Introducing our next CommuniFoodie; The Little Tin Shed. Do not let the name fool you, this fruit and vegetable produce farm grows a huge variety to satisfy the seasonal collection of your grocery shop!
Farmer Graham Harris (Harry) with his wife Jane and mother Francis, daughter and son Sarah Daniel and their partners Karli and Sam (and farm dog Rosie) all playing an integral part of the farm. The produce harvested from the land is sold directly out the front, it doesn't get much fresher than that!
Spread over 27acres the farm has such a diverse range of items and is a feast for the eyes! Hosting rows of different vegetables and fruits, to see it from a sky view would be incredible. The Harris Family have been working this land for 3 generations and with three generations still working on the farm today.
“I grew up on fresh fruit and vegetables. It has just always been how we lived” -Sarah
Each year the family plants a large plot of flowers to create bunches for Mother’s Day. The front of the farm showing the sprouting flowers as their 7 month journey to next May has only just begun.
“We try to do around 6000 bunches, Mother’s Day week is just manic”
Close beside the field, another colourful addition grows. The strawberry plots are just incredible, rows and rows of sweet goodness, positioned in raised beds and a casing to protect from dirt and rot.
Walking down the farm road an incredible orchard of fruit trees steels the show. Growing figs, nectarines, blood plums and some of the most amazing peaches you’ll taste (I promise!)! The family producing trailer loads of the stone fruits, being one of their most popular items at market stalls. Though the farm is aware of the pitfalls of nature, with bats and bird taking a liking to the trees and this year with a bird net collapse, they lost some of their harvest.
The plants comes from the greenhouse nursery where you will find various seedlings and diverse colours ready to be planted to begin their journey into fruits and veg.
“We purchase the seeds or seedlings from Sydney, or we grow them ourselves; from our own seeds.”
The humidity inside the greenhouse creates the ultimate growing conditions and pest control benefits, which is why the next greenhouse is a tomato heaven. Walls and walls of tomatoes growing like vines, it was a scene out of Alice in Wonderland.
When you didn’t think it could get any better, the further along the dirt path we walked, the more was revealed. Rows of beans, corn, zucchini, cauliflowers, rock melons, watermelons, pumpkins, apple cucumbers, The Little Tin Shed continuing to tick boxes of household items.
“The cycle is around 3 months. We try to move the vegetables around, so we aren’t growing the same thing in the same area for too long. We plan everything out, so the soil is exposed to different things”- Sarah
Some items work best next to each other and some items don’t. Certain type of pumpkin requiring harvest before the mildew sets it, but its vine work complimentary to other parts of the farms eco-system.
A combination of harsh conditions, drought and other obstacles this year, The Little Tin Shed has seen a downturn in production.
“10 inches of rain wouldn’t even flood me this year.” -Graham
“This year we are only producing 1/3 of what we did last year. Dad’s been doing this forever and we slowed down production for some rest and it shows how much it slows things down. It’s a lot of work and we all try to pitch in when we can.” - Sarah
Last year when it was full scale production, the farm expressed the need for more workers. There wasn’t enough hands to deal with the abundance of fruit and vegetables available and if they are not harvested within the time frames for sale, a lot of wastage can occur.
The farm doesn’t meet the requirements to get access to Working Holiday Australia program for travelers even though the work is plentiful and the facilities are available. If the farm was able to engage the program, they would be able to grow and produce more to the community and public. The farm has had the same workers for years and they have become part of the family, but there hasn't exactly been an influx of young 'future' farmers or farm hands rushing in as the global market environment changes so rapidly farming isn't as popular as it once was.
“It’s really hard to engage with new young workers these days, or people that are interested in farming.”
There is a call out to younger generations to get involved and take an interest in where their food comes from. Awareness around a community feeling and support network. Food is simply bought in supermarkets because of it’s ‘easy of access’ and the ‘lazy’ generational lifestyle.
“We get a lot of older people that come to the shed weekly and buy their items. They have a different understanding of food.”
When items are not perfect, they are offered as seconds and when the seconds don’t sell the family don’t throw them out they have a zero wastage approach with Francis's (Nan) creation of relishes, pickles and jams being a popular item on The Little Tin Shed’s list.
“I grew up on farm fresh produce, we would eat a lot of the seconds too, there is really nothing wrong with them or we end up helping Nan cut them up and turn them into something else.”
In the big shed, the family is hands on. Packing boxes of the beautiful foods for the various markets they attend. The ‘old school’ weight machines, woven baskets and traditional tools are still of use and modern technology doesn’t seem necessary. It functions as its own system, each person playing a part in delivering good quality local grown food.
“Farmers needs to support each other in times like these, it’s not a competition, we are all in this together. Some people grow things better than we do and we grow some things better than they do, with the harsh conditions out there and just the big grocery stores too, if we come together and support one and other we can do great things.”
There was so much in abundance on the farm and to be there when only a 1/3 of the farm is in production excites us for a full- scale production. If the demand is there from the community, farms like The Little Tin Shed will provide. Why not get together with some friends and organize a rotation system to drive out and do a big collection of locally grown fruit and veg? It’s so affordable! Take note of where The Little Tin Shed’s vegetables and fruits are next featured at local markets and pop down to try them for yourself. Buy from your own backyard, support your local farmers and families!
Until Next Time!
Where: 637 Medowie Road, Medowie – The Little Tin Shed Opening from 8:30 to 5pm most days, but check the Facebook for updates! Earth Markets, Slow Food Markets, Newcastle City Growers Market. What they grow: Tomatoes, Apple Cucumbers, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Corn, Beans, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Shallots, Peaches, Nectarines, Plums, Figs, Strawberries, Spinach, Beetroot, Relishes and Jams, Rockmelon, Watermelon, Pumpkin and little featured extras. How they grow: All the sprays and fertilizers used align with the permitted items on the organic requirements and standards. They do not feature an organic certification but grow with minimal intrusion and align with these standards. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarah.harris.9047506/