Appreciating the art of taking time to smell the roses.
My first visit to Fair Harvest was a few months ago, after driving south from Perth.
Arriving at the award-winning permaculture farm, on the outskirts of Margaret River, I was greeted by founder Jodie Lane.
I must have still had my busy “city mind” switched on because I immediately launched into a million questions, as I followed her through the farm cafe, into its kitchen.
As if sensing this, Jodie continued to potter about with a careful and silent intent, gathering cups and a teapot before turning to me with a smile. “Peppermint tea?” A gentle and simple reminder that things here move at a different pace.
Later, over that pot of tea, Jodie shared with me the history of Fair Harvest, which she began with partner Dorothee Perez in 2009.
Its evolution from family farm, to community project space, to its most recent incarnation of sustainability, which sees the addition of a yoga barn and eco-camping ground, had been a labour of love.
“Even as a teenager, I liked the idea of being self-sufficient," Jodie said. “When I was a university student, living in Perth, I used to have a garden in my backyard and it’s when I started becoming interested in permaculture.”
Jodie’s parents bought the 160ha of old dairy country that was once jarrah and karri forest back in 1987 and in 1995 Jodie moved south to join them.
Her brothers also followed and over the years, the ever-growing family have been involved in eucalypt plantation and rehabilitation projects throughout the property.
But it was Jodie’s involvement as a blockader and activist on the Pemberton and Giblett forest campaigns during the 90s that really gave rise to the idea of Fair Harvest and perhaps helped shape it into what it is today.
“There was a feeling of negativity and anger back then,” Jodie said. “To counteract it, we used the farm here as a safe and positive refuge ... a place we could gather to grow plants and plan a more positive future.”
Those days also taught Jodie an important skill.
“Confrontation allowed me to develop my listening ability. Through listening, I discovered these loggers, that we thought we were so against, loved these old trees as much as we did and didn’t really want to see them cut down ... they just needed an income, like the rest of us,” Jodie said. “Through listening and mindful dialogue, we were able to find common ground and understanding.”
Fair Harvest is all about harnessing that mindfulness through positive community engagement; offering courses in permaculture and beekeeping; hosting yoga and meditation retreats; providing a venue for weddings, celebrations and musical sundowners; and serving up fresh produce in the farm’s cafe.
“Everything in our cafe is locally and ethically sourced. The fruit, vegetables, eggs and honey come from our farm, we use flour from Eden Valley and our pasture-raised poultry, for example, comes from Southampton Homestead,” Jodie said.
Jodie also shared plans for the next stages of Fair Harvest’s development — a barn for yoga and meditation practice as well as an eco-camp site, providing camping and glamping experiences for up to 30 people.
“We want to keep that intimate feel,” Jodie said.
“The nature campground will be built using recycled material and timber from our plantations. We’ll have compostable toilets and showers and water from the showers will be re-used for the gardens and farm.”
Today, I’m back at Fair Harvest for Open Day. The yoga barn is complete, the camping ground is coming along and the cafe has reopened for the beginning of the season.
Spring is definitely in the air.
The sun is shining, flowers are blooming and people are gathering in the garden.
There are children playing, dogs wandering happily, conversations starting, blankets being spread and food being shared as musicians prepare for their afternoon set.
I make my way over to the barn where local Buddhist mindfulness teacher Ian Hackett is about to lead us in group meditation before a guided mindfulness walk along a forest trail on the property.
Standing in a circle within the barn, Ian asks us to become aware of any areas of tension within our body and adjust our standing posture for more comfort. He then asks us to simply notice our breathing, listen to the different sounds around us and notice the way that we interact with our environment.
We follow Ian past orchards and vegetable gardens, through paddocks, down to back blocks of old forest. In slow-stepping silence, we keep a careful conscious distance of at least 2m from the person in front. And just as Ian said, in silencing the voice, the mind allows us to truly hear what’s going on within and around us.
Crunching leaves, snapping twigs and squelching mud beneath our feet form a kind of beat as we settle into peaceful rhythmic moving.
Nature’s music becomes more audible with the chirping of birds, the rustling of leaves, the babbling of water from the creek and the buzzing of insects acting as instruments. As we return, I find that even the distant, unnatural sound of traffic from Bussell Highway seems to find its place within this song. And perhaps this is one of the benefits of being mindful ... finding acceptance in difference and enabling comfortable transition through change.
Recently winning the award for environmental excellence as well as a handful of others at the 2018 Telstra Margaret River Region Business Awards, Fair Harvest certainly seems to be reaping what they’ve sown.
More importantly, it is an example of a growing business aligning with its values and original intent — stepping both physically and mindfully into a more positive future for all.
- Fair Harvest is at 426 Carters Road, Margaret River. Its eco camp site is due to open next month. The garden cafe is open every Friday and Saturday until May. For the yoga and meditation class schedule and everything else on offer at Fair Harvest, see fairharvest.com.au.
- For information about Ian Hackett and Buddhist mindfulness workshops in Margaret River, visit Tig-Le House on Facebook.
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