The Prez Sez — January 2012

SAGE President Stuart Whitelaw’s monthly roundup, not of the trademarked kind.

The garden keeps on giving and so does SAGE!

Our holiday season seems to be stretching out more than ever this year, but the garden has been coping brilliantly. Last night we had some friends around and cooked almost the entire meal from outside the door. We had steamed potatoes, roasted sweet potato, bean salad with basil (blue lake and purple king beans), and warm beetroot with goats cheese. I have to admit that we no longer have a milking goat, but when our boys were growing up (having found they were allergic in different ways to cow’s milk) I milked our goats for about 12 years.

This time of year usually meant a fridge full of 2 litre Fowler’s Vacola bottles of milk waiting to become cottage cheese or into one of my ventures into hard cheese.

The season must be good for all the birds and beasts as well because for the first time in 10 years we have been picking fruit from un-netted trees, including peaches and figs which are normally first on the bower birds’ menu. The first crop of figs is usually quite small on our trees, but this year we have already made the first batch of fig jam.

SAGE is looking good at present, and we are keeping up with the grass (just). The rabbits are still giving us trouble, so a priority this year will be rabbit-proof fencing. Or maybe we ask them nicely to just eat the grass.

The Southeast HARVEST festival is getting close as is the SAGE fundraiser, the Riverfeast. I would guess the tickets will be sold out in a heartbeat when they go on sale in February. We still aren’t sure if we will be having an open day after the festival; it all depends on the attendance of a certain very dynamic gardening personality. If it happens it will be huge and we will need all hands to the pump to organise the day. Please mark the weekend of the 16/17/18th March in your diaries.

We are almost ready for roof sheeting of “polehenge”, so we will be catching rainwater to mix with our bore water. We will then be pretty self-reliant for our watering needs. A covered area for shade and rain protection is a side benefit.

I think this year will see SAGE take the first steps possibly outside our site. The vision of all of the land around us becoming an intensely managed food producing area, integrating animals and commercial scale vegetable growing,
may start to happen. This will mean some kind of cooperative, CSA, or land bank to allow people to invest in their local food security. All you people out there who have an inkling how this strange beast called “the economy” works should put on your thinking caps to find creative ways to make this happen.

Speaking of things creative, you may have seen the new “Food and Art” guide that was put out by Council just before Christmas. I was lucky enough to be asked to provide artwork for the guide, which was a big job in a short timeframe,
but very enjoyable. Inside the back cover is a little dedication saying “inspired by SAGE”. It’s amazing where our journey is taking us.

I have been reading the discussion paper recently released called “South East Food: Growing the Regional Food Economy in South East NSW“. You can find it by searching “South East Food NSW” or click on the link. It is a wonderful document with heaps of new research and valuable ideas and links. It is the basis for getting our market more localised and should be read by all SAGE members. The opportunities for increased vegetable production in the area are huge. The figures for Bega Shire show the extent of the problem/opportunity: market value of vegetables in 2005–06 $16.8million, market value of commercial production in the shire for the same period $0.2million.

The numbers for Eurobodalla would be in the same order. Making up even half of this shortfall will create hundreds of jobs, as well as a vastly improved diet and lifestyle for us all. We should be able to knock that over in the next year, what
do you reckon?

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