Ray from Seven Acres Farm

Ray from Seven Acres Farm

Ray is kind of our resident sage on the Collective; his grin and his eye-sparkle a prelude to a story. Ray’s life in a farming, then commercial, then farming again, environment, means we have the wisdom of someone who has a breadth of experience to draw upon. We need that on the Collective. Doesn’t everyone? Plus, he grows awesome produce!

How long have you been farming?

For me, life started on a farm. It’s quite amazing how life can innately lead us to return to where we started, going in an ever-increasing circle to get there. Now ‘farming’ is retirement with a purpose.

I have weaved my life around farming and an off-farm career. In the 70’s I lived and worked on a poultry farm, in the 90’s, I brought a few acres, planted an orchard, while working on another farm and a nursery, then worked in a couple of orchards. To further our vision in 2003, we brought this property as a small family farm in South Gippsland.

What did you do before you were a farmer?

I went to commercial art school, finished art and graphic design, then had the opportunity of working in the news media as a typographer. At 22, I was invited to fly over the ditch, joining the Herald and Weekly Times, working on a host of publications. Finally, after many years I got involved with hand painting signs, murals, scenic art, even a few movie productions.

When was your “A-ha” ‘A-HA’ moment, for wanting to farm?

Not really sure if there was ever a decisive moment, however, there was an extremely profound moment that’s as vivid today as it was way back then. While I was working at a NZ country newspaper, my editor at the time wrote a scientific article that went to print as ‘Letter from the Editor’ that revealed how the ice in the Antarctic was in decline via ice core sampling. After much discussion we figured out greening the place up and growing our own food would be wise. I grew a veggie patch everywhere l went, I continued to ride my bike to work, and I thought it may go a long way in changing the outcome.  That was a profound editorial piece that rekindled the original idea of being out in fields of green and wanting to regenerate the land with lots of trees.

What makes your product different from say, a supermarket product?

We grow everything here on this land, use Australian made paper bags that customers receive their produce in, picked the day prior to delivering to Meeniyan. Everything is grown from open pollinated and organic seeds. We are using a mixture of permaculture, organic, and biodynamic principles that all blend together for this sustainable farm as it all starts in the good healthy soil biomass and humus. Our paddocks are full of a massive variety of grasses for enhancing biodiversity. Many of the fruit and nut trees were grown by propagation, the remainder from grafts. We also have a few beehives for pollination. We have a closed loop manure system that hedges farm outputs to a minimum by making our own compost. Without irrigation, we can leave our fruit to ripen by the sun and this increases all the flavour – picked for taste, as it should be. None of our fruit is held over after harvest for cold storage, to be sold over the following years. Every vegetable, berry, or piece of fruit is grown seasonal, then it’s picked and it’s sold.

Farming influences? Who’s your farming hero?

Firstly, my mum and dad, who only grew their food organically, dad would never use synthetic fertilisers. Then my farming uncles and aunties and a few like-minded people I’ve met along life’s journey. Plus, as mentioned above, my old editor who in 1972 wrote that piece on what we now refer to as ‘Global Warming.’

What’s a standard day on the farm?

Well, being grateful for where I am. Getting up early, enjoying the sun rise, being open to learning something every day. Getting stuck into a labour of love, it’s never ending, everything needs constant attention, hand weeding and plant care by observation, out in the garden, orchards, and the lush green fields. Saying hello to the animals, including geese, ducks, chooks, and two favourite King Parrots. Continually regenerating this land with more trees, it was totally void of any trees when we purchased this place, slowing water run-off – the frogs love that. It’s a 7 day a week involvement in all 4 seasons. Finally, to go inside after watching the sun go down, the day’s done.

For people wanting to get into farming, what’s your advice?

Depending on where they purchase land and their intent, are you a lifestyle land user or a serious producer? It can be a meaningful career. Even if you never become a farmer you may want to regenerate the land. But it is important to understand that everything grown has its seasonality. The next big things to think about are the isolation, ambulance access, and the bush fire overlay. There are very few council services out here – these rough dirt roads that can only be driven with a reliable vehicle. We have always been off grid, neither electricity nor Internet are reliable. It can take a huge amount of financial commitment at the start, and if you feel like an ice cream on a hot summer’s day, its 45 minute return trip to the local shops – think about it, is farming really in your blood?

How did you hear about the Prom Coast Food Collective? Has it helped?

I first heard about the PCFC though Amelia at the Foster Farmers Market back in 2018 as another producer selling our fruit and vegies. Heck yeah, it’s helped, 100%! They are a wonderful group of people, a combined effort, sharing and helping one another!

If you impart one piece of knowledge to your customer base, about cooking with your product, what would it be?

We love our fruit and veggies they are hand-picked and packed the day before delivery, so it can’t get much fresher than that. Cook it or eat it raw, a fairly basic recipe!

What’s one thing we may not know about you, aside from farming?

Travelling inter-state and overseas, 4WD touring and exploring, hiking and skiing, even played in a few bands years ago, and I still follow the footy.

Favourite farming book?

It’s a picture book of Tractors on the farm, given to me in 1957 from my mum and dad. Also ‘Being There’ by Jerzy Kosinski was very poignant for me – it was also Peter Sellers’ last movie.

Favourite non-farming book? 

Alphonse Mucha, The Master of Art Nouveau, is the standout. I have many books on art and many interesting subjects, but this one is my favourite.