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Home grown and hand  made at Trentham

November 23rd, 2020Home grown and hand made at Trentham

IRENE and Andrew Brooks have been at their Trentham East/North Blackwood property for 12 years. In that time they have turned a hectare over to a diversified cultivation of fruit trees and market gardens.

Like other growers around the area they frequented the local farmers markets to sell their produce including Lancefield, Woodend and Malmsbury. Come 2020 everyone knows what happened. The pandemic took hold and public gatherings such as markets were one of the first areas of the regional economy to be restricted and shut down.
“When COVID-19 started to look really concerning and serious back in March,” recalls Irene, “none of us knew what an earth it was going to be all about and where that journey was going to go.
“The word around was older people were more vulnerable and my husband and I are both in our 60s. I said to him I just wasn’t comfortable going anymore, so we basically stopped all farmers market activity at that point.”

But they realised, as the weeks of shutdown turned into months, that just because the markets had been closed, that didn’t mean the garden would stop producing.
They pondered on what they might be able to do to get the produce they had to customers. Then they had the idea to reopen their business at their farm under the name of Home Grown & Hand Made. They returned to trading in November and the results have been very encouraging. Love it or hate it, Irene is the first to acknowledge that Facebook has been instrumental in helping the Brooks set up anew.
“I was a person who avoided any involvement with Facebook since its inception but I realised that I would probably find it most useful for the transition and getting the word out to potential customers. So I enrolled for Facebook and have been training myself to use it as a way of letting people know.”
At Home Grown & Hand Made the ethos of the property is: If we don’t grow it, make it, or create it here then we don’t sell it. The range of produce available unfolds with the seasons and currently some of the food they offer is asparagus, rhubarb, apples, cherries, blueberries and raspberries.
They also grow saffron and have fresh cut flowers when available including peonies, liliums and David Austin roses. Next they have a range of what Irene describes as pantry items and shelf staples all ready for Christmas. These include roasted cherry jam with brandy, lemon and lime marmalade and tomato and saffron relish.
“There are a lot of new people coming to us, many from the local community and even from Melbourne and overall feedback has been excellent. It has been great to re-engage with stall trading after a six-month layoff. But I think selling from home is definitely the way forward for us.”
Restrictions are now easing and farmers markets are coming back again. Many traders will return to their old ways of doing business, but not the Brooks. At their farm everything is on hand, if they need something they can go get it. They will not miss the demands of market days; the travel, the early starts and all the arrangements that have to be in place the day before.
Still, that does not mean there is less work to do.
“Maintaining productive gardens takes lots of maintenance,” says Irene, “pruning, plantings, general weeding, mulching, feeding and all those things. But I truly love doing it and it is a major creative outlet. Others may play an instrument or do art, but this is how I express my creativity.”

Words: Tony Sawrey | Image: Kyle Barnes

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