Based only 10 minutes from the hub, Mannagum Organic Farm in Buln Buln East is a small-scale market garden cared for by the hub’s founder, Lynda Hoare.
With a broad range of NASAA certified organic produce, from blueberries and hazelnuts through to vegetables and beef, Mannagum Organic Farm is a veritable treasure trove of produce, and has been supplying the hub since the very first box.
Responsible land management and stewardship are at the core of Lynda’s low-impact and evidence-based approach to organic farming. She is deeply invested in the success of other local growers, as well as providing better access to locally produced, healthy food to the community.
How long have you been supplying the hub and what did you do before farming?
Our veggies went into the first 20 boxes in February 2013 - almost 8 years ago! I have grown vegetables commercially for 20 years, and have been a teacher and a botanical illustrator.
What does a day on your farm look like?
An hour of farm work, planting, harvesting, weeding, irrigating, turning compost, followed by eight hours of study. Hopefully another couple hours outside before some more study!
What are you doing when you're not busy on the farm?
PhD research on the goals and practices of ecological market gardeners, and the strategies and supports required, to make it a viable livelihood. We need more awesome local veggie growers, but it is a very hard gig, in the context of the "cheap food" paradigm that doesn't value biodiversity and ecological health on farms, beautiful local organic produce, or the knowledge and effort that goes into growing it!
Why is local, fresh, organic food important to you?
Fresh local organic food is healthier for people and the planet because it is grown without chemicals, uses less fossil fuels, values nature and directly pays exceptional farmers who are caring for their soils and ecosystems. If you live in a place where you can get your hands on this stuff, you should understand that it is completely different from supermarket food, with hidden food miles and all sorts of exploitation and damages subsidising that "cheap" price tag. Fresh local organic food is our ticket to a far better, more ethical, regenerative and healthy food system.
Can you tell us about any innovative ecological practices you have successfully implemented on your farm?
Using massive insect nets to protect broccoli and cauliflower seedlings from cabbage moths without sprays or caterpillar surprises in your broccoli. Try it - it's the best! Sheep to control sucker growth in the hazelnut grove. Dexter cattle, which are small, smart, hardy and friendly, gentle on soils and super easy to handle. Still working on no-till market gardening, controlling blackberries without chemicals and fruit tree pruning to keep trees small!
What do you love about where you farm/produce?
West Gippsland is incredibly good at producing food, with great soils, a mild climate and sufficient rainfall. We can grow most things here (except apricots - too wet in spring!) All these things make it easy to farm with ecological practices - maybe Baw Baw Shire could be Australia's first agroecology region!
What have been some positive experiences dealing with the food hub?
Getting to know awesome producers of organic everything — from apricots and berries, to macadamias and rolled oats, cheeses and eggs, asparagus and tomatoes, milk, bread and honey! Our growers dinners, where they can get together with the rest of the Hub community have been a highlight. Another big positive is the growing community of Hub supporters that understand that the Hub isn't just a shop, that they are food citizens, not just shoppers, and that we are all in this together.