Mindful Gardening – Helping us Eat More delicious and healthy Vegetables

me&my health up podcast episode #46 – Transcript

Anthony Hartcher 0:00
Top of the day, my friends and welcome to another insightful episode of me&my Health Up. The purpose of this podcast is to enhance and enlighten the well being of others. I’m your host Anthony Hartcher. I’m a clinical nutritionist and lifestyle medicine specialist.

This episode is on mindful gardening, helping us to eat more delicious and healthy vegetables with Jonathan Naughton. Our particular focus will be on helping future generations engage with gardening and healthy eating. So let’s start with an introduction to Jonathan Naughton.

He was born in South Africa, but let’s not hold that against him. Even though they are they’re better at cricket. They’re better at Rugby than us. We certainly love our South African friends. He studied at the nature of conservation and forestry at the University of Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa. He managed Five Star game lodges in South Africa for 15 years and undertook ecological management of these properties.

He worked on our farm box in South Africa, which we’re going to talk a lot about, for five years developing it for rural populations to improve nutrition and well being with the focus on insisting HIV sufferers. nutritional intake and efficacy of medication, he implemented 13,000 boxes into various gardens in and around Africa. Nambia and Golia, Mozambique

Jonathan Naughton 1:37
Another tough one,

Anthony Hartcher 1:40
Developed Train the Trainer programs to allow the recipient communities to become self sufficient. He migrated to Australia in 2015 and lives in Sydney worked and still working in a sports turf construction company, where he helps create high quality playing surfaces for our sports loving Australians so that we can maintain our fitness and health and he started our farm box in April 2020, during COVID lockdown to provide households with fresh, homegrown organic nutrition from a reliable and extremely low maintenance source.

So welcome, Jonathan. How are you today?

Jonathan Naughton 2:22
Thank you, Anthony. I’m very well and so for those tongue twisters in that bio, I think

Anthony Hartcher 2:28
That’s all right. It’s, it’s just me. Yeah, that’s

Jonathan Naughton 2:31

Anthony Hartcher 2:32
I often get twisted over the English language. So and it’s not my second language.

Jonathan Naughton 2:40
I’m glad it was you had to say the effects. Medication word tight enough to spell it. Thank you. Thanks for having me. And thanks for the time.

Anthony Hartcher 2:49
Now. You’re welcome, Jonathan. So really keen, just for you to tell us what it’s like. In, you know, I guess, traveling around to these parts in Africa just to paint the picture for the listeners that probably live outside of Africa. I actually don’t know if I have any listeners that listen to this within Africa. So I really want to and some people haven’t visited Africa and so I think it’s important for them to understand what the conditions are like the environment, the culture, the people.

So can you please share that through your experience? Yeah, sure.

Jonathan Naughton 3:23
Absolutely. The beauty of the OurFarmBox system and what we were doing with it in Africa was that, within the Southern African context, most businesses are highly encouraged by the government and I use the word highly encouraged quite strongly, they’re to spend a certain proportion of their bottom line on corporate social responsibility projects and we saw this as an opportunity to improve the nutritional intake of rural communities by I’ve made an offering to these corporates.

And the product that we came up with had to be something that could be placed above grand now to go to your question there. The reason being is that when Africa South Africa, Southern Africa was split into different areas, it has homeland trust areas that typically black indigenous people were placed into by the apartheid government. And in doing so, they chose probably the most in-hospital bill spot, inhospitable, beautiful, incredibly hilly. So people were able to have access to land but the land they had access to was really, really poor in terms of being able to grow a crop and a highly nutritious crop.

So we decided that, for that reason, we needed something that could go above the ground. When the government changed to be more reflective of the majority of the population, that government tried to give out bags of fertilizer and implements to turn the land and improve it but unfortunately, historical practices sort of ended up with those goods not really being used for what they were intended to be useful. So, farm box was the solution, and we actually discovered in the United States of America, it was being used by a tomato farmer over there was a very, very large grower, cherry tomatoes, and he was in Florida, and he kept getting floods that were coming through and destroying his crop and grants.

