Food from Home Stories

Our Food from Home community is growing each day! Food from Home Stories is a place to connect and share our knowledge, culture, and love of edible gardening with others.

Food from Home Stories: ‘Community gardens are the place to be’
Kim is a passionate community garden supporter in Melbourne’s South East. She talks about the many health benefits that community gardens can bring, especially in times of isolation and how you can go about joining one. She also shares how starting your own garden doesn’t have to be expensive!

Food from Home Stories: Viththiya, Mythily and Sai are three sisters from Sri Lanka who are keen growers from the South East. Having only established their garden in October 2020, the three write “we hope to continue this passion and grow as humans and as sisters whilst growing our own food. Hence our name on Instagram, growth by growing.”

What made you start growing your own food?
We are three sisters born in Sri Lanka, and migrated to Australia 16 years ago, where we now call Melbourne home. We were always fond of plants, and we initially started off with houseplants, where few years ago, we bought our first Monstera deliciosa. The houseplants grew over time with calatheas, lilies, birds of paradise etc. However, during last year’s lockdown due to COVID, we grew appreciation for the food we ate, and we felt that it was time to listen to our heart and start growing our own food in our front yard.

What do you find most rewarding about the process of growing your own produce?
Growing and harvesting our own food feels so rewarding and makes us feel connected to the nature. The best aspect of growing our own food is the ability to share the food with family friends and even neighbours. The random hellos and small talks with people who walk past our house makes us feel closer to the community we live in.

What does ‘Food from Home’ mean to you?
Jenny Uglow once said that, “we might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us”. This quote really resonates with us as we feel that whenever we enter our front veggie garden, we leave all our problems and worries behind before entering. It’s a place where we only think about plants and how we can improve our veggie garden. We also feel that it is strengthening our relationship as sisters. We work together to clear out the beds, plan what to plant next and go shopping for more seeds together. My parents love spending the time with us watering the plants where we chill and relax after a stressful day at work or university.

To follow the sister’s journey, follow them on Instagram:

Food from Home Stories: ‘Hands-on learning at Hallam PS’
Louisa is the Kitchen Garden Program Coordinator at Hallam Primary School in the City of Casey. Hear about their fantastic kitchen garden program, what makes it successful, the benefits, and how it promotes the importance of growing, harvesting and eating fresh fruit and vegetables to school communities!

Food from Home Stories: ‘We should focus on localising a food source and nurture the soil beneath our feet’
Zoe is a Mum and an active community member in Greater Dandenong, trying to do her bit to reduce her carbon footprint by growing her own food at home. Zoe explains how growing your own food ultimately help mitigate climate change and create a better future for all.

Food from Home Stories: George Fittock is an avid at-home gardener and active community member in Cardinia Shire who shares why he grows his own food and also provides some tips on getting your own edible garden started.

How did you get started on your edible gardening journey?
I’ve had gardens for donkey’s years. I’ve always had a backyard and have always made part of it an edible garden. My wife especially loves to cook with fresh herbs and that’s why the garden is bigger now. We love to share our fresh produce with my family and I love knowing we are eating fresh chemical free veggies. 

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start their own edible garden?
Just give it a go. Make sure you prep your soil with good compost. I personally like mushroom compost and also mulching my own compost from the garden and home scraps. You don’t need a big space to grow lots of veggies. We have our veggies growing in a small area and it yields a lot of produce. I don’t use any chemicals or pesticides in my garden, instead I battle with the bugs – if you want a chemical free garden it is possible.

What do you enjoy most about growing food at home?
I enjoy seeing my veggies grow, to then pick it, cook it and enjoy it in my meals. When my garden is full and green, it is beautiful to look at and spend time in. I rarely buy veggies as we grow enough to blanch and freeze until next season when we can grow another batch of fresh produce. I also enjoy the thought of not using chemicals or pesticides in my garden.

What does ‘food from home’ mean to you?
It means fresh produce, chemical free and organic food in the comfort of my backyard. You know exactly what you are putting in your mouth. My children and grandchildren come and choose what they want and we love sharing our home grown veggies with the family.

Food from Home Stories: Sharmini from Lyndhurst shares her edible gardening journey.

How long have you grown your own food?
Like many of us, I started my edible garden started during the COVID-19 lockdown last year in 2020. I chose to grow vegetables, herbs and fruits that I cook with at home very often such as tomatoes, chillies, cucumber, okra, broccoli, kale, aloe vera and lemon guava. I like to stick to the basics and keep it simple, so I only have a few plants at the moment, but am surprised at the results I already have! I have always done a bit of basic home growing as that has been an important part of my Sri Lankan culture. Agriculture was very dominant where I am from. I grew up on an average household income, where did some ‘basic home growing’. We had a king coconut tree, and grew other edibles such as mangoes, guava, edible flowers, sugar cane and manioc.

Why do you choose to grow food at home?
Growing my own food and getting out in the garden every day is so good for my physical and mental wellbeing. It brings me joy and satisfaction to see the whole process of growing my own food – from planting, to watering and looking after it to harvesting and cooking with it. It’s an excellent exercise to keep my mental health in balance. I prefer not to wear gloves and work bare foot (if safe) as I believe touching the dirt and being closely connected to nature is healthy for me.

What does ‘Food from Home’ mean to you?
To me it means I am eating healthy and chemical free food. It saves me having to buy produce from the store. I also love to share my excess produce with neighbours and they have done the same to me in the past. Being from a different culture, this is a good way to connect with others. Also, nothing is more satisfying that eating and enjoying your own home-grown produce. There is a Sri Lankan proverb that says a farmer who ploughs a paddy field in the mud, is like a king once he comes out and washes the mud off. What this means is that growing food has many health (and environmental) benefits and should never be under estimated.

Food from Home Stories: Meet Tim, a self-proclaimed ‘gardening addict’ who shares his passion in growing his own food and encourages others to do the same! Read his story below.

What type of gardener would you describe yourself as?
I would describe myself as an amateur gardener with so much to learn.  Although I started my first veggie patch over 30 years ago as a child and have had a veggie patch for more than half the years since, there is still so much to learn and every day in the garden is a learning curve. What may have grown really well last year may not necessarily do as well this year, with different weather conditions, pest challenges or a million other factors that could result in something different happening to this seasons crops. The fact that every day in the garden is different is a part of what makes growing your own food fun and addictive.

What has been the biggest challenge growing your own produce and what learnings have you taken from it?
The biggest challenge growing your own food, is to not let yourself get too down if you have a failure. To watch something grow from a seed to being days away from harvest only to have something happen to the crop whether is be some sneaky rats turning up for a feed, or a big storm that rolls in and flattens the garden, it can be quite devastating.
I like to store these moments in the back of my mind and move on but then remember those disappointing moments when I have a successful crop which makes the successes even more tasty and satisfying.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start their own edible garden? 
I would recommend starting small and slowly building up the garden over time as your confidence and knowledge builds, otherwise it can be quite overwhelming. I also suggest incorporating a mix of annuals and perennials so that there is always something in the the garden that is edible. My garden at my current house started about 11 years ago roughly 2 square meters in size, which was a great way to experiment and understand the time and effort involved in maintaining an edible space, as well as trying a few different veggies and get a better understanding of what worked in my own miniclimate. 
Each year since, my edible space in the garden has expanded and is now at the stage where edibles have been incorporated into most garden beds on our block. I have also only recently converted the front yard into a mini-orchard which is now in the process of being under planted with other edibles. This has increased the edible garden space to roughly 140 square meters, but at the same time kept in manageable and maintainable with earlier parts of the garden having become established and requiring less human input compared to the newer spaces. 

What does ‘Food from Home’ mean to you?
It is about being able to pop out to the garden just before preparing a meal and having as much of the ingredients as possible in the garden, fresh and ready to harvest. To be able to talk about where your food comes from in terms of meters rather than miles, seeing the lifecycle of the food from seed to harvest, and knowing your veggies can’t be any fresher is a great feeling. 
Being able to share this produce in a meal with visitors that you have not only cooked but grown as well, or sharing excess veggies with friends, neighbours or others in the community is what tops off the whole experience.

To follow Tim’s journey, follow him on Instagram: @theaussieveggiepatch.

Food from Home Stories: ‘Freshly picked, you just can’t buy that
Heike is a nutritionist with a passion for fresh, home-grown food. From growing up in Germany, Heike shares how her family has shaped her edible gardening journey, as well as some handy tips about how to preserve your produce and how to start growing your own food at home.

Food from Home Stories: Meet Elaine, a Mum, a Pakenham resident and an avid edible gardener who loves to connect, inspire and help others in her community to grow their own food. Read her story below.

How did you get started on your edible gardening journey? 
I moved from Cranbourne to Pakenham 3.5 years ago now with my Husband and our Daughter. As part of the build process we had grand plans for our landscaping, which included a dedicated area for a veggie garden. Our previous home only had an old bath tub and a few pots to grow in, so it was very exciting being able to scale things up!
Once the garden started to produce a decent amount, I then became overwhelmed with the “gluts” and didn’t know what to do with it all. Whilst we ended up trading produce, seedlings & eggs between the girls at work and nothing went to waste, I wanted to be able to preserve my produce for the winter months. So, just before COVID-19 hit I learnt how to preserve using the Fowler’s Vacola method. It’s been so rewarding and was a great way to pass time during lockdown. Next on my to-do list is to learn how to ferment!

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start their own edible garden? 
I highly recommend starting small. Plan your space so you don’t have to move things around later down the track. Start with one or two beds – you can always add more later. Then start with just a handful of crops and make sure you choose things you know your family will eat – no point growing things that will go to waste. Once you’ve seen and learnt how those things grow, the following year add 2-3 more different crops, and even another bed if you’re ready to scale up. 
The worst thing you can do is start with too much, then get overwhelmed by it all leaving you unmotivated to do it all again next year. Whilst it’s sometimes hard work, it should never feel like a chore.

What do you enjoy most about growing food at home? 
It’s so rewarding being able to walk outside, collect a small basket of ingredients, and cook a whole meal for your family. However, the most rewarding part of all is knowing how many other people I’ve inspired to start growing their own food. I love seeing them proudly share photos of their crops, with lots of them being grown from seeds I’ve saved and gifted from my own garden. 
I also love seeing what other people in our community are doing – you just never know what your neighbour might be growing in their own backyard! 

What does ‘Food from Home’ mean to you? 
When I think of ‘Food from Home’, I think of the universal language of food that brings us all together. The gardening community are a really amazing, generous bunch of people, and I’m so excited to discover how many other like-minded people there might be just around the corner.

To learn more, follow Elaine on Instagram: @myurbangardenjourney.

Food from Home Stories: ‘Food growing is very much a communal thing’
A community garden organiser in the Cardinia Shire and a gardener himself, Max shares his strong passion of growing food and how it helps him connect to both his family and wider community.

Food from Home Stories: ‘Gardening runs in my blood’
Cardinia Shire resident’s and aspiring homesteaders, Angelique and Josh, share how their family and childhood shaped their edible gardening journey and life-long passion for growing food.

Food from Home Stories: ‘It’s more than just a food journey’
Meet Ayush from Melbourne’s South East. A landscape designer by trade and a self-proclaimed ‘lazy gardener’ in his down time. In this video interview, Ayush welcomes us into his garden and shares his food from home story.

Want to share your Food from Home story?

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