Life on the Biodynamic Farm

Thrive Greens Thursday Group

7th September, 2017

It’s been a massive month for our Thrive Greens team. Our team has been invited out to Berdihold Stud by the lovely Anita, on a weekly basis, to learn the intricate details of farming! The team has been involved in germinating seedlings to produce a variety of vegetables for spring and already we have snow peas, radishes, peaches and tomatoes.                  

With the help of the cows we were able to collect an entire truck load of cow manure and start making our own compost. It was an exciting day for everyone with goals set on how much we could pick up and throw at each other whilst using the appropriate farming lingo!      

After setting up our compost, Harold, Anita’s husband, needed assistance from the team to create our own pumpkin arch. Using our own compost we planted a variety of pumpkin seeds and sweet potatoes.        

The team also decided that we need to produce our own plums and peaches. Not wanting to do anything by halves our team erected a trellis strong enough to brave the heavy Oswald winds! Our last project of the month was to create a “Chook Feeding Fest”!

We spent a full day digging trenches and filling them with our beautifully made compost, watering it down and covering it. Not only will this fertilise the orange tree growing next to the trench but it will also produce a tonne of worms for our chickens. Of course during our spare time the Thrive Greens Team maintain our seedlings, collect the chicken eggs, feed the cows, crack nuts and pick the passionfruit.

Many of our team members have gone to great lengths to overcome their fears of trying new foods, getting to know the domestic animals and livestock and getting down and dirty! Their enthusiasm, hard work and effort are always rewarded with a healthy lunch compliments of Anita.         

The Chook Garden at Anita's

11th July, 2017  

Today we had the opportunity to visit a working farm. The farm is owned by Anita who is part of Hunter Organic Growers Society.  We were greeted with a delicious homemade walnut cake and a hot cuppa! We were also welcomed by three dogs, 2 cats, a couple of cows and too many chickens to count!

We have started learning propagation techniques to use on our own farm.  We are hoping to use Anita's method of making paper seedling pots from recycled newspaper to germinate the plants for next season crops at Purple Pear Farm. After we had cake and lessons, we had a tour of the farm. We talked to the cows and even got to tend to the chickens! We also learned exactly what the best ways to use manure are.

To finish off the day, we chatted in the sunshine with Anita and the animals and we shelled macadam in nuts that were collected throughout the morning! The topic of conversation surrounded a feisty big cockatoo that didn't get its way with a container of sunflower seeds.  Anita reckons that the squarks on that bird would have been swear words in cocktatoo language - he was so cranky!   

Our day was finished out in the Thrive projects room back at Mai-Wel LabourForce Solutions, Maitland, where we bought home our stories and a handful of macadamis in nuts to crank with the other groups.    

We look forward to future work experience opportunities at the farm! 

The Hipsters of High Street

20th June, 2017  

The kitchens of Mai-Wel LabourForce Solutions and the crew from the Purple Pear Farm have diversified their interests. A week ago, we started to grow the latest hipster craze in culinary circles - micro greens!    

We managed to set up a small space out in the projects room. The pots look funky and these greens grow really quickly. This makes farming pretty simple (if only our beans up at the farm grew so easy!)  

It appears that the plants in the projects room have become very popular, with several groups taking care of the plants throughout the week.   Today we trimmed the pea greens and made a tasty salad! It has become typical for us to produce a yummy dish to share around the office.  

We love the look of the microgreens both in pots and salad! We look forward to finding and sharing new microgreen recipes.

High Street Hipsters, aka. Purple Pear Farmers

It was the greatest tomato heist ever!

8 June, 2017  

We picked around three kilos of green tomatoes at Purple Pear Farm last week. We managed to scrape together a kilo of onions and far too much sugar than we'd like to admit in order to make Mark's delicious green tomato chutney!

After making our support workers cry using only a bag of onions, we set out to chop and squish our ingredients for our chutney. As it turns out, you need to soak that stuff overnight to get it to work. This meant that our group could no longer cook it the next day as we had other commitments. Thankfully, our fearless leader and mistress of fine chutney, Kyllie Tegg, volunteered to run a Friday cooking program on our behalf. 

Utilising her awesome cooking skills - she delegated the cooking task to the keenest of team leaders, a number of support workers and a very competent group of participants (apparently the whole office played a part in making that chutney, or so they say!).

We are pleased to say that today was our official taste testing! We grew some capsicums up at the farm and did a trade with The Hub for some cheese and crackers. We practised our food hygiene skills by whipping up a platter to hand out about the office. 

The feedback on our creation was pretty good! We produced four jars of premium chutney and sold them all. It was a great team effort that saw us using our farm produce and the new kitchen at Mai-Wel LabourForce Solutions. We are keen to get back in the kitchen as soon as we can - until next time!

From The Purple Pear Farmers and the kitchens of Mai-Wel LabourForce Solutions

L-R: Talee Andrews, Beau Woods, Sally Foote, Felicity Smith and Michael Humphries 

 The great onion shortage of 2017

5 June, 2017  


Things got off to mixed start at the farm, noticing the chickens who had been right next to our plot the previous week had been moved further down to scratch up a new plot of land drowned any hope of having another cock a doodle doodling  good time calling out to the rooster. However, there was work to be done and we got stuck right in. We were delighted to see some of our capsicums growing and turning red as well as a plethora of tomatoes that had spilled over the edge of our garden and onto the pathways.

The real job for the day was to fill up our garden beds with a mixture of mulch and soil ready for the new plantation!

With gloves on and sleeves rolled up we set to work with the task of filling the beds. Shovel load after shovel load we toiled but it wasn’t long before we discovered an extra helper. After the high pitch shrills of a Support Worker had died down we found a nice friendly skink that had made our pile of soil his new temporary home. The petrified Support Worker moved onto to helping pick the tomatoes but it wasn’t long before another high pitched squeal was heard shortly followed by a Support Worker dashing for her life away from a small garden spider.

