Moora Moora, a co-operative community, was established in the 1970’s and today has around 30 households on its green and lush 600 acres. They are based near Healesville, 60 kilometres north-east of Melbourne.
Amy and Luc joined the Moora Moora community six years ago, and established an organic vegetable farm to supply the community members and other local consumers. “We have about fifty members,” says Amy, “we supply them with a box of vegies every week, all seasonal, organic and picked that day.”
They set up their farm as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project.
“Our members share in the risks and rewards of food growing,” says Amy. “At the start of the season, our members commit to paying for a share of the farm’s harvest. We can have a season where the rabbits completely demolish the carrots, but then next season we have an amazing bumper crop and our members receive masses of tomatoes.”
With an upfront commitment to the harvest, CSA members become much closer to the growing of their food than other consumers. This is the goal of CSA – to connect local farmers with local consumers, resulting in a relationship of mutual gain. CSAs develop a regional food supply, strong local economy, maintain a sense of community, reduce waste created in marketing, packaging and transport, encourage land stewardship and honour the knowledge and experience of growers and producers.
“We grow about 30 different types of vegetables,” says Amy. “Each week we harvest what’s available and split it up between the members.” Many CSAs grow vegetables, but you can also grow fruit, berries, eggs, flowers, meat or milk. “The possibilities are pretty much endless,” says Amy.
Amy grew up surrounded by gum trees and had a long-standing interest in growing food, with permaculture the subject of her Honours thesis at Uni. “It’s great feeling that I’m doing something worthwhile, beneficial for people and the planet,” she says. “I love being outside and watching things grow.”
It was while WWOOFing in Canada that Amy first experienced CSA. The WWOOF scheme – Willing Workers on Organic Farms – operates whereby guest workers stay on organic host farms, working as volunteers in return for accommodation and home-grown food. The scheme is worldwide and members report it’s a great way to meet like-minded people and learn about organic farming.
“I was intending working on the CSA farm there for a few weeks but ended up staying a year. I met Luc there, who’s Canadian, and we came back to Australia to set up our own CSA.”
CSA is thought to have originated simultaneously in Germany, Switzerland and Japan in the 1960s. In Japan it’s called ‘teikei’ – ‘putting the farmers’ face on food’. It’s a style of farming that’s increasing in popularity in North America, with CSA farms on the outskirts of some major cities. “CSA hasn’t taken off in the same way here, not yet,” says Amy. “It would be great if there was a lot more in Australia.”
“We’d love to extend the vegies and grow fruit trees and berries, but the work is probably too much at the moment for the two of us.” With an eight month old baby, Amy and Luc intend to live at Moora Moora for the long term.
For anyone thinking of setting up a CSA farm, Amy explains you’re unlikely to get rich! The ideal way is to join a co-operative like Moora Moora. The co-op owns the land and so the financial investment for members starting out isn’t as onerous as for someone buying a farm.
To anyone who wants to see more CSAs in Australia, Amy says, “Go for it! Get together with friends. A lot of CSAs start by consumers getting together and approaching a farmer.”
For more information on Moora Moora, visit http://mooramoora.org.au
Story by Sue Williams