My in-laws live and work on a small college campus in Tasmania, Australia. Most of the college’s students and staff also live on the property. Part of the curriculum includes working on the campus farm, located on the property. The farm has everything from veggies, fruit, mushrooms, honey, chickens, pigs, sheep and cows. The full spectrum. Almost all of the food produced is fed back to the residents of the college. Last month I was lucky enough to spend the holidays there and gain more insight on how the farm operates.
We arrived in Tasmania just before Christmas (a balmy 92 degrees on Christmas day if you must know) and things were in a bit of a lull with the upcoming holidays and the timing in the growing season. The end of December down under is equivalent to the end of June here in Wisconsin. Much of the planting and transplanting work was complete with the harvest season still around the corner. But always work to be done around the farm.
A recent flood of the river, where the farm gets its water for irrigation, had inundated the pump and the field was well behind on watering. After that was fixed we managed to get into the field for weeding, seeding (carrots) and harvesting greens (swiss chard). Very similar to our end of June tasks here. The tomatoes were just on the cusp of ripening but, after the tomato hauls here last summer, I was happy to get home before my second “tomato tornado” of the year.
One of the most exciting new experiences for me was getting some hands on learning into how the mushrooms are grown on the farm. One of the farmers along with a former student have created a business growing mushrooms in a mix of used coffee grounds and straw. The used coffee grounds are donated by local cafes, which have been enthusiastic about finding a use for their waste and even more enthusiastic about buying the mushrooms to use on their menus. Talk about full circle! To take it even further, after the mushrooms are harvested the mushroom compost is used as bedding for the pigs and eventually spread back out on the veggie field. If you’d like to read more and see some photos check out this article and visit their Facebook page.
On top of farming it was great to spend some relaxing family time and an extra month of summer weather. Tasmania is a mountainous island off the southern coast of Australia with lots of national parks great for hiking, kayaking and camping. The climate is very similar to the Pacific Northwest, with the western (wetter) side of the island featuring temperate rainforests. Being one of the wetter regions of Australia (a very dry country) it is a hub for farming, fruit and foodie culture most of which is centered around Hobart, the capital of the state.
Happy to be back in Wisconsin and looking forward to the 2017 season!
-Justin, February 1st, 2017