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Plastic Free July

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(Mostly) Waxed Boxes…very reusable!

Here we are in Plastic Free July again.

In previous years at Birdsong, we have had giveaway reusable mesh produce bags for certain sized orders and looked at ways we can reduce our single use plastic packaging.

This year, it would be great to make the effort to get everyone returning waxed boxes and glass jars that can be reused for future orders. Some customers are amazing at this…every order, without fail, they bring back their boxes, crates and jars. But for others it’s not a habit yet 🙂

Our one plastic use at Birdsong that we can’t do much about, is packaging loose-leaf greens. They’re moist, so paper just disintegrates. And while mesh produce bags are ok, the bags are worth almost as much as the greens in value, so it’s difficult to use them without raising our prices substantially. Many of our customers order for delivery, so everything has to be pre-packed before transporting into town, ruling out the option of customers bringing their own produce bags..having said that, if you are keen enough to shop on-site at Birdsong and BYO packaging, we can accommodate that.

If you are on our email list, you’ll have noticed I always thank people for bringing back their waxed boxes and large glass jars. The waxed boxes (especially the size pictured above) are very much reusable. So please don’t throw them away! If you are a delivery customer, you can leave boxes at your front door for me to collect when I next deliver to you, and if you’re a pickup customer, you can bring the boxes back with you on your next pickup. I know it can take a while to get in the habit. When supermarkets first discontinued single use plastic bags, it took me a while (and several trips back to the car!) to get used to bringing them in with me. But now it’s automatic, the habit has been formed.

Large capacity (1kg+) glass jars can be sterilised and reused also

Another way we reduce plastic packaging, is by packing our organic nuts/seeds/dried fruit etc in glass preserving jars, as pictured above. These too, can be sent back for cleaning and reusing. I love glass, because besides having a long life, it doesn’t alter the flavour of whatever is packed in it. And a row of glass packed foods look quaint on the pantry shelf 🙂

If you are bringing jars in that didn’t originally come from a Birdsong order, just keep in mind they need to be large and able to hold about a kilo of nuts. Jam jars and other smaller jars just don’t have the required capacity. The largest moccona coffee jars are great for 1kg dried fruit.

Back when we were starting to convert to glass containers in our own pantry…

This Plastic Free July, let’s see if we can all form some helpful habits to reducing plastic waste in our lives.

For loads of inspiration and products to make the change to reusable packaging in your home, check out Green Dandelion, at 1 Station St, Toowoomba (inside the new Emerge Cafe) http://www.greendandelion.com.au

The Birdsong/Grassrootschef Tour

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Our first “paddock to plate” type tour was just over a week ago, with Asher and Jess from https://www.grassrootschef.com.au

Rick spent the first hour, sharing his valuable knowledge on gardening, with soil nutrition as the foundation. We wandered through the market garden, and as we did, Asher picked fresh produce to prepare for the group, right there in the paddock.

A fire pit was set up, and fresh corn was barbecued; a kale and red cabbage slaw prepared, pumpkin slabs roasted, a beetroot hummus whizzed up and some beautiful chickpea flour flat breads cooked. Asher shared some cooking techniques and showed us all how we can eat local, clean and delicious.

We had perfect weather (it was just before the frosts started!) and enjoyed meeting others who were keen to learn more about growing and eating fresh organic cuisine. As pictured, we all picnicked on blankets, right there next to the paddock that the meal was gathered from!

There’s definitely the possibility we’ll hold another similar event, so keep posted at https://www.grassrootschef.com.au

For Those Who are Looking for Farm Work (Why we’re not hiring)

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Requests for work on our farm are becoming quite regular! Sometimes it’s backpackers turning up on our doorstep asking if there’s work available, but more often it’s people calling to introduce themselves and see if there’s any work going here. Many times it’s from people who are genuinely interested in working on an organic farm, and it’s great to see the interest out there and that people are being proactive looking for employment….

But, I don’t think it’s clear from our website (how most job seeking people find us) that we are a very small, family run market garden. The market garden is actually only about 1 acre in size and not generating enough work (or income) to support employees. Rick sometimes even works full time engineering hours on top of the farming, because the market garden is not often a full time job…and because he gets a lot of help from the children and I 🙂

Rick takes care of crop planning, garden bed prep, mineral applications and sowing. The children do a lot of weeding and some harvesting, and I take care of all the sales/orders, packing, a lot of the correspondence and most of the harvesting. And the great thing about this, is that we know what’s going on, right from seed to sales and can provide a higher level of customer service because of that. I remember reading in a market gardening book how beneficial it is, for example, for the farmer to be the one selling his produce at a market, and not just an employee. When people are shopping at a farmers market, it’s generally because they care about where their food came from, how it was grown, etc. And they often want information about the more unusual varieties, how they might use/cook certain produce and the like. The farmer and his family know these things, but a seasonal or temporary worker probably doesn’t.

So, the fact that there’s not enough work here for an employee is the main reason we don’t hire, and the other is that although the market garden provides enough income to keep us going, it’s not enough to warrant paying an employee. We laughed last year at tax time when we discovered our taxable income is technically below the Australian poverty line! We certainly never feel poor, and the massive tax deductions involved with the first few years of setting up a business had a lot to do with the tiny taxable income, but you get the point…it’s not worth hiring anyone when we’re this small!

If you are reading this and you are looking for work in the Toowoomba area on an organic farm, you could try Birchgrove Farm. They specialise in the best chicken eggs you can get in our district (even growing organic produce to feed to the chickens!) and they also sell various beautiful organic greens at the Sunday PCYC markets. I know they were setting up worker accommodation on site, so obviously they hire from time to time. I hope those of you looking for work can find it, but I just wanted to mention on our website here, that we’re not hiring (might save some of you the trip out here to ask!)