Back to Basics
Farming for a brighter tomorrow
Cree Monaghan and Tim Hall bought their Cowaramup property back in 2013, moving down from Perth along with their children in 2015. “The property was a blank slate, requiring the design and building of infrastructure and the establishment of the orchard and kitchen garden, which is ongoing, of course, but allowed us to finally open the doors to our cooking school in late 2018,” Cree recalls.
That blank canvas is now home to an impressive 1,600sqm kitchen garden, and after years of hard work, their cooking school is one with a difference – as a “climate change aware” business.
“Being climate change aware has a number of components,” Cree explains. “Firstly, we accept and embrace the science behind climate change and work towards a number of key features important in reducing our environmental footprint. Our main approach is to demonstrate, teach and live in such a way as to reduce our carbon output wherever possible and to actually increase carbon drawdown with our choices and actions.
“We turn cooking on its head and make the seasonal vegetable the focus, with the encouragement of only incorporating small amounts of high welfare, ethically-produced meat on the menu,” she adds.
“We teach about cooking things from scratch, including teaching the most lovely process of baking your own sourdough. We also teach about composting, recycling, growing and how to use as much of the edible plant as possible and we keep our food waste to an almost zero level.” She adds they also discuss and work towards regenerative farming principles on the whole farm.
“So you not only come here to cook, but you come here to learn about food, farming and growing or whatever take-home message is important to you,” she says.
Certainly it is a cooking school with a difference, which isn’t surprising when you find out about Cree and Tim’s backgrounds. They are clearly not your typical small business owners, with Cree being a former zoo and wildlife vet, and Tim from the corporate sector.
It was a big change for both of them – but the couple wanted to start a business that offered others the opportunity to learn about the things they were both passionate about. For Cree, she loved to grow and cook and to raise animals well – and both Cree and Tim loved working with people.
“We also wanted to live a little differently with a greater emphasis on a connection to the land,” Cree says. “Finding this property with good soil and water was a key factor, and we fell in love with the vista across the farm and the potential of what it could offer.”
The couple’s vision has become a reality, with One Table Farm offering a number of unique workshops. Cree says their most popular courses are the sourdough and seasonal food farm experience workshops and, for 2020, they have created a new workshop that combines the best of both worlds of sourdough and seasonal eating.
“In these classes we wander our garden with baskets and collect food for the menu,” she explains. “We also offer a range of seasonal workshops such as caper growing, picking and pickling, tomato passata and pasta making. All classes include time spent on our farm, walking through our gardens, interacting with animals and understanding the farming systems. We are also planning a chocolate and cake making workshop this winter, a gluten-free workshop and hopefully a preserving workshop too. We are planning to organise some special guest chefs as well.
“We also offer customised workshops for families or groups interested in our farming, cooking and baking life, and they have been great fun.” Additionally, they recently started a community supported baking scheme, where people can purchase a subscription to their 100% organic sourdough bread.
“We are hoping to expand this in 2020,” Cree says. “We would also love to broaden our agriculture reach and offer more opportunities for other people who want to pursue an area of growing, cooking or farming. A combined farmstay/growing, picking and cooking experience is also on the cards.”
Their big change has certainly been rewarding, with Cree saying that they have seen people with no baking experience turn out amazing sourdough loaves for their families. Cree (who trained at a French cooking school) loves to teach others how to use vegetables (and all other foods) in interesting and practical ways. Cree also has an additional qualification in animal welfare and ethics, and has a particular interest in farm animals. She hopes that One Table Farm gives people an opportunity to understand more about animals and their needs and to be able to make more of an informed decision about their food choices.
“Even if every visitor just takes away one small bit of new knowledge from our farm, that contributes to better health, a better life or a better community, and whether that be in the kitchen, or the garden, or when making their own food choices at the supermarket, we feel we have achieved a good outcome,” she says. “And if that knowledge gets shared, then even better.”