Jauma Farm Organic Cherries
Sophie and James have a pretty cool story. They are a couple who are creative, passionate, driven and determined to do things differently. They live on an organic cherry farm in the hills of Basket Range, South Australia which is also home to a natural hair studio and yoga school and a (soon to be completed) organic vineyard and winery – James is one of the pioneers of the natural wine movement in Australia.
I went to visit the farm (after attending several of Sophie’s wonderful yoga classes and booking myself in for a haircut in her gorgeous, light filled studio) to chat about organic farming, why they do it and what their visions for the future are.
When I arrived Sophie and I sat down for a coffee and a chat whilst our dogs tumbled around together at our feet, and then we went for a wander around the property. We walked up a hill past the future vineyard site, which has been in preparation for about a year. Where vines will soon grow there is now a lush, vibrant cover crop of broad beans, vetch, yarrow, oats and mustard greens passively improving the soil and generating lots of bee food and beauty. At the top of the hill there are a few rows of cherry trees, the blossoms almost gone and tiny green cherries starting to appear. Sophie tells me there are fifteen different varieties of cherries growing at Jauma Farm (and 1200 trees), including the sought after Morellos (I absolutely can’t remember the names of all the others).
As we round the corner at the top of the hill, I am literally taken aback by the view. It looks like we are walking toward a painting, the muted tones of green and blue and the perfect hills combine to create an unreal sense of beauty. But it is real. And Sophie and James are aware of what a privilege it is to live in such beauty, and are passionate about living with their environment, rather than controlling it for their benefit. They are planning to revegetate some of the bushland on their property with endemic plants, as well as using gentle land management techniques such as cold, slow burning off- which is what they are doing the day I visit.
We sit on the side of the hill and chat, while the undergrowth slowly smoulders behind us and the boys take a break from their smoky work to drink tea and eat sourdough slathered with homemade cherry jam. This is the first time they have tried slow burning but it seems to be going well- the fire (if you could even call it that) is so cool you can walk over it, there are no flames in sight, and it all seems gentle and under control, if experimental. Which seems to be the way things go at Jauma Farm.
James inherited the organic cherry orchard when he bought the property from a German couple, who built the house and planted the hundreds of trees themselves. He wasn’t going to keep the trees, as natural wine making is what he loves and where he puts most of his energy, but the lure of unlimited organic cherries must have been too strong because the orchard remains.
And it sounds like a dream: all you can eat organic cherries! And certainly I was envious of the larder in Sophie and James’ kitchen, stocked with home made cherry preserves of all kinds (Andrew Douglas, who helps run the farm, is also a chef and he and James have lots of fun experimenting with the fruit). But organic farming is HARD.
You are at the mercy of the weather, completely: if there is a late frost it can kill the flowers which means no fruit, and if there is rain at the wrong time the cherries will split which means a lot of the fruit will be ruined. You have to contend with pests, and cherry slug is a major problem in the Adelaide Hills. At Jauma they are experimenting with diatomaceous earth as well as neem oil spray to control pests, and are planning to plant cover crops in between the rows of trees to improve soil health and make the trees themselves stronger and healthier. It does make you realise why a lot of farmers still use chemicals to grow food, even though we are now beginning to understand the ultimate cost of this convenience.
It would be easier, of course, to use sprays and chemical fertilisers (and it is what most of the cherry farms in the area do). But once you realise the whole natural world- humans, plants, animals, water, air- is all connected, living gently on the earth seems like the only way to be. And living gently is what Sophie and James are doing at Jauma Farm. It isn’t the easiest choice, it isn’t the most profitable and it all takes a whole lot longer but the pay off is more than worth it.
To grow delicious organic cherries and then welcome the public in to pick their own and see organic farming in action is a wonderful thing to do. And soon, to be able to offer natural wines made with organic grapes grown right there on the property, where the land is cared for and holistic systems are in place; to be able to live in line with your ethics and principles like that is a truly amazing privilege.
I really enjoyed my visit to Jauma, and to chatting to Sophie and James. I left feeling inspired, hopeful and excited about creativity and what is possible if you really believe in what you are doing and give it all your energy.
Jauma Farm offers the experience of picking your own cherries during December, and they also have a farm gate stall selling pre-packaged boxes. This is the only way to try their cherries, so make sure to pay them a visit if you are keen to try the beautiful produce. Jauma wines are available online, and if you follow along on Instagram you will stay up to date with yoga workshops and various farm immersion events that are being planned for 2021.
Here is the recipe for pickled cherry, chevre and almond salad that I made with some Jauma Farm pickled cherries (maybe a good addition to your Christmas table?).