He again had the same concept you need to go above ground and over the years, he started with cutting a 40 gallon drum in half. And then he ended up with the iteration that was a farm box, which was made from an injection moulded plastic container. So it looks like any other gardening container that you see.

But very cleverly, what he did, and what we worked within Africa was a marriage between hydroponics and agriculture. So you have people you’ve got a lot of lands, they don’t have a lot of water, it’s a continent that isn’t very rich and water in terms of rainfall. So we needed something that was very effective, I’m going to stumble on the words, they’re effective in utilizing the limited water, so needed to be able to save water while using it, and it needed to be able to have really, really high productivity that came out of it from minimal input.

People didn’t have the cash go and buy fertilizer to put into. So marrying hydroponics in agriculture, what we did was or what Blake did in the US was that he’d created a water reservoir at the bottom of the product, and then the plant is sitting at the top of the product. Now gravity, as we know, pulls everything down and water doesn’t flow up unless it’s in the walls of your house, in which case it will go anywhere.

But the purpose was to try and get away to pull that water from the bottom of the box to the roots of the plant at the top, and in the US they had access to Canadian peat moss, Canadian peat moss is not a really environmentally friendly process to harvest that. We as a business said, No, we’re not operating like that. We want to find something more sustainable.

We’re in Africa, let’s modify the product to Africa based and we tried sugarcane leaves, which big crop in Africa. We tried banana leaves and another big crop in Africa, and we ended up stumbling into coconut, and we discovered that coconut peat, which is found around the outer shell of the coconut is a really, really good absorber moisture actually used it and chemical oils bills, and it has the ability to wet nine times its mass and moisture. So it was a perfect medium to sack moisture from the bottom to the top.

It was also a highly renewable source, plantations in Mozambique one of the countries where we put the boxes into there were so large that satellite imagery they battled to tell how big they were. So yeah, we came up with that system to be the agricultural part of it, and I say, quote, unquote, because it’s a substrate, it’s not soil.

So it lacks any nutrition and itself. So again, the people that we’re receiving it in Africa couldn’t afford the fertilizer, it had to be a complete unit and we decided to supply it with organic fertilizer, because we all know the benefits of organic farming. It may not be as fast, but it definitely provides a better nutritional base and it’s better for the environment.

We put that in as the nutrition. So we had the water, we had the substrate, and we had the nutrition in it, and we had a product that set above the ground, and I think I’m digressing more into the actual product and what your question was, but in being able to supply something like that the Pete only breaks down after nine years. So it had very good longevity. So for the rural populations and to try and go back to your question, extremely poor populations, really, really poor. Unemployment was massive, very much a hierarchical system.

So you had a group of elders within a community that would live out in the hills in rural southern Africa, and they would pretty much be the law and order within that system. They, again, we’re also poor themselves, and they were pretty much looking for help in any which way that they could. When we offered them the garden as a sponsored object. We gave them a list of plants that they would be able to choose from that will get planted into the boxes, and those will be typically dark leafy greens that just manages your lettuces.

There was a lot of we planted quite a bit of corn. We also planted a lot of chilies, alliums, a lot of spring onions, onions, those sorts of things that garlic and that was able to give people a better nutritional intake within those communities as well for their medication or needs. Yeah, so it was on so many levels that did so many great things,

Anthony Hartcher 9:57
And it’s really had an impact on you because I know with our farm box in Australia, you give a portion of what you receive in terms of I don’t know whether it’s revenue or profit back to the communities in Africa.

Jonathan Naughton 10:11
Yep. So when we started up in Australia, we decided as a business that there’s two other gentlemen that really kindly helped me with it in Australia, and it was unanimous and it had to be that 20% of our profit gets put aside, and those go to guidance both back in Africa, and in Australia, you know, Australia’s been very generous and giving me citizenship in this country, and I’d love to do for it, what I can do for Africa.

