Words and images by Georgia Blackie.
Erika Watson and her partner Hayden Druce run Epicurean Harvest, an organic farm recently relocated from a small plot in Blackheath to Hartley, NSW. Erika's instagram posts for Epicurean Harvest show the spectrum of farming life - through the eyes of a Sydney-raised girl. Moments of the beauty and poetry in weather and sunlight, articulate explanations of Epicurean Harvest's decisions and methods, and candid discussion of when things go wrong, that through education connect farm to table, region to city.
We joined Erika for a walk at Bula Mirri, the 120-acre property where she and Hayden, along with collaborators, are delighting in getting their hands dirty caring for the land.
ALAS: As a small scale producer, your work is very physical - what role does exercise/activity/movement play in your well-being?
E W: I have always been an active person, so farming works well with my body's ability and my love of being outdoors connected to the environment. That said, the physical work isn't always fulfilling, it is hard and heavy and the benefit of improved mental health isn't always apparent. Taking in the natural landscape and releasing the natural endorphins that help with positive attitudes is vital to boosting a connection to country, and personal development and engagement with the land. That's why I really try to make time for myself - to go for a fast walk, a short jog, quick run, to hoola hoop, do star jumps, to skip and play with the dogs... to actively excite the body and allow the heart to sing is why I need to include movement in my life. This care allows for open-hearted connection to country, respect for myself and for the land and life around me.
ALAS: How do you keep well in Winter?
E W: Winter for me is about personal health after a season of giving giving giving. The body is weary, sore, stiff and forgotten and Winter is about regenerating physical and mental energy levels. A farmer's body is the greatest asset on the farm, it is the space where all things converge - environment, relationship, strength and insight. To neglect the self is to neglect that which you use to engage and connect to all that is around and within us. Using Winter to be honest and respect yourself and then not only listening to that voice inside but also hearing the sounds around you is the key to staying well.
ALAS: Tell us why certified organic is important.
E W: Hmmm, certification of organic production is an interesting topic. C.O. allows for those producers who do not have access to direct distribution to consumers, to rely on the trust built by the certification body. With that said, certification in Australia is a privately owned business modelled off growth of income as a driving factor. I think the most important thing is honesty, integrity and transparency, which means consumers and producers both need to make the time and space for genuine engagement with each other for a meaningful connection to real food and sense of well-being.