As a buyer for Lush Cosmetics I meet many types of suppliers in my travels around Australia and every now and again one really stands out, whether it is for traditional artisan practices or a unique Australian country personality.
Increasingly the news is reporting on worryingly low dam levels, ongoing challenges with water scarcity, and unpredictable weather patterns, and I find myself musing about the suppliers I have met and the challenges they face day in and out.
Fortunately, in my musings, I can quickly recall some amazing people that are mindful with water management and have created intelligent systems that work with the land and nature. Jocelyn Cross of Petite Ingredient comes to mind. Petite Ingredient is a bespoke edible flower growing business, based in the Yarra Valley of Victoria. The Yarra Valley is known for its wines and diverse soil types, from loamy sandy soils to rich red volcanic soil.
Jocelyn is the owner of Petite Ingredient and is one of those people that you remember because their skills were born out of passion that involves trial, error, observation and learning. When discussing which flowers to plant, Jocelyn often says, ‘let’s chuck it in and see what happens’. Over the last 6 years of Petite Ingredient, Jocelyn has slowly developed an intelligent farming system that works to harness nature. While I’ve never heard Jocelyn actively describe herself as a permaculturist (or ‘permie’ in green thumb talk!), so many of the principles applied at the Petite Ingredient farm tap into this belief system; observe and interact, obtain a yield... Permaculture principles in action encourage us to imaginatively re-design our surrounds and take into account that resources are finite.
Jocelyn grows small edible flowers without chemical inputs and celebrates the whole flower in the process including the lesser-used parts of the plant that get snubbed. The flowers grow in a small greenhouse on a 1-2 acre property. They are carefully planted down the slope of the property. From top to bottom the difference is about 5 metre decline, which creates a duel climate inside the greenhouse. This means that some flowers perform better in the upper area of the greenhouse in winter, while others are more resilient in the lower bank of the greenhouse. There are rows of blood-red geranium, clusters of spray roses, elongated cornflowers at eye level and flecks of linaria that look like leftover confetti on the dance floor after mardi gras.
The team at Petite Ingredient packages up the fresh flowers and sends them to fresh farmers markets, bakers, and chefs that artfully decorate food with edible flowers. Anything more than the necessary yield is dried and stored, which finds its way on Instagram worthy decorated cakes and imaginative summer tonics.
Agriculture accounts for about 70% of all water withdrawals. At Petite Ingredient the base of the property has a small human-made dam. The top of the greenhouse has been fitted with solenoids which lead into the crevices of the canopy. When it rains, anything falling onto the greenhouse canopy is channelled down these crevices and into the dam for storage. When necessary the stored water is then sent through the sprinkler system. It’s a smart system and while not all climates in Australia are able to adopt such a system with varying levels of water scarcity, this model is a great example in the heavily irrigated wine region of Yarra Valley.
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