So we’re ideally hoping and that’s a big driver for us as Yes, it’s a business and it needs to sustain itself, but its focus is to try and generate enough that we can be doing that good, or even better that we can reach out to organizations that are prepared to sponsor those Garland’s into communities, both in Australia where it is needed and in Africa as well, you know, because in the household context, and we’ve spoken about this in passing before, it has great benefit for us, you know, in terms of having access to fresh, organic produce at our back door, and we’re reducing our carbon footprint.

I read a lovely quote by a lady who’s doing some amazing work with just pots on the side of her walk, you know, the walkway in front of her house, and she said, these vegetables were counted in steps to my plate, not in miles, you know, and I thought that was beautiful and that’s what we’re trying to achieve reduced their carbon footprint at the same time,

Anthony Hartcher 11:36
Jonathan, I just wanted to pick up on a key point that you’ve raised, and it’s had a major impact, you know, and it relates Africa to, I guess, what you’ve taken from Africa, and it’s this thing of giving rights. So, you know, you went to these African communities that had nothing, yet they’re willing to give you everything that they had, and they had no problem in doing that. It’s just they understood the power of giving, and that power of giving gives them mazing incredible amount of happiness and fulfilment, and it’s something that’s really lost in Western society.

Is that we don’t understand this power of giving, and I recently read a great book by Jay Shetty on Think like a monk, and the key takeaway into the last chapter of the book, sorry for giving away the secret, but he talks about, ultimately, what he took away from his period of being a monk was the act of giving, and, and there’s so many ways in which you can give, and I just, you know, from this conversation we’ve had, you know, the key takeaway is the gratitude that you have, from the act of that community, towards you, that you’re now reciprocating that into Australia, and to Australians, and, and, and that’s, like, 20% of your profits, which is a lot, and that’s giving a lot away. And, and you have no issue with going doing that, and you’re giving it to for, you know, for these communities that most needed.

And I really think this, you know, is fundamental, the, you know, one of the important takeaways from this podcast, is what you’ve just brought up in terms of your experience in Africa, what, you know, how it resonated with your soul, how you’ve taken that into Australia, and the way you do business, and the way you want to, in the fact that you express gratitude to the Australian government, you know, a lot of Australian citizens complain about the government, yet, you’ve, you’ve come here from Africa, and you’ve come from afar worse environment, you know, less security, you know, feeling more insecure, you know, there’s more political instability and hardship, and you come and you’re appreciate everything that Australia has given you, which is another, you know, key takeaways, that gratitude for what we have,

Jonathan Naughton 14:09
It’s just amazing, Australia is an incredibly beautiful country and incredibly rich country in terms of its, its people, and the sort of mateship that you have here, that was a very big drawcard, you know, is the fact that people are prepared to help each other here.

You know, so fully grateful for that, and the foreign box is a great thing. You know, and again, we’ve discussed it, and we can, I’m very happy to go into the sort of, and I’ve already touched on it, because I’m so passionate about it, and love it so much, and work so closely with it.

The way this little box is put together, it’s just incredible. You know, and it’s a case of the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts. It’s beautiful, everything harmonizes together, you know, and on their own, they’re good, but put them together and they’re brilliant, and it’s such a great analogy, you know, If you can just get the right things together each on their own is great, but when we come together, we’re so much stronger and so much better, and that’s what I love about it. I mean, it’s just the product and just the means to do something, a tool to do something with. Yeah,

Anthony Hartcher 15:16
I can vouch for that, having the proud owner of two boxes, products, and I’ve, you know, embrace that with my children. So essentially, you know, one of the key things that, as you said, it’s, it’s more, it’s the, I guess, the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, in terms of the experience.

But you know, one of those parts is the assembly of the box, and my children entertain them during school holidays, because, you know, we had different aspects of the box that we painted, and we and the kids then put their unique touch on each of the boxes. And then, you know, we assembled it together, and then we constructed as per the guidelines, and so they were engaging with the soil of fertilizer, you know, we had to go and buy seeds, and you know, that that’s another thing that it really teaches kids is delay gratification is, you know, you plant the seed, you don’t reap the fruit that night.

