Kinsfolk Farm is a half-acre market garden hidden away in Moriac.
Bridie Cotter and Tom Gaunt, along with their two-year-old daughter, use organic principles to grow delicious and nutrient dense vegetables on the little plot of leased land.
Each week they sell their produce direct to their local community in the Greater Geelong and Surf Coast region.
Bridie and Tom aren’t perhaps who you would expect to be farming full-time.
Bridie grew up in Geelong before moving to Melbourne in her early 20s to study music performance and spend years singing in bands in the inner city.
“I did all that for about five years, being in a band, and all that, but was working at a big organic grocery store in the north and started to become more and more interested in food and its origins and good food and food systems,” Bridie said.
“At the same time, Tom has studied industrial design and was working in a lighting design company.
“We were both maybe feeling a little over living in the city and how competitive the lifestyle was just living in the city, let alone working and trying to pave your own way and your own career.
“We had been growing some food in our inner-city backyard.
“Tom was mainly doing it and he discovered that he loved doing all things in terms of gardening, especially growing edibles and using them in the kitchen.
“We were also getting a veg box fortnightly from a farm near Daylesford and we discovered how amazing the produce was when it was from the farmer straight to the consumer.
“We were just desperate for more of a community connection so we were thinking about how we would love to move to the country.
“I grew up in Geelong and Tom grew up holidaying down on the Surf Coast so I thought, why not give it a go?”
That was when the couple came across the idea of small-scale market gardens supplying to the local community.
“Our world just opened up, with all of those issues and possibilities, and we stumbled upon small market gardeners mainly in Canada and North America, who were publishing their ideas and their techniques about how to set up similar organisations all around the world and that you can make a fairly good living if you’re smart about it, and you can do it on leased land.
“So, it all felt accessible to us and we wanted to live in the country so we thought it would be an in for us living in the country and earning money and working outside.”
Tom and Bridie wanted to find a lifestyle they could love and a like-minded community that appreciated the simple moments in life.
The couple set out to find a patch of land to grow their own and share it with others who have a similar love for food and cooking.
“Before we figured out where to farm, Tom got a job as the garden manager at Brae, so he started his planning journey with growing food at scale there.
“That developed the desire within him and with me to go out on our own and start in a place we thought we could foster some community around us and sell to that community, and that essentially became Moriac and Torquay because we have the weekly farmers’ market, and the rest is history.
Now, Tom and Bridie grow over 40 varieties of seasonal vegetables and herbs to sell at the torquay farmers market whilst offering a small amount of weekly veggies boxes for farm pick up.
The couple also hopes to collaborate with a few chefs in the region this summer.
“We’ve been farming since March 2017, so five years, and oh my god, the farmers’ market is the highlight of our week,” Bridie said.
“It’s a lot of hard work but we’ve met so many incredible people and we’ve been able to keep up relationships and friendships with so many amazing people who now come to the market because we’re there and there’s all the other stall holders.
“We love it, and we definitely feel like we’ve built community through that.”
Tom and Bridie now have two like-minded casual employees Kelsie and Ash.
“Depending on the time of year, they work on our harvest day once a week, but spring, summer, and autumn they’ll be working at least twice a week.
“They’re both total legends, they just exemplify how important and amazing community is.
“Ash is about to release a cookbook named ‘The Small Kitchen Cook’, and she’s very aligned with what we do.
“Kelsey is into farming, she’s been working with us just over two years and has started her own micro flower farm attached to our farm, and using her backyard, called ‘Good Blooms’.”
It hasn’t been an easy journey, being a young couple moving into a new community while settling into parenthood, let alone learning to work in agriculture full-time.
On odd occasions they have deliberated giving it all up, but at the end of the day, Bridie and Tom said they have found a unique lifestyle that is worth every challenge.
“We moved farm sites then we had a baby all in the same years, and she was our first child, so it was just a baptism of fire on all fronts,” Bridie said.
“But we always come back to the realisation that we absolutely love working outside and growing food and flowers and non-edibles, but mainly food and everything that comes with that, constant problem solving, constantly learning how to treat the land better, and then we just absolutely love farming in general.
“And the community interaction, it would be very hard to give that up.”
A few weeks ago Tom and Bride added a little Border Collie cross Kelpie, Annie, to their family.
Where do they see themselves in five to 10 years?
“Other market streams might come into play, and we’ll increase the amount of weekly boxes we supply.
“But we’ll probably still be at the farmers’ market.”Photo: LUCY CROCK
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