Monday, March 25, 2013

Seven Hills Organic Farm Open Day

Yesterday I, along with my family and good veggie group friend, visited a local farm that I had very much been looking forward to seeing. Situated in the picturesque hills of Kerrie, Victoria, the 115 acre farm run by the Murray family, goes by the name Seven Hills Organic Farm. What I find most interesting about this farm and it's inhabitants, aside from being very close to achieving full self-sufficiency, are the businesses that have been formed from it, run primarily by the children!

In our local area, (Macedon Ranges), Josh's Rainbow Eggs are well known. Initially being sold at farmers markets and then making their way into the stores, Josh, aged 12, offers a local, free-range alternative to the mass produced eggs on offer. Sister Jess has branched out into flowers and sells her vibrant coloured blooms at the markets along with brother Jack, aka Sugar Snap Jack, who is growing his own beans and peas to earn a bit of pocket money.

It was so interesting to wander around this beautiful farm and take in the extensive infrastructure that goes with it...

The family raises four flocks of hens a year from day old chicks. Three of the flocks are laying hens that keep the eggs in good supply with the fourth being a meat flock for the family's own consumption.

The chicks are kept inside the fully fenced and netted espalier fruit orchard, safely out of harms reach of the foxes that roam the valley..
As we made our way through the shed, the group was shown how Josh's eggs are graded for sale. They are first candled to check for cracks and then rolled down a weighted machine which divides the eggs into their respective weight categories for correct packaging.


In the five acre fox proof run that houses the 900 laying hens, twelve year old Josh, a natural at addressing a group, explains the intricacies of his egg business...

Attendees are invited to collect their own eggs..


The chook tractor is a fine piece of work and cleverly designed with roosting quarters in the center and nesting boxes lining the outer edges. Eggs are collected twice a day and the tractor takes half an hour to move, which is substantially quicker than the family's previous set up. 
Hens are kept on a commercial organic diet which is supplemented with home sprouted barley grass and garlic infused cider vinegar. The hens are also free to dust bathe to keep parasites at bay. Everything the family does with the hens in mind is kept as natural as possible, "Letting the chickens behave exactly like chickens" as Josh so eloquently puts it. 
 Isa Browns, White Leghorns and Australorps make up the laying flock and are extremely curious of the sudden invasion of visitors into their domain..

Although some manage to seek a quiet, shady spot for a peaceful siesta.

The tour winds it's way out of the fenced hen area to Tamsyn's vegetable garden.
 Raised beds are the gardening method of choice here and the soil is comprised of a mixture of lucerne and chook manure, layered alternatingly into the beds and allowed to break down. The top layer is a homemade compost that is directly planted in to, while the watering is via drip irrigation with all water being collected on the property.

The family is completely self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables, with the exception of bananas, which according to the children, a childhood just isn't complete without!

Moving on to the glasshouse, we are shown how the seedling are raised for later transplanting..

The berry area with sturdy supports for the scrambling canes. Blackberries, raspberries and youngberries are grown, along with blueberries in the adjoining plot.

Walking up the hill a little way reveals the polytunnel. No ordinary plastic lined polytunnel, this one has adjustable sides which are raised or lowered in a moment, depending on the weather conditions and the plants' needs. The addition of the polytunnel has significantly lengthened the growing season for the Murray family.
 Tamsyn explains her unique way of growing tomatoes. After thoroughly pruning the lower half of the tomato plant and leaving the upper foliage in tact, the plant grows and the tomatoes fruit straight from the stems, eliminating all of the bushy growth that typically comes with growing tomatoes..

 ..making harvesting a whole lot easier!

 Aside from tomatoes, the polytunnel is home to members of the squash family including tromboncino, gem squash and buttercup pumpkins. Not to mention sweet potatoes and the most delicious looking passionfruit I have ever seen!

The tour wound up with James' coverage on the Dorper sheep and pig experiences the family have faced recently along with down to earth, honest advice for those thinking of taking up food farming themselves.


It was a fantastic day out and I have come back with so much from the experience.

Thankyou to the Murray family for being such gracious hosts and allowing us a glimpse into your fascinating and inspiring lifestyle.

Click here for more information on on Seven Hills Organic Farm 

11 comments:

  1. Oh wow that looks like a fun outing. I love that glasshouse! Those kids are going to go far in life :)

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  2. What an amazing place. I wish i had known about it before the open day. Thanks for link.

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  3. Oh I would love to visit this place . I love how this family has given their children the freedom to form their own business. It also lets me see how things could end up ,only last week a JB and Little G approached us to sell some things in the farm stay shop.I thought it was kinda cute, but now I can see it will be happening and I will be encouraging it .

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  4. Most women I know drool at the thought of a day out shopping, I drool at the thought of visiting places such as this.

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  5. What a to-die-for property. This place looks amazing Christine. No doubt a lot of hard (but enjoyable) work to maintain, but oh so rewarding.. I agree with africanaussie, that glasshouse is painfully beautiful.

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  6. sounds like a blast! I'm oogling that polytunnel.....

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  7. I was beyond captivated for the whole time reading this. What an amazing place and what a brilliant story. I would love to go and see what he has going on there and wow how wonderful is what they are doing!
    Thank you for sharing this inspiring, nourishing and hopeful post. xxxx

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  8. What a wonderful place and how lucky that you are able to visit! I love the photo of the chickens in the shade!

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  9. wow... I think I'll have to go back and re-read that post a few times over to take it all in. then my mind will explode with all the things I want to add to my 'to do' list here! lol

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  10. Oh wow! I'm so glad you wrote tis post! I didn't know about this farm and it is so inspiring. I'll check out their website. Like Kristy, I'm a little scared I'll get too many new ideas!

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  11. Wow! How amazing is that!! Love that the kids can do the things that interest them, make some money and learn so much about how the real world really works! Very very impressive. Wish I lived a bit closer! - K xx

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Hi there, so nice of you to stop by! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I love hearing what you are up to. Christine x

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