My visit to Yarra Valley Estates Edible Forest Garden

28 February 2020

One hour from Melbournes bustling CBD tucked away in the rolling hills of the Yarra Valley is one acre of Edible Forest Garden. Louise Ward owner of Yarra Valley Estate where the food forest garden is located created the space out of a desire to reduce food miles but has since evolved into an education space open to the public interested in learning about growing a food forest garden at home, how to create healthy soil naturally and the importance of food security.

A food forest is a self maintaining perennial polyculture meaning there are a variety of crops of different heights within the same space similar to how a forest works. The plants, with some help, look after each other.

Food forests are a regenerative form of growing food that works to keep soils healthy rather than deplete them of carbon and minerals. Our current food production systems have been working in the opposite way. A regenerative method like a food forest garden helps to return carbon along with nutrients to the soil. If the soil doesn't have nutrients, this affects our health.

The goal of reducing exposed soil by covering everything in plants reduces soil erosion, protects groundwater, puts nutrient minerals back into the soil, allowing farmers and home gardeners the opportunity to move away from synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. A return to regenerative farming and gardening would helps address malnutrition, food insecurity, healthy water supplies, limit food waste, and reduce pollution from the production of agriculture chemicals. And a bonus is gardeners don't have to weed as much.





As I entered the Yarra Valley Estates Edible Food Forest Garden I felt like I was being drawn into a calming hug. The space is abundant in over 850 of edible and medicinal plants, with some specifically used to improve soil quality. Everything growing on the site is cultivated for the guest kitchen on site and used in workshops held in a up-cycled shed overlooking the garden.

For those who are used to the standard farming system of single crop structured in rows could be confused as how something wild like this would thrive. Forest gardens like this combine vegetables, fruit, nuts, herbs, shrubs and other plants to coexist aiding one another in their survival. The photo below is proof of this.



The large tree in the left photo is sugarcane used to protect the plants below it from the biting frosts in the valley. Yes, that is sugarcane growing in a very cold climate in Victoria. There are rambling strawberries for ground cover, something I had not thought of in my own garden. I discovered the plant Society Garlic, a perfect garlic alternative for me since I can't eat as much garlic any more. We munched on unopened Day Lillies (photo on the right) another unsuspecting specimen I have in my garden that I didn't know could be eaten. I feasted on gorgeous mulberries, tommy tomatoes, met cinnamon yams growing along side aromatic hops.


Yarra Valley Estates Edible Forest Garden is still in its infancy having started five years ago and only open to the public last year. Tours operate Monday to Saturday, at 10am and you can find out more on their website www.edibleforest.co/



What had me excited was the education this space will offer. I can't think of any other edible food forest garden space open year round so people can see it at different times of the year. Often these edible forest gardens are private and only open for a handful of days throughout the year. I can't wait to revisit in winter and spring. The staff are kind and passionate, happy to share their huge amount of knowledge with visitors. It was inspiring to learn urban gardeners are visiting from Melbourne looking for help to get their own edible forest gardens started. Involving people and having interactive places to learn is necessary to creating confident gardeners. It's different reading about an edible garden and being able to walk through one.

Growing our own food, even if a little, helps the planet in so many ways. We reduce food miles and our fuel, packaging is not needed and we help improve soil quality for future generations. We learn new skills. We help draw carbon down. Our bodies get to eat food filled with healthy nutrients. And if we are lucky we can share the surplus in our communities, growing and nourishing connections.


Plan your visit:

Edible Forest at
Yarra Valley Estate
2164 Melba Hwy
Dixons Creek VIC 3775
www.edibleforest.co

Tours operate Monday to Saturday, at 10am for approx. 45 mins—1 hour and an additional Saturday only tour at 12pm. Bookings are necessary.

Tour, Taste & Educate – $15 Per Person
Tour, Taste, Wine & Dine – $65 Per Person

Repairing Australia: the rise of Repair Cafes

16 February 2020

Repairing Australia: the rise of Repair Cafes
Thank you Moonee Valley Repair Cafe for fixing my sons beloved toy

Across Australian suburbs, Repair Cafes are offering communities a local hub to fix, mend and connect.

I'm a big repairing advocate for many reasons beyond reducing waste to landfill. Repairing means investing in important skills, telling companies I want items that can be repaired, valuing resources and the people who made my stuff. It's an act of environmental and social justice. And an important part of my families waste not framework.

There is also the happiness felt when you get something fixed. I'll never forget the joy I experienced at getting my old blender repaired by the crew at Bright Sparks, now sadly closed.

A sustainable future will feature an active repairing industry and Repair Cafes are laying the groundwork and reviving a forgotten skillsets.