And, and that’s, you know, really, as you said, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, because that, what that’s teaching the value, it’s teaching the children, you know, just as I sort of, you’re talking about that element of giving and gratitude earlier.

This is another key aspect that, you know, the box brings, is that understanding of delay gratification for children, because, you know, in this western world, again, I’m harping on about at birth, you know, we have this tendency to think that we deserve something instantaneously and it’s instant, we need instant gratification. Hence, you know, why social media has taken off, you know because we get that instant gratification from social media, but the great things in life, and the things that we want crave and want most such as happiness, and connectedness, and, you know, love is all requires this thing of putting in, in order to get back. So we’ve got it, we’ve got to give, or we’ve got to put in and invest. And in time, we’ll get back.

And this is what the farm box is teaching children today is they plant that seed they need to put in, they need to nurture that seed, they need to water it as per your instructions, and yes, we don’t need to water it all that often. Which is great for Australians that, you know, I think, yeah, exactly.

That, you know, so we don’t have a dying crop, because, you know, we need to water it so infrequently, which is great, but you know, the kids are watering it, they’re, they’re, you know, in the initial stage of growth as a seedling, as you recommended to me was to spray the seesaw on, and so we’ve been spraying that seesaw on they’ve been doing that and, and they go and check it for grabs, and they nurture it, and so they’re really looking after it like yet. So it, it’s that connectedness with nature, which as we know from scientific research, is that connected us with nature makes us more karma relaxed, it helps kids, I guess, be less cool-headed, are less emotional and less angry and aggressive, and that helps them sleep better.

So this is yeah, I guess get getting back to what you were stating was the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And it’s definitely present in that our farm box. And I’ve only just touched on, you know, an aspect that I’ve noticed with my children and their engagement with our farm box, but there’s so much more. Yeah,

Jonathan Naughton 18:56
Yeah, absolutely. Look, it’s made to be because Australians are incredibly hardworking. They are incredible because of that. They are incredibly focused on family. So when it comes to saying what I mean by that, beyond the obvious is that on a Saturday, they’re pretty much at the sport with their kids. So all they got is Sunday, and then they’ve got these patches of gardens that they need to try and maintain. So a lot of people don’t plant up a very large garden, which is where we come from is totally opposite, because we are very spoiled in that you have very cheap labour and you know, a bountiful supply of labour and you have a big garden and you pay someone to look after it.

So it struck me that we needed to provide a solution to that and that was in terms of the farm box was a perfect fit because you could plant it on top of your driveway. You can put it on top of your outside your back door and on the balcony, the patio. A lot of people are taking them for those aspects. The fact that you didn’t have to order it like you said all the time. Once Plants are established, that gives people a bit of peace of mind because if you’re going to go away for three or four days, you know who’s going to water your plant, while the farm box takes care of their, your time for you don’t be rushing off and watering it every day unless you like, really, really love doing that every day.

It takes care of that it feeds the plant, it aerates the plant, it provides a highly beneficial environment for the plants. So to go back to your kids perspective, or point, the seedlings, they plant the seeds that they plant, we found in our four or five years of research that we did in southern Africa, things are germinating almost 40% faster in the farm box than they are when we planted them and ground and I used to one of the properties I lived on it towards the time, the end of my time working for this, this family I worked for had 120 hectares of land, and we were doing comparative plantings, you know, so that we had proven evidence and plants are definitely germinating faster than the farm box because they had access to water, food, and air all the time.

It’s like going to a buffet table. If you sit someone down there and say you have to eat every day, three times a day, they would have more than what they need. The question is would they be able to stop themselves? You know, at a certain point, Farmer plants don’t take more than they need. So as long as you give it to them, they go and they focus all their energy on growth. So your seeds do germinate a lot quicker, and again, one of the things we’re very, very focused on and this is where my conservation and forestry botany training came in and helped us and I found really exciting and challenging was we were trying to reduce the level of stress on the plants as much as possible when we designed the box, or the contents of the box because the box was originated from the US. So what I mean by that was, we need to keep we tried to keep the weed loading down.