With everyone pitching in and helping fill the garden beds it wasn’t long before they were ready to go.

We were still stuck with a bounty of green tomatoes that farmer Michael had helped collect. A quick peek at the all knowing Google suggested that placing the green tomatoes in a bag with bananas would ripen them, we decided to confide in the expert of the Purple Pear Farm Mark, for confirmation. Mark had a good chuckle at the idea before dismissing the idea as maybe an old wives tale and suggesting something even better. Mark provided us with the great idea of green tomato chutney and explained that it is a staple in the kitchen of the Purple Pear Farm. Mark explained how to make it before giving us a copy of the recipe to try for ourselves.

We received a green tomatoes chutney recipe from Mark and planned our mission of attempting to make this. The first step of this was to gather the extra ingredients. A foraging party was formed and set off to the Mai-Wel HUB in hope of a trade or donation of onions. After getting the all clear from Adrian at the HUB we searched the kitchen but this was in vain and we left onionless. 

Spirits were still high despite the great onion shortage and a quick trip to Pender place provided us with all the extra ingredients we needed to make our chutney.

We look forward to next week on the farm as we prepare to plant some more seasonal vegetables and hope to see some more of our crop growing.

Signing off until next time - the Purple Pear Farmers.

'Cock-a-doodle-doo' from The Farm

26 May, 2017  

It's all serious business at the Purple Pear Farm! Recently we have had a number of donations from businesses and the community. Slow Foods Hunter Valley donated a number of raised, metal garden beds for our plot. We have had some donations of straw mulch and today we secured a donation of shredded paper from Mai-Wel’s Enterprise Centre.  

It has been a tough few weeks mapping out the beds and ensuring the ground is ready for planting. Our key hole paths are looking well sculptured, the existing bed has been well mulched and the compost pile is slowly being moved to our side of the fence.  

Even with all the hard work, we have still managed to have a bit of fun. With Sarah's chooks living on the edge of our plot now, we've been spending a lot of time with our new friends. Until today, we wondered if the big rooster ever made a noise. We started to practice and perfect our own ‘cock-a-doodle-doos’ as we chatted and clucked at our chicken friends through the fence. It didn't take long to realise that there were quite a few roosters throughout the farm that were responding to our calls! We weren't sure if started a distant choir or a rooster riot!  

After a hard day's work we knocked off for lunch. We are looking forward to planting our winter crop in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned to see how that pans out!


Sally Foote and Beau Woods,

The Purple Pear Farmers

Fried zuchinni flowers and new feathered friends!

Thursday 13th April, 2017  

We had a decent harvest for this time of year. Several eggplants and a zucchini, our kale is looking good too! We still have zucchini flowers which indicates that we still have fruit coming.

They say "you can eat those flowers, as long as they are boy ones”. So we did. We dipped them in flour, fried them and sprinkled on some pepper. Yum! Kyllie Tegg tried the first, fried flower and thought they tasted lovely! It looked a bit mushy after we battered it but she ate it any way. We thought if anything could taste like cooked caterpillars, fried zucchini flowers would be just that! 

Somewhere we heard that marigolds are great in salad. Our support worker tried one. The whole flower, however it didn't taste great at all. Mark from Purple Pear Farm later told us that the species of marigold that we had planted gives off a pungent smell to ward off tomato eating caterpillars and it wasn't renowned as being tasty! Someone learned that lesson the hard way.  

The roasted eggplant chips were a hit. Especially the ones that we grated cheese on. Every week we look forward to finding new recipes to try, so that we can sample our veggies. We are excited for new culinary adventures. We are happy to report that we have new neighbours!

Sarah's chooks are now housed right next to our plot! This makes weeding really simple as we just throw the weeds over the fence. Feeding the chooks might have increased our motivation to weed as well. 

Today we lost the capsicums. "It was the lady bugs”, they said. Not all lady bugs are the same. There are the cute-kinda-lady-bugs that you hear about in children's songs and then there are our lady bugs - the notorious 24 spot lady beetle. These beetles have the capacity to chew through your capsicum bushes just after polishing off your zucchinis!  They say "you need to squash those ones!" However we have other ideas. Our lady beetle re-homing project starts next week. If you'd like to foster one in your home, please call the office. They are easy to keep, those things will eat anything! 

From the Purple Pear Farmers and the Lady Beetle Relocation Project.

Today life is good! 

11th April, 2017

We picked some green cherry tomatoes, which make for some tasty green tomato chutney!  

We learned that marigold petals are tasty in salad and that you can fry a male zucchini flower. (We will be trialing this after lunch. Guinea pigs please apply!)  

One of the best things we learned today though was how to produce a chemical free pest spray. Who would have thought that the giant lady bugs that have been chewing on our zucchini plants could be grounded down and put through a blender to produce an environmentally friendly bug spray? It works well with blended caterpillars too! Perhaps there’s a future business venture there!

We planted some mustard seeds today too. The leaves are edible but peppery. The closest way they could be described for us was that they are like rocket lettuce. The seeds are grounded down to produce the mustard that we know.  

Today was a great day at the farm. The guys weeded, planted and mulched. There was a small harvest and they learned a great deal about cooking and bug smashing.  


The Purple Pear Farmers

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The Mai-Wel Group is one of the larger Disability Service Providers in the Lower Hunter Region, providing services and programs to more than 800 clients across nine Local Government Areas.

The Mai-Wel Group employs more than 170 local support and administrative staff in addition to 110 local supported employees. The ethos of The Mai-Wel Group carries throughout the organisation from management and staff, and on to clients.

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