The Repair Cafe movement began 2009 by Martine Postma in Amsterdam. It's simplicity has seen the idea expand across the world with over 2000 cafes. Australia currently hosts over 40 Repair Cafes.

How does a Repair Cafe work:

Depending on the Repair Cafe they usually run once a month in a local community space. Tables are set up with the fixer on one side and the customer (you and me) sit on the other. You can't just drop your item off to pick up later. Instead you are invited to watch, learn and talk with the person fixing your item.

Before you sit down, customers will talk to someone at the booking desk where they take your details, discuss the broken item you wish to have fixed and direct you to the fixer with the skills best suited to your item. There is a form to read, fill out and sign, so the customer knows that all repairs are undertaken at their own risk once they leave the premise with them. If the item is unable to be repaired by a fixer they will tell you straight away, directing you where to take it if they believe someone else can do it.

The service is free. Yes, free. The fixers donate their time and customers are welcome to make a donation at the booking desk.

The items usually brought in are are small electrical goods, bikes, clothing, small furniture, homewares.If you are unsure about an item that can be fixed contact the repair cafe first. Large items like fridges are not accepted. The general rule is that you should be able to carry the item into the cafe yourself. But again, double check with a message to your local Repair Cafe.

Also no one brings in a box full of broken items, one or two is encouraged per visit.

Repairing Australia: the rise of Repair Cafes
Sharing skills, meeting a member of my community, all while keeping this much loved toy out of landfill 

How do I set up a Repair Cafe in my area?

To find out out how to set one up, here are three ways to learn how:
  • The Repair Cafe international website offer a detailed Manual for 49 euros.
  • Michelle and Lindsay from Melbourne Repair Cafe have an explanation on their FAQ section 
  • You can also contact a Repair Cafe to ask their advice too. They are fellow waste and sustainable living enthusiasts, and will gladly offer their advice to help get another Repair Cafe into the world.
You don't need repairing experience to set one up either. Your role could be something else, like admin or booking or marketing. The repair movement needs more than just people with toolboxes!

Where to find a Repair Cafe?

Below is a list of Repair Cafes in Australia. Check the international map for locations in your country. Please note most links below will take you to the local Facebook pages for each repair cafe as they offer the most up to date information and events for each cafe. Follow the Repair Cafe Australia page for national repair news and events.

VICTORIA

Geelong Repair Cafe Highton
Geelong West Repair Cafe
Bellarine Repair Cafe
Repair Cafe Surf Coast
Southern Peninsula Repair Cafe
Mornington Repair Cafe
Port Fairy Repair Cafe
Wyndham Repair Cafe
Moonee Valley Repair Cafe
Darebin Repair Cafe
North Balwyn Repair Cafe
Warrandyte Repair Cafe
Ringwood Repair Cafe
Konx Repair Cafe
St. Kilda Repair Cafe
Latrobe Valley Repair Cafe
Ballarat Repair Cafe
Woodend Repair Cafe
Alexandra Repair Cafe
Castlemaine Repair Cafe
Seymour Repair Cafe
Bendigo Repair Cafe
Wangaratta Repair Cafe
Albury Wodonga Repair Cafe

ACT

Canberra Repair Cafe

New South Wales

Wollongong Repair Cafe
Bega Valley Repair Cafe
The Bower Repair Cafe – various Sydney locations including Oatley
North Sydney Repair Cafe
Mullumbimby Repair Cafe

Northern Territory

Alice Springs Repair Cafe

South Australia

Adelaide Repair Cafe
Unley Repair Cafe

Western Australia

Albany Repair Cafe
Jarrahdale Repair Cafe
Fremantle Repair Cafe
Belmont Repair Cafe
Perth Repair Cafe
Doubleview Repair Cafe

Tasmania

Hobart Repair Cafe

Queensland


The list is up to date as of 18.02.2020. Feel free to contact me if I need to add or remove a repair cafe. 


Mend it, Australia run by Karen and Danny Ellis feature stories from their travels to community repair events, discuss important topics and advocate for businesses and government to encourage repairing.

iFixit is a website everyone should bookmark. They have repair guides, forums, communities, comprehensive technical videos. There are tools for sale to help fixers repair. The organisation wants to be bring about radical change in our rights to repair, empowering customers to speak up and ensure our stuff is made to last.


Repairing our stuff is one of the many individual steps we can all take to help fight climate change. Manufacturing new items requires raw materials and energy, producing pollution along the way. By repairing we are challenging the make, buy, throwaway culture that is at the heart of the environmental and social issues our world is facing. Repairing teaches us to value, care, learn and connect.

Thank you to every person donating their time to repair items and help run these cafes. I think you are superheros. And so does my kid. 
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