There was that stress on the plant and that competition for nutrition because remember, we put the fertilizer in and that’s it. That’s a set amount of fertilizer, we don’t want other plants taking that from our plants. We try to even control the temperature in the box by using the mulch cover that we put on top of it, and then winter, we put a black side up which warms the return by five degrees, and then summer we put silver in I think I suggested to you to use the silver side. Yeah, so the silver calls the root zone by five degrees, now seeds germinate on soil temperature.

So you got to be a little bit careful there, whether you’re not the sort of jumping the gun and saying, leave the summer cover on when it’s winter temperatures kind of thing. So you can manipulate it through that aspect of it, but that also allows the roots to be far happier, they’re happier, they’re not going to waste energy on stress and combating that stress, and they’re going to put all of them to the leafy mass. Now in Africa, that was the spinach and the lettuces and the corn and those sorts of things, and you get this massive spike in productivity. So even though you’re dealing with a sick area, we were finding that from two tomato plants that we were growing in farm boxes. So when your kid’s tomatoes, because I think one of them that they’re growing is tomatoes, when they do grow from two plants that we planted in the farm box, we were getting the same number of tomatoes, fruit by mass, as you work from six in the ground.

Anthony Hartcher 23:23
Yes, you go Jonathan

Jonathan Naughton 23:25
Yeah, sorry. So it’s just a case of maximizing everything we could, from the sort of six components that make it up to allow people to get the maximum amount of it without a lot of input. So the biggest we always joke and I apologize if this offends, but our biggest problem with a farm box is that people use it. Yeah, you know, because we tend to be and I’m guilty of it, we tend to be kind of like, I won’t go and water my clients today because I’d rather finish this chapter, my book, or I’d rather watch this episode of Vikings or something on TV.

The box takes care of that, you know, and it absorbs that sort of aspect quite a lot. This is to be beautiful because if something goes wrong, it tends to be a human error in terms of it.

Anthony Hartcher 24:18
And, you know, relating back to my kids experience with the box. You know, I think what I’ve really noticed with them is that their observation, so their connectedness with the box around seeing these plants grow, and they wake up and they think, Oh, look, it’s got more leaves, you know, it’s growing flowers, and so they had that observation, which is really important for kids because that takes them into the present moment. They’re engaging their senses.

They’re not doing mindless activities, playing video games and all that they every morning they wake up they see their box and they’re looking at the progress and the growth and and and the other thing that the box is also taught my children is that you know, not every seed you plant will, will grow, what’s germinate? That’s, yeah, germinate. Perfect, perfect terminology, and so it teaches them in life.

That’s like that’s a life lesson is that you know, you may start something you may not, it may not suit you, you may not thrive in that, but you know, you had to start and you know, if you want, you can see it as a failure. But, you know, failure is not finite, you know, if the seed fails, we just plant another one, and eventually, and there’s always learning in terms of what can I do better next time and so, we thought back as to why those seeds might have failed because we have one box that had 100% success rate. And then we had the other box, which was probably only a 50% success rate in terms of seedlings planted to germination.

And, you know, when I sort of spoke to my kid, Ollie, I said, Why do you think it is that the seeds haven’t germinated, and he thinks, Daddy, I think I didn’t follow the instructions correctly, and I might have put them too far under the surface of the soil. And so then next time we went back, we then follow the instructions a bit closer, and planted a bit closer to the surface, and, you know, those, those instructions are very clear, but I wanted to give the kids a learning opportunity, I didn’t want to say this is you know, I’m going to do it all for you, I sort of you, you read the instructions, and you follow the instructions, and you plant the seed and, and so there was a whole lesson around them understanding why, and why not been why it didn’t germinate because there’s a multitude of factors.

