Majura Valley Farm connects Canberrans to the food on their plate

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In a show of classic country hospitality, you are immediately offered a cup of tea when visiting the paradise farmhouse in the Majura Valley.

It’s hard to believe you’re only 16 minutes from the CBD while surrounded by all the chickens, sheep, lambs, horses, and most importantly, Piggy – the three-legged dog.

Farmer Fred McGrath Weber is only 29, although he says he feels older than his age. His family have owned the Majura Valley Farm since 1999, but he says the history of the property goes back much further than any other inhabited block of land in Canberra.

Nestled in scenic farmland is Majura House, originally part of the Duntroon Homestead, built in the 1840s. Farming on Majura Valley Farm predates the founding of Canberra and is the oldest farm in activity of the ACT, while Majura House is the oldest inhabited house in the territory.

Fred led us through the house, showing us the original fireplaces and walls, to the charming extension, with a wall of windows pouring golden light into the family-style kitchen.

Fred’s partner, Zoe McMahon, is in the process of establishing the family vegetable garden which produces market-fresh produce sold directly to the consumer. Photo: Halter Abbey

“It’s sometimes a bit like Snow White in this house where there are lots of animals inside,” he smiles.

“There are little wrens and things inside the bathroom, which is fun sometimes, but other times – like sitting on a blue-tongued lizard in the living room – it’s not maybe not.

“But I don’t think I would trade it for anything.”

Majura Valley Farm sits on 50 hectares of rolling Ngunnawal country, connected to Mount Ainslie.

The McGrath family chose to return 10% of the land to help increase biodiversity in the area through sustainable practices including fencing stream lines and improving tree lines.

Majura Valley is a farm in transition, focusing on holistic and regenerative agriculture while shifting from more conventional methods.

It’s an idea that Fred is visibly energetic about, and he thinks a lot of Canberra farmers are on the same page as him.

“I think there are always people who have different opinions on what they think is the best approach. Often what is taught in universities or in government funded programs may not be the best approach or may be outdated,” he says.

“For us, we are a bit more adventurous and more left-wing. We adopt much more holistic management practices and focus more on regeneration, but we still use chemicals to control weeds.

“I think there’s a lot more potential for holistic management, and once you try it…you find it’s actually more beneficial not only for the land, but also for the money you have in your pocket. Then, many more people are likely to adopt more holistic management practices. »

So why is the new agricultural wave so important to Fred? Well, he’s invested in the future of Canberra farming and wants locals to have a better connection and understanding of how their food got to their plate.

“There are several reasons why this is important to me. In our location, where we are close to the city in the Majura Valley, we strongly believe that this type of area could be a food bowl for the city,” says Fred.

“It has one of the best soils in the region and its proximity to the city gives it unparalleled agricultural and agrotourism potential. There are already many companies operating in this way and more can be encouraged.

“For me, I’m really invested in making sure Canberra’s agriculture sector really thrives because it just places a higher value on people’s food and consumption. Therefore, the ACT government may consider developing in a different light, where it does not see farmland as a land reserve for urban sprawl or industrial potential, but has the potential for the environment and l city ​​food.

Fred’s brother Archie McGrath, 21, is the family’s official fencer, fencing creek lines throughout the property to help keep the waterways clean, and Peppa the dog is the protector of the family’s chickens . Photo: Halter Abbey

One of the ways the family farm encourages Canberrans to connect with the land is through their annual sunflower field which brings tangible joy and much splendor to all who are lucky enough to witness its beauty.

“Over the years, we’ve always planted sunflowers on a small scale right by the side of the road, and we usually sell them to florists or people come to pick them,” Fred explains.

“From March to April, we created a maze of sunflowers in our front enclosure, and it was so popular. Thousands of people came, and there was also a great diversity of people.

From families to photoshoots and everything in between, locals from all around Canberra came together for picnics, photos of pets and even to propose among the flowers.

“It was great fun and we can’t wait to do more,” smiles Fred.

“Really, all the driving force is just connecting people to the farmer and the land. It’s a great way for people to place more value on their food and where it comes from. »

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