are offering a visit to the farm on a roster basis over time. You can introduce yourself, to the cow that is, and me as well of course. You can milk a cow which might not necessarily be yours, depending on the timing. We finish the day by helping to feed the calves and choose a sample bag to take home.

“I have estimated that it will cost $1350 per cow to feed her until the end of September. And I have 130 cows to feed! This is by no means a minimum amount for adoption. I’m just trying to let you know the scale of my problem.

“Anyone kind enough to help out please email me at johnfairley@countryvalley.com.au with your details and we can register you in the Cow Diary. Or call 02 4677 2223 and ask for Sally or Tom in business hours. Any help will be greatly appreciated”.

Forgotten Leek

Forgotten Leek

Leek Peats Ridge

 

Our leek grower in Peats Ridge, in the Sydney Basin, came across a ‘forgotten’ patch of very large leek, and sent us a picture so we know what to expect on Monday… When we mentioned that they look pretty big.

 

 

He then sent us another picture from the cousin in the UK who went to a growing competition a few years ago: now THAT’s big! Leek Large UK

 

Recipes:

Raw Leek Salad

Leek and vegetable tarts

Caramelized Leek & Sweet Potato Risotto

 

 

 

 

Raw Leek Salad

Raw Leek Salad
 
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Ingredients
  • 1 juice of a lemon
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced thinly crosswise
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 carrot, thin slices using a potato peeler
  • ½ cup chopped
Instructions
  1. In a bowl whisk together lemon and oil with a healthy pinch of salt and several grindings of pepper. Toss with leeks.
  2. Cut tomatoes in half horizontally and chop. Combine all ingredients, and taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish, and serve.

Leek and vegetable tarts
Leek and vegetable tarts
 
Author:
Recipe type: Tarts
Ingredients
  • 225g plain flour
  • 150g butter, chopped
  • 1 egg yolk
  • To make filling:
  • 60g butter
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp curry powder
  • 1 leek, cut into 5cm lengths and julienned
  • 2 carrots, cut into 5cm lengths and julienned
  • 4 sticks celery, cut into 5cm lengths and julienned
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 5cm lengths and julienned
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Sea salt
  • 6 coriander sprigs
Instructions
  1. Process flour, a pinch of salt and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add egg yolk and 2-3 tablespoons of cold water and process until the mixture forms a ball. Knead the pastry gently on a lightly floured surface, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to one hour.
  2. Preheat oven 190C.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to a thickness of about 5mm. Line six 10cm tart tins with removable bases with the pastry. Lightly prick the pastry with a fork and freeze for 20 minutes. Place on an oven tray and bake at 190C for about 15 minutes, or until pale golden.
  4. To make filling:
  5. Heat butter in a large frying pan, add turmeric and curry powder and stir over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until aromatic. Add vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add ginger, coconut milk and salt to taste and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes.
  6. Fill the tart cases with warm vegetable mixture and top with coriander sprigs.

Caramelized Leek & Sweet Potato Risotto
Caramelized Leek & Sweet Potato Risotto
 
Author:
Recipe type: Rice
Serves: 2-4
Ingredients
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed and steamed
  • 1 large leek
  • salt and pepper
  • ¾ cup arborio rice
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • ~3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ cup grated Romano (Parmesan can be substituted)
  • 1 tbs freshly minced chives
Instructions
  1. Cube sweet potato and steam until potato pieces yield easily under the pressure of a fork or pairing knife. Approximately, 15 min.
  2. Trim off the dark green part of leek, you can reserve it for a future use. Cut remaining leek in half lengthwise then into ½ cm half moons. Clean thoroughly. In a heavy bottomed pot melt butter over medium heat, add leeks and stir to coat. Cook leeks stirring every five minutes or so until they start to brown. Let the leeks lightly brown evenly, you can turn it down a bit if you like as you don’t want them to burn. It should take about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then add rice. Stir to coat and cook, stirring regularly for 2 minutes. Add wine and continue stirring until two thirds of the wine has evaporated. Start adding chicken stock in large ladelfuls, stirring often. You want the temperature of the mixture to be at a very light simmer. Continue adding stock until rice is tender and just a little bit al dente. Turn off heat and stir in sweet potato, cheese and chives. Taste and correct for seasoning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do we value our food and those who grow it?

Do we value our farmers

Do we value our food and those who grow it?

The recent storm up north, Cyclone Debbie, has brought to the fore the question – Do we value our food and those who grow it – enough?

This was one of the responses, from a farmer who gave up farming 5 years ago because of poor returns:

“(…) The answer is people have to pay more for their food and allow food producers enough money so that they can rotate their land so as to rest it e.g. five acres of land producing a crop should have at least two acres of compatible land “resting” so the cost in that alone blows out. We need to allow for the cost of water as it is not something that can be just used at will. There are also many other problems that are swept under the carpet just like the recent floods – they have not been costed into the price of food!

As a food producer I have not seen a price rise in my crop for the last five years so have decided to retire – it has now become uneconomical to produce food for the normal market – even with me who produces for a top end high quality market it is no longer profitable!”

Vulnerable Farmers

Farmers are vulnerable to  weather events read more…

We need to flesh this out as there are 2 or 3 story lines that intertwine:

  1. High retail concentration has driven large-scale corporate/industrial farming, which tends to practice mono-culture, has high input costs (chemicals), often degrades soil, wastes water and has high rates of waste and spoilage.  Because of scale, they tend to rely on labour hire firms which have proven to employ farm workers on below-award wages and conditions
  2. This food production method doesn’t properly take into account the cost of soil degradation, water use, nitrogen wasted in run-off and the subsequent environmental damage this is causing to plant and marine life.  It is also not sustainable long-term, as more and more inputs are required to achieve the same level of fertilisation, pest and weed control

So on several levels, we are not paying enough for our food.  Many farmers are reporting little or no increase in farm gate prices of many farm commodities.

Household expenditure

This is also illustrated by the lower share of household expenditure that food makes up: in 1984, we spent nearly 20% of our total spend on food.  In 2009/10 (the last available period), this had dropped to 16.5%. This is indicative of the degree of commoditisation of food over the past few decades, which coincides with the growth of supermarket chains which now control 80% of the grocery market, and the wholesale disappearance of independent grocers and fruit shops.  This is only partially offset by growth in farmers markets.

How to make food production more resilient.

To make food production more resilient, it needs to be decentralised, grown by many smaller farms across many different regions using more holistic methods of weed and pest control (e.g. permaculture and polyculture). However, to attract more people to become small-scale farmers, we would need to expect to pay more to ensure farmers get a reasonable return on their investment and labour.

Harvest Hub Farm

Harvest Hub is putting its money where its mouth is: we are in the process of buying a run-down farm on the NSW mid-north coast, and over the coming years we’ll be re-developing this as a permaculture farm.  We’re also sourcing fresh produce from surrounding farms in the Wingham, Manning and Hastings Valleys and supplying this to Hubs across the Central Coast and Sydney Basin.  Yes, it’ll keep us busy – but we’re very excited about this new adventure!

 

Tuscan Kale

Tuscan layout

Tuscan Kale

Raymond from Freemans Reach, north of Sydney, will have Tuscan Kale, great in a creamy Carbonara sauce over pasta.

This is the first supply in large numbers he’s been able to bring to the market, with most of his crop of silverbeet, beetroot, broccoli and cauliflower having slowed down to a crawl thanks to the prolonged cold snap.

His income over the past month is down a massive 70% on the same time last year, and we know of several local growers who are doing it tough right now.  So we support them where we can.

Carbonara Sauce without cream
 
This is great to serve with Tuscan Kale which is softer and can be steamed or stirfried.
Author:
Recipe type: Sauce
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50gm parmesan, finely grated
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 150gms pancetta or bacon, chopped
  • Herbs of choice: parsley, chives, oregano take handful, chop finely
Instructions
  1. In a bowl combine the eggs and parmesan cheese seasoning with salt and pepper. In a fry pan add the olive oil adding the meat then when crisp add the garlic. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly then stir in the egg mixture. Add the herbs and serve with stir-fried or steamed sliced Tuscan Kale

 

Raymond’s Ruined Purple Kale…

Ruined Purple Kale

Hundreds of kale plants are dead or dying, after copping 300 ml of rain on 20/21 April, and then another 90ml of rain and hail on Anzac night.

Most will need replanting, instead of producing a weekly crop of curly leaves from every plant.

This scene is getting repeated across many growers in the Sydney basin area – anywhere around the hunter, central coast, Gloucester, Hawkesbury, Horsley park, Picton and Camden.

Wombok Easy Cooking

Wombok Easy Cooking

Wombok this week is from Freeman’s Reach which is 60 minutes from Sydney near Richmond. This was grown by Charlie Vella. – Recipes below

Kim Chi Relish

San Choy Bao

Freemans ReachIt is a greatly misunderstood vegetables as many don’t quite know what to do with it. The good news is you can do many things. When looking elsewhere for it or in recipes check out Chinese cabbage, celery cabbage, Napa cabbage, Tientsin cabbage, wong nga bok.

A sustainable Plant

The Wombok has been around for a long time  – since the 5tth Century in China. If you wish to grow you own you can harvest the leaves whilst the plant continues to grow a sustainable plant.

What to cook

Use in stir fry, casseroles, finely sliced into sandwiches raw, soups, and in the famous Korean ‘Kim Chi’ relish.

Goodness inside

It’s full of A and C vitamins, iron calcium, and phosphorus. The Glucosinolates present in most brassicas are a sulphur compound which is associated with assisting in reducing certain cancers.

Kim Chi Relish
 
Author:
Recipe type: Side dish
Ingredients
  • one half wombok, cut into coarse squares
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 3 pinches Himalayan salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 2 tbs fish sauce,
  • 2 tbs Soy sauce
  • 48g chilli powder/flakes or 1 chopped chilli
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 cm ginger, minced or finely julienned
  • 2 carrots, julienne
  • 15g small dried shrimp (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a bowl Combine salt with sugar then rub into chopped wombok leaves.
  2. Cover with wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours, drain and keep liquid to use later.
  3. Then combine all remaining ingredients rubbing completely into leaves.
  4. Put into a jar with lid and store in fridge. It can be stored for up to 2 months.
  5. Use as a side relish.

 
Veggie San Choy Bao
 
Use also lettuce leaves. If not wanting crunchy outer covering then slightly steam leaves of wombok for a couple of minutes.
Author:
Recipe type: Healthy Snack
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 small Wombok leaves
  • 2-3 leaves of silverbeet, washed and finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienne
  • 1 tbs peanut oil
  • 2cm piece ginger, julienned (cut into thin matchsticks)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • ½ small red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 tbs shaoxing wine, cooking wine
  • 2tbs Tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp sesame oil
  • ½ cup bean sprouts or substitute with slightly steamed green beans cut into 2cm lengths
  • ¼ cup spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 100g cashews, crushed
  • 3 tbs butter, lightly melted
  • Garnish – thick oyster sauce
Instructions
  1. Wash and set out Wombok leaves.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, thinly slice carrot lengthways into ribbons. Cut carrot into a fine julienne and set aside. Heat peanut oil in a hot wok and swirl to coat. Add ginger, garlic and onion and stir-fry for 1 minute until fragrant. Add wine, tamari, sugar and sesame oil and stir-fry until heated through. Add reserved carrot, bean sprouts and spring onions and toss to combine.
  3. Set vegetable mix aside and rinse wok. Re-heat and add butter then lightly cook cashews until browning about 3-4 minutes then add silverbeet and stir for another minute until wilted. Take off heat.
  4. Combine vegetable mixture with cashews and silverbeet. Layout wombok cups and spoon vegetable Choy Bao into the cups. Garnish with thick oyster sauce.

Support local bee producers?

Support local bee producers?

Bees pollinate around 70% of the fruit and vegetables, whilst our birds (even the Cockatoos play a role here cracking open seeds) ABC RN discussion Friday 22 August 2014 where they mention the role of birds in polination.

Bees dropping off

It seems that due to the number of bees dropping off some of our major suppliers are importing from Turkey what they call “honey”, as was the case with Bera Foods brand, Hi Honey which showed to contain C4 sugar, that is likely to be corn syrup.

Local Beekeepers

So the upshot here is to buy local and support those keepers who are making the effort to produce. They may be slightly more expensive but well worth keeping them in business Bees at the Boxand maintaining the colonies of bees that we have and the integrity of the honey industry like the Wollemi Honey we provide from the Wollemi National Park.

Sustainability Festival

Gallery

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Great weekend at the Manly Food, Wine & Sustainability Festival Thanks for all the Harvest Hub members who volunteered their time to help at the Harvest Hub Produce Stall at the Manly, Food, Wine & Sustainability Festival. Pascal came by and … Continue reading


Seasonal growing in the Sydney Basin

Earlier this week the Sydney Morning Herald published an article about the amount of produce that is sold at the markets but grown outside a 150km radius of Sydney – so they mean outside the Sydney basin.

The article was reasonably frightening about Sydney’s ability to produce its own food and placed a huge amount of the blame on ‘urban creep’ – our expanding city. While urban creep does exist it is only one part of the explanation as to why some of Sydney’s food is grown interstate. It’s a seasonal based answer.

Seasonal produce

Growing fruit & Veg is seasonal so in Australia this means travelling with the climate.

Currently it’s winter so much of the fruit is grown in the north of Australia!  Often produce availability will travel around Australia. For example, carrots in winter start in Queensland then move to NSW, to VIC , to WA then finish up in Tasmania after Christmas. They do well in coolish but not too cold weather. They absolutely don’t like frost.

Queensland has many micro climates starting in Bowen then moving down to Bundaberg and northern NSW. Basically Australia’s a big place.

The other question that needs to be asked is whether we can meet all of Sydney’s food requirements within the Sydney basin – and the answer is no!  There are times in summer when we, Harvest Hub, will be meeting most of our requirements from the Sydney Basin. The supermarkets, however, will be importing all the time as most often it is case of higher profit margins.

Yes, there is expansion into the growing areas of both housing and industry but one of the most significant factors that drives some farmers to close their operation is ???? Can you guess? Their children don’t want to grow vegetables and fruit. There is no succession so they sell to developers.

On the bright side if we keep focussed and buy Australian then we are making a difference and it’s a like the pebble in the pond. The ripple widens outwards and embraces those farmers who are on the land giving them a good and sustainable living.

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