Yeah. So but it is, it’s teaching them these life lessons. They’re not every seed you sow will flourish, and not in every environment you go into, you will flourish as a person, you know, you will encounter obstacles, and this seed might not have germinated because it could have been the temperature could have been the moisture, it could have been, you know, something that we didn’t set up the box, right, either now, or the seed itself, may have just, it might not have been a I don’t know what how do you explain a seed that sort of never gonna germinate?

Jonathan Naughton 27:24
You get in fairness, you do get that quite often, and absolutely 100% Correct. Yeah, it teaches them all of the above things and there’s a lovely saying in gardening and gardening, there are no mistakes, only experiments.

Anthony Hartcher 27:38
Yeah, yeah. And that’s, you know, Thomas Edison said that about the light bulb. You know, though, when he was questioned by I don’t know, whether it was journalists, or by people that were saying, a hang on a sec time, as you know, you’ve had 10,000 attempts at this light bulb? You know, why don’t you just give up? You know, and, and or why didn’t you give up and he said, Look, I didn’t see it as a failure. I just saw it as a learning experience of how not to make a light bulb, and that’s probably the same with you know, the gardening experiences, you know, that it’s just learning, it’s the same with life, you know, that every failure teaches us a lesson. There’s learning behind that. So

Jonathan Naughton 28:18
Certainly, we have Farm Box. Sorry, we have a saying of fall fast and fall forwards. So we know we’re going to stumble, but let’s make sure we stumbled forwards going forwards not going backward, and that’s important to teach your kids as well. Okay. It’s okay to stumble, it’s okay to fail, failure. There’s nothing wrong with it.

Anthony Hartcher 28:38

Jonathan Naughton 28:40
Yeah, gardening is a wonderful tool to do that, and the more we can reconnect with that, you know, the better off they will be, instead of looking for that instant gratification on the screen. You know, my daughter does the same. It’s like, what’s the answer to this question? She’ll go ask Siri. No, he can’t ask Siri. You learn, you discover, you know, you’re going to find out, and kids need to realize that food doesn’t come from Woolworths.

It comes from a plant that grows in the ground. Whether that ground is coconut or soil is the same thing. It comes from a living thing.

Anthony Hartcher 29:16
And that’s a fundamental, I watched a TED Talk by Jamie Oliver. It was the one about he was concerned about the sugar consumption in the United States in terms of what was fed to the children via the canteens and one of the things he did with the schools was go in there and educate them about fruit and vegetables, right, because he wanted to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables and reduce the consumption of sugar and fats and in this TED talk, he is in a school and he holds up a potato and goes What’s this? And the kids stumbled? They had no idea, but they all had eaten a product of the potato which is potatoes chips they eat on a regular basis, right? Yeah, they did. They didn’t recognize where to come from and that actually brings up a key point for me and, you know, something I’ve learned as a parent was my son Ali.

Again, I’m referring to ollie, he wouldn’t eat carrots, right, he had no interest in eating a carrot and I don’t know whether it was the look the taste the texture, on one occasion, where I put my mom and dad’s and that they live on five acres, and they have a garden, vegetable garden, and now growing carrots, and so mom goes, can you go to the garden, get some carrots, get some, get some salad ingredients for the salad, we’re about to prepare, and so all they had the opportunity to go out to the vegetable garden, and to really connect with the garden, and, you know, I’m showing him our this is a carrot, and it grows below the surface, and, you know, this is how we extract it, and, and I gave him the opportunity to do that, and he’s very young, at this, probably, he’s probably only three or four years old. Yeah, so quite young, could have ain’t been three to two or three years old.

And we talked about the carrot and he could see it in its raw form with you know, dirt on it, it’s it’s here, or he had, I don’t know if he had the leaves or whatever. But he, we brought it back to the kitchen and then we got him to prepare the carrot for the salad. And this whole experience of extracting it from the garden, taking it to the kitchen to prepare, wash, clean, cut up and then to eat the whole experience engaged him or reengaged him with carrots and so now he eats carrots every day takes us carrots to school, and so this is the other key thing to this farm box that you know, this great product that you have our farm box is that it’s really engaging kids with where the food comes from the food source, it, they’re investing time and energy into the process that engages them through that investment of time and energy, they nurture it, they look after it.

