We get a weekly box of fruit and vegetables through a small suburban co-op that buys directly from a local organic farm. The co-op has 25 member households, and I wrote a story about how it all works and about box shopping in general for the winter issue of Slow Living magazine (joy!). I used the story as a good excuse to go out and visit the farm that supplies us, which is called Green Gully Organics on the edge of the Yarra Valley. Here are my favourite photos taken in the packing shed while talking to one of the lovely owners Shelley Chilton, and wandering around the farm trying to dodge all the mud (should have worn gumboots!). (Can you tell it was leek season?!) Scroll to the bottom for a few words about the farm and a favourite pizza recipe featuring the beautiful pumpkin and leeks we get in our box at this time of year.
Green Gully Organics sell about 120–150 fruit and veggie boxes a week to co-ops such as ours, and also sell their vegetables at farmers markets and in bulk (such as to Ceres Fair Food, who curate their own organic boxes and deliver across Melbourne). The produce in Green Gully’s boxes is almost all their own, save from the carrots, potatoes and fruit that they buy from the wholesale market and local orchards.
Dabbling in backyard veggie gardening myself, my mind boggles how challenging it must be to grow such a range of things and keep up the seasonal flow without any gaps. So much harder than the farmer who just grows one crop.
And then there is the organic element. I’m imagining aphid, slug and caterpillar situations that I’ve seen in my garden, times a million on a farm. Shelley recalled a couple of instances when they resorted to an organic spray, but generally she says they’ve just got to go with it, and try to grow things quickly, not giving the pests time to settle in. They fertilise with compost and chicken manure, and consider themselves pretty lucky with the soil on their farm, which sprawls down a gentle slope surrounded by gum trees.
Farm life looked pretty hectic to me, with Shelley spending large parts of her day in the packing shed, and husband Craig down the hill doing the farming, driving tractors, planting, harvesting – so close yet so far away. The farm employs Craig’s parents as well as three staff in winter and one in summer. Extras are roped in on planting days.
One thing I love about our Green Gully boxes and our neighbourhood co-op that makes it all happen is our food miles are spectacularly low. (To learn about the co-op I do recommend picking up this winter’s Slow Living – it’s full to the brim with inspiring and food-related stories.) Our vegetables are farmed so close to home and come directly to us – and knowing where they’re grown and the people behind them feels pretty great too.
Pumpkin, leek and anchovy pizza
Dough (if you don’t already have a favourite recipe)
4 cups flour (I use ½ white, ½ wholemeal)
2 teaspoons dried yeast
1 heaped teaspoon salt
drizzle of olive oil
splash of milk
thick slice of butter
3 leeks, sliced
salt and pepper
thin sprinkling of grated cheese (tasty is fine)
4 large anchovies, cut into small pieces
freshly grated nutmeg
extra-virgin olive oil
Put the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl, then add the oil and milk. Add enough warm water, stirring it in with your hands, until you have a slightly sticky dough. Knead on a work surface for 5–10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Return to the bowl, cover, and leave to rise until doubled. This can take 1½ or more hours depending on the weather, so make sure you do it early enough in the day.
* This dough quantity should make enough for 2 round pizzas, or 1 large rectangular one. You can increase or decrease the recipe if you want to. (Increase it if you want to make pizzas with other toppings too.)
Combine the butter and leek in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring regularly, for 10–15 minutes until soft. Season with around ½ teaspoon salt (or more to taste) and some pepper.
Knock the air out of the dough and divide into 2 balls if making round pizzas. Roll out on a floured surface and place on oiled trays/tray.
Spread the leek over the top. Add a thin sprinkling of cheese. Dot with cubes of roast pumpkin. Scatter with the anchovy pieces, and sprinkle with generous nutmeg. Drizzle with a little oil. Cook in a hot oven until the base is golden and crisp. Scatter with parsley, slice and serve.