How I Stanley: Jade Miles

Published on 4 August 2021

Photo: Jade Miles, author of Futuresteading

Jade Miles is a farmer, food producer, fair food educator and author from Stanley in the High Country of Victoria. She hosts the weekly podcast "Futuresteading – Living Like Tomorrow Matters" and has just released a book with the same name. In it she shares practical advice on living sustainably, argues her case for rejecting consumerism and reflects on the importance of living in the moment. Telling stories of food provenance and know-how is her specialty but Miles’s passion is feasting celebrations that build ritual and culture around the most primal, joyful act: sharing food.

In the mornings you’ll find me walking the hills with a different friend each day finding new places to watch the sun rise and revelling in the sensorial delights of the changing seasons

My local is the Stanley Pub. We live on a farm, but we’re only 500 metres from this little pub, and the walk is as pretty as they come. It's a family owned business and they endlessly support local producers and winemakers. Hospitality in rural Australia can be tough but they've stuck it out and made our local a warm, inviting and supportive place that backs those in the ’hood – they also share their kitchen scraps with us each week to add to our compost, so together we've closed the loop on waste and improved our orchard soil.

My defining food moment in Stanley was when we delivered a pallet picnic in our packing shed called Smokin’ Hot. We cooked five different courses of locally grown food on open fires and shared the feast with 50 folk who then joined us in the paddock for a celebratory chant over apple cider and a bonfire.

I know I’m in Stanley when I can smell the chestnut pollen hanging thickly in the November air, when I get stuck behind tractors loaded with boxes of cherries being driven to the farmers market at Christmas, when I'm swapping sides of pork for boxes of windfall apples with friends, and when the sweet, sticky aroma of apples is oozing from our shed in autumn.

The best new thing I’ve found is the numerous small-scale food, spirit and wine businesses that are throwing their hat in the ring and having a go. It makes me so bloody proud of the individuals who have enough spirit and tenacity to give it a crack.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I go to Provenance! As first-generation farmers with kids, our time and money are both very limited so if celebration is in order we want to guarantee it will be incredible and Michael Ryan never ever fails to deliver!

When I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to make a meal from food I've grown entirely on our farm or foraged on the nearby roads and take it up to Murmungee lookout where we were married 12 years ago, light a little fire and watch the sun set with a cold beer from Beechworth Brewery.

There’s no better value in this part of the world than the autumn colour: sombre hues of terracotta, egg-yolk yellow, and flame red all fill the horizon and build a kaleidoscope carpet of colour. 

My favourite place to stock up on supplies is the Beechworth Food co-op for bulk dry food and from the  farmgates of our neighbours becauseI know how the food was grown, didn't have to rely on long supply chains, didn't create food miles and it's a great excuse for a catch up. The co-op is community-owned, so the profits go back to the growers.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be not a single thing. There is not a season that passes without me feeling grateful for the diversity and quality of food, wine and craft beer that's produced in my very own backyard or that of my neighbours.

But the one thing I hope never changes in the region is the intimacy of our community. We’re a proud, hardworking, friendly and inclusive bunch of food entrepreneurs and it would be sad to see this eroded from the dilution that comes when an influx of people come to the region for a piece of this without realising the need to contribute back rather than just taking what's offered. Communities only work when there is trust, commitment and two way support. This takes time, empathy and sacrifice for the sake of community from everyone.

Futuresteading by Jade Miles, published by Murdoch Books RRP $39.99, @black_barn_farm

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