And there’s an element of you know when you invest time and energy, you look for validation as to, it’s gonna taste great, it’s kind of nourishing for me and, and so you start telling yourself that this is gonna be awesome because I grow it right. That’s right. So if you really want you know, and this is for the listeners, you know, if you want your children to eat more fruits and vegetables, grow them, get them engaged with the growing process, and they will automatically become more engaged with fruit vegetables and wanting to consume more of them. I think it’s the best way.

And it’s you know, it’s not as it’s not the same as going to war worse, running around frantically grabbing this, grabbing that grabbing, they’re not having the same experience, they’re not seeing this, this seed, you know, germinate and grow into a plant and then over time bear fruit after them investing love time and attention into this plant. So there’s no substitute for that and I think the more we can engage children with the process, then the easier it is to get them to eat more fruit and vegetables.

So Jonathan had really keen for you this share your top gardening tips and in terms of top gardening tips, it’s where typically Australians go wrong, like where they stuffing out why their gardens fail, or, you know, why can’t they get a good crop yield? You may have already answered what we’ve discussed but anyway, I’m just keen to hear it from you in terms of all the experience you have with gardening.

Jonathan Naughton 33:53
It’s a difficult question to answer, but from my learning is that most Australian households have got some sort of access to a back garden area, but the soil there as well is not necessarily of a good quality. So people would plant something and just expect that it would grow immediately. They would expect to sun loving plants to grow in a shaded position and not understand the concept of that.

I think we’re very spoiled in terms of being able to access food easily that not enough of us have actually engaged in that process. Those that have really got stuck into it, you know, have learned along the way. I think the choice of your seedling is very very important depending on where you live. Australia has got the full climatic science. In terms of it, there are amazing sources of information out there through the seed suppliers through the nurseries through the seedlings suppliers of what grows best when I find a lot of people that I interact with and one of the offerings we do for our clients is will they say they want to sell it farm box and we’ll supply the plants and plant them all and then deliver it.

But because people don’t quite get do I plant lettuce in winter, they are planted in summer. So there’s this, unfortunately, this sort of disconnect there, but there are resources to overcome there. I know where we live in sort of the Balmain sort of Roselle area, the soil is historically been, you know, got some chemicals in it from when they the different factories were in this sort of area. So there’s also that aspect of it, and people just think this won’t grow in it, and when we started our farm box, we started at very local here and sort of the Balmain area, just so that we could keep a close to heart and sort of iron out any problems along the way, and we were fine.

A lot of people were saying like, this is brilliant because I can’t farm in my garden because of the lead that’s in the ground, for instance. But having said that, come COVID You know, suddenly, in the first three months of COVID, the seedlings suppliers, they were selling up to 13 million seedlings, there was 300% increase in seedlings sale.

So and I mentioned this to someone that one day, he was quite a keen gardener and as like, as an amazing, that’s 13 million seedlings people are getting into their own gardens at home growing there own veggies and they went no, because the problem is that 300% more people, a portion of those people are just never going to be able to grow seedlings no matter what you give them, and they’ve got black thumbs, so-called Black them, and you’re going to have more people put off because they think that they can’t do it, because they’re dealing with conditions that they don’t have the information for.

So my tip is to know my gardening tips, make sure you know which climatic zone in which we tend to know, get your seedlings from a reputable supplier. There’s a lot of product out there that’s growing very, very fast, you know, to mass-produce, like most of the other products that we get nowadays and the current markets, get a reliable supply go to your local nursery, don’t go to a big chain store. I’m not denouncing them. But I’m just saying your local nursery tends to have the plants for longer, and by having them longer, those plants are harder. They can withstand the temperature climates, and they tend to be in your neighbourhood. So they take into account the climate in your neighbourhood, and they can supply you with much better plants.

