Village Dreaming

The beginning

Mara and Ralf, with daughters Ahlia and Artemisia, moved to 15 acres of fertile land at Balmpied in 2015. Over the past 4 years Mara and family have built a new home with multiple kitchens, a large vegetable kitchen garden, various orchards, a beautiful wetland to welcome native birds and provide habitat for dragonflies and frogs, and areas for keeping animals- chickens, pigs, sheep, ducks and geese. They have also built 2 farm-stay/Airbnb rooms.

Farming principles and methodology

The farm operates on regenerative principles. It also provides opportunities for groups of people with a passion for growing, preserving, baking, cooking and feasting to come together to learn how to establish their own kitchen garden and how to make the most from their harvest. Village Dreaming is a place where Mara and family, as well as guests, can experience village life at its very best.

Distribution of farm produce

As at mid 2019, somewhere between 500-1,000 kgs of fresh food is produced per annum.

Preserving, bartering and gifting: Food grown on the farm is eaten fresh and preserved/fermented  primarily by family and farm stay guests. Abundant harvests are preserved and stored in Mara’s specially designed cool room/pantry. Fresh food is bartered with other local growers and distributers, for example: Mara barters veggies for meat produced at nearby Jonai farm; veggie swaps with Meg and Patrick’s permaculture plot; veggies for tahini and cabbages and local olive oil with Su at Hepburn Relocalisation Network; eggplants for feijoas with Kirsten at Milkwood.

Community supported agriculture: In summer 2018/19, tomatoes from an abundant harvest contributed towards the community supported agriculture veggie box scheme, supplementing food grown at nearby Captains Creek Organic farm. These veggie boxes are distributed to locals through Hepburn Relocalisation Network and some boxes also go to Melbourne.

Selling produce: In addition to supplementing Captains Creek veggie box scheme (700 kg’s tomatoes), excess harvests are sold to local cafes such as Spade to Blade in Daylesford, Red Beard in Trentham, in minimum lots of 5kg’s. Publicity to promote harvests relies on Instagram, community emails as well as word of mouth.

Future plans

A range of fruit and nut trees have been planted and Mara expects these will produce harvests in the next couple of years. The trees include: lemon, lime, chestnut, walnut, apricot, hazelnut, apple, cherry, nashi and plum. Pigs will soon arrive and will provide meat for 10 families in the area. A large chook house is currently being constructed to provide eggs for the farm.  

Water access and rights

Water from tanks is used as a first source and bore water is used as a last resort. Mara does not have a water permit licence that allows her to sell excess.

Challenges

Infrastructure– a freezer would be helpful, especially during harvesting season and when the pigs arrive. An existing cool room is used, as are greenhouses. A chicken pen, wood shed and pig house are all in the process of being constructed.  A local abattoir is needed and Mara is very eager to see this happen.

Regulatory obstacles that limit the farm are those pertaining to water. A licence to sell excess produce is connected to a water permit. Water permit rules need to match new and/or individual situations. Water entitlements are expensive – the water costs more than Mara would make in selling, so rights have to be scaled to the size of farm. 

Making a living: the farm stay/Airbnb subsidises the running costs of the farm. This allows Mara to be full time on the farm, tending gardens, harvesting food, preparing food for guests, preserving in times of abundance, and teaching guests and others about regenerative farming.

Contact

Contact details: Mara Ripani, Allisons Rd, Blampied, 3364, e: mara@villagedreaming.com.au

Type: Small farm/grower, farm stay, bartering excess produce

Size and Location: 15 acres, Blampied

Products: Current Staples- raspberries, blueberries, currants, strawberries, eggplants, tomatoes, garlic