There’s something beautiful about crisp winter country air; there’s a bittersweet sharpness to the tang of cold on the skin. I stood on the curb of Lancefield’s wide street wondering why I didn’t bring a warmer jacket, stuffing my hands into my pockets in the hope to get warmer. The clear sky gave way to cool shade and warm sun.
Lancefield Farmers’ Market, only an hour from Melbourne, is filled with fresh produce and home made delicacies. I was there to meet my dear friends Alex and Emily from Hand to Ground, an ethical farming business in rural Victoria. Being a permanent city dweller, I love getting out of Melbourne on the weekend to explore the countryside – a cliche, I know. But when you’ve got a good excuse like good friends and good food, who can resist?
Walking with Emily and her two boys at the farmer’s market, we tried raw chocolate and beef jerky, picked up bundles of radishes (my recent favourite to pickle and eat), and devoured gluten free waffles with home made raspberry cheesecake ice-cream at the Ice Cream Social truck. For anyone eating gluten free, it’s a miracle to find gluten free waffles, especially this tasty.
What always strikes me are the muted colours of the Australian countryside; the dry beige of winter grass, the blue-green of gum leaves. Alex and Emily’s main produce are their chickens; they raise both for eating and eggs. Taking us for a tour around their small farm, they showed us their free-range hens who live in a nifty egg shed. Their oldest boy wandered, exploring the farm, clutching chickens to his chest. Further down from the chickens are their second interest – bees. They have two swarms, producing raw honey, although I didn’t get too close to the buzzing boxes.
Seeing where the food comes from and the care Alex and Emily place on their produce brings home the importance of supporting local farmers. It’s a good reminder when picking up food in the local supermarket that it has a story behind it, not just another disposable item in plastic wrap.
Emily is a wonderful cook and treated us to a gourmet BLAT with local bacon and home made mayonnaise and bread. After devouring the sandwich, her own dessert, a gluten free sponge cake with lemon curd, the second miracle for the day (yet another rare gluten free treat). They sent us home with bunches of parsley and kale, as the sun went down over the farm. As I drove away, kangaroos darted in and out of gum trees in the encroaching evening, their silhouettes bounding past.
You can read more about Hand to Ground on their blog. The Lancefield Farmer’s Market is held on a Saturday and is perfect for day trippers going to Daylesford or the Macedon Ranges – for detailed dates check their website.