We often get people of clients into the farm box and they’ll say after three weeks, our client died after planting it. It probably did, because you’ve probably got a plant that has only come off a production line that’s been in a greenhouse and never been exposed to wind rain and fluctuating temperatures. Yeah. So the first question is, where did you source it, and what was the brand of the plant, and you can work back to that.

So choose your plan for your local industry. Make sure that your soil is suitable in the area to find out from all the reasons so the most amazing source of information as to what historically happened and then if you’re planting in the ground, yeah, keep an eye on the water. If you’re planting in the farm box, don’t worry, it’s got it covered. We just have this little product that seems to make it a bit easier for people and I think a lot of people need that right now.

And when a lot of people, and sorry, I’ll go quickly to something we were chatting just before we started around anything that some of our current users, you know, some feedback we’ve had from them and the one lady said to me, what she liked most was during these uncertain times, and when we started Farmbox it was at the launch of COVID or two months into COVID, and I was quite reluctant to because I don’t like this whole vulture attitude, you know, I here’s a problem. We can capitalize on it. That’s I think we know now after chatting, that’s not what Farmbox is about, we want to do something good and this lady said the nicest thing she had was that she knew that at the end of her day where everything was uncertain, she could walk outside, go her farm box, pick her to produce, no, that would have grown, it was healthy, it was nutritious, and it was there.

You know, so there was this element of reliability at a time and an element of certainty at a time when things were just so uncertain. You know, and it goes to the wellness aspect of it as well, you know, the benefits that she had and that the calming aspect of it. In all the chaos, there’s something she actually knows it’s under control.

Anthony Hartcher 39:28
And that that was the Yeah, the key thing about COVID was focusing on what you can control and COVID COVID was something that we couldn’t control, but she could play on her gardening and get reaping good produce by put, you know, doing the right things, putting, you know, doing the inputs, nurturing, taking care of it, and yeah, I could see how it would have been a huge therapeutical aid for her, for her mental health during COVID, and anyone else that purchased the box now just on that, Jonathan, how can we speak so much about this? It’s fabulous. OurFarmBox, how can people connect with you and inquire about this amazing box of yours?

Jonathan Naughton 40:09
Well, we’re, I can say we only started a couple of months ago. So we’re keeping it really simple to try and make sure that we can, we can sort of under promise and over perform. So, at the moment, it’s only really through the website, we do have an Instagram page at our farm box. And, but predominantly through the website is the purchasing aspect of it.

Anthony Hartcher 40:34
Yeah, and I’ll, I’ll incorporate a link in the show notes so that our listener’s viewers can go straight into that link and, and find you and, you know, contact you that way. Yes, that’s right, Jonathan, any concluding comments or thoughts? Would you like to share with the listeners and viewers,

Jonathan Naughton 40:53
I just think that the more people we can encourage to guide and the more we can get kids involved in this as you say, the more they can understand where things come from, and even as adults can understand where things come from, you know, and, and the actual beauty of growing something, do it we need to guide and more, but make sure you got the facts, and you know, speak to the right sort of people.

And if you are time-poor, there are solutions out there, have a look, you know, and it’s our farm box, it’s a community, the word our farm box was chosen on purpose because the beauty of this is that we have a community now of people that are growing and gardening and benefiting from it, and you see people on the street you didn’t know before and you can you got a common conscious, you know, so it connects.

Anthony Hartcher 41:39
Fantastic and I can certainly vouch for everything you’ve said there in terms of my experience with my, our farm box, and you know, engaging my children and watching them grow and learn so much about life through the farm box experience, and we’re not too far away from reaping our first crops.

The flowering is happening at the moment on the cucumber and the tomato, so very excited and the basil leaves looks so amazing in terms of vibrancy, the color that they just look like they’re just to die for. So we can’t wait to make pesto with the basil. So super excited about that. So thanks, Jonathan for sharing your wisdom, your experience with the listeners today.

For the listeners. If you liked the episode, please share it with others that you think would benefit from hearing this information, this insightful information about gardening, and in particular, the wonderful work that Jonathan has done around our farