Everyone knows how their food is produced, right? Not so, says Fiona May, who has set up a family farm-based business, From Paddock to Potager.
Fiona May’s background in education means she has seen first hand how many children have minimal understanding of where their food comes from or how their food is produced. The recent success of her farm’s open day was the culmination of a lot of on-the-hoof research and implementation to marry a working farm with an educative fun experience.
Despite the steepest of learning curves and deepest physical exhaustion for this mum of Heath (3) and Oliver (1), Fiona would do it all over again at her 10 acre Highfields plot. The idea of sharing the farm experience was conceived when Fiona was on maternity leave with her second son. Despite being from the Central Coast of New South Wales, she has always had a strong interest and yearning for a rural lifestyle. After purchasing the then run-down property, 15 minutes from Toowoomba, Fiona and husband Stuart slowly made the transition to a self-sufficient lifestyle. Stuart and other family members with rural backgrounds have provided many practical insights for translating Fiona’s idea into reality. Their suggestions were supplemented by a whole lot of reading.
Fiona and Stuart’s small holding has a vege patch and an ethically reared animal menagerie than spans dorper sheep, wessex saddleback and large white pigs, heritage line chooks, two dairy house cows and beef cattle. The ultimate aim is to educate, celebrate and promote local produce through developing a channel for others to learn about the efforts made to yield seasonal, local and ethical food. From Paddock to Potager offers a glimpse into farm life with tours and children’s birthday parties. Each unique experience varies according to what’s happening on the farm and the needs, ages and background of the visiting group. “It isn’t just a petting experience,” says Fiona. “We feed the animals with left over harvest from the vege garden, talk about the challenges some farmers can endure, discuss animal health requirements, introduce permaculture and biodynamic principles and can get as in-depth as the visitor wants. “We recently had visitors from Bangkok who had never been close to livestock so they were really nervous about holding chicks and piglets at first,” she says.
Through tours for early childhood, school groups and mothers’ groups, Fiona hopes to inspire others to have practical, productive gardens and about the many inputs needed for our food as the finished product.
The children’s birthday parties aim to create a fun, positive and new experience for suburban and city dwellers creating some understanding about food sources and healthy choices. Children visit the animal nursery, ‘work’ in the vege garden and might pick and make their own fresh salad.
Of pursuing her dream and sharing it with others, Fiona says, “I’ve learnt so much and how our food is not superficial. We hope that our boys learn the value of working hard, that everything is achievable, to ask lots of questions and live their life this way too, making healthy and value based choices.”
Words by Janet Kieseker | Images by Lucia Photography