Something seriously wonderful happens when a chef starts farming; they see their produce differently; they see endless potential in the ground and have the knowledge and skill to challenge the customer base to eat “all the things”. Add Anna, brilliant on social media and a seriously talented writer about their farm journey, to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a powerhouse farming couple.
Anna and Chris have built up their farmgate to a wonderful level of diverse produce, from meat, to eggs and veg and cooked products. For the Collective, they come on board for their veg and leafy green offering. A box of their leafy greens are so fresh, that they last a week in the fridge!
How dedicated are these two? Let’s put it this way…they arrived at a packing day with their produce…straight from their wedding ceremony.
How long have you been farming?
Since 2018, but dreaming about it long before that.
What did you do before you were a farmer?
Chris was a qualified chef and brewer. Anna worked for NFPs doing communications, fundraising/marketing, executive support.
When was your a-ha moment, for wanting to farm?
I think it was both in us from birth, we literally had the farming conversation on our second date. Chris was raised on dairy farms, was always passionate about good food. I was always drawn to animals and got my animal science degree, but was stuck in the city. So I guess 2 people who never bought produce from the supermarket and wanted to create a more sustainable life found each other and enabled each other.
What makes your product different, from say, a supermarket product?
Veggie-wise… Freshness, zero sprays. Variety – we grow some veggies that people have never heard of! Also zero waste – we sell our imperfect looking veggies that are otherwise perfectly good. And the veggies we can’t sell get fed to our animals. No truck-loads of rejected produce rotting on the ground!
Who’s your farming hero?
What’s a standard day on the farm for you?
* Up before dawn to let the chooks and geese out.
* Feed the birds and pigs, hay to the cows and sheep in winter.
* Water the greenhouses, weed the gardens.
* Depending on the time of year – seeding, planting, laying tarps, bottle feeding baby animals.
* Rotating livestock, mending fences, mending infrastructure.
* Chris might do some baking/preserving while Anna does some admin.
* Pick veggie orders, collect and pack eggs.
* Feed the pigs gain, make sure all the birds are safely in their houses before dark.
* A delicious meal, time together to reflect and laugh.
For people wanting to get into farming, what’s your key advice?
If you can, work on other farms first, gain knowledge from people who are actually doing it, find out what you do and don’t like. Also, start small, then build it, and evolve. Go on a holiday before you start, because it might be a while before you get another!
How did you hear about the Prom Coast Food Collective? Has it helped?
Initially, probably social media, when we first moved to the area. PCFC helped us find our feet right at the start, during the initial covid lockdowns. Possibly more importantly though PCFC has connected us with other farmers, relationships that have been so valuable. And connected us with customers, some of whom have visited the farm, and will chat about recipes etc with us.
If you could impart one piece of knowledge to your customer base, about cooking with your product, what would it be?
If in doubt, roast it or stir fry it! Some people avoid certain vegetables because ‘they were forced to eat it as a child / someone didn’t cook it properly once / they’ve never seen it before / they don’t know how to prepare it’ – it is amazing how a vegetable can be transformed with the right flavour-enhancer… namely oil, butter, salt. Did you get boiled turnips as a kid? Try roasting them with butter/salt/pepper instead. Find kale a bit strong? Chop it into your stir fry… There are many ways you can cook veggies (just ask Google) but generally most can either be roasted or stir fried – both very approachable and delicious meals.
What’s one thing that we might not know about you, outside of farming?
Anna draws and paints. Chris skateboards.
Favourite farming book? “The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for small-scale organic farming” Jean-Martin Fortier