Victoria’s chefs get a community farm

Published on October 4 2019.

Photo: The Common Ground site at Freshwater Creek

Sign up for vegetables with a side of self-care.

Chefs curious about growing their own food can get their hands dirty sooner rather than later, thanks to a newly opened community farm on Victoria’s Surf Coast. Located at Freshwater Creek on the same site as Common Ground Project café, it’s the latest venture from the Mulberry Group, also behind hit Melbourne spots Liminal, Higher Ground and Kettle Black.

CEO Nathan Toleman wants to close the distance between the food people eat and where it’s grown, and is using a low-cost, low-commitment model to get there.

For a small monthly subscription fee, Common Ground members can grow produce for their own use, whether that’s in a high-end restaurant kitchen, a small local café or somewhere in between. The farm is also open to individuals and businesses who are curious about farming. All members get hands-on experience in everything from planting to harvesting using permaculture principles. Other benefits include morning meditation sessions, lunch with other members and the value of being part of a community.

“Common Ground Project is a simple tool,” Toleman says. “It says we believe in the power of other people. It could be a movement; it could be replicated all over the world. It's not something that's hard to do, but it could be life-changing."

But Toleman is interested in more than just the farm-to-plate movement. He sees Common Ground as a place where hospitality professionals can connect with the land, themselves and each other, hopefully contributing to improved mental health.

"It's really such an obvious way to help the industry, and at the same time it's one of the most exciting things we've ever done," he says.

Expressions of interest are being taken from chefs, businesses and individuals around Melbourne and Geelong to be the first members of the farm, with an information evening and launch party happening later this month to see what it’s all about.

Is it time to turn over a new leaf?

Common Ground Project Information Evening, 6pm-7pm, 23 October, Liminal Private Dining Room, 161 Collins St, Melbourne. Drinks and refreshments provided. Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/information-evening-common-ground-project-tickets-72237599605?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

Common Ground Project Launch Party, 4pm-7pm, 26 October, 675 Anglesea Rd, Freshwater Creek. Drinks and refreshments provided. RSVPs essential: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/launch-party-common-ground-project-tickets-74054116857?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

By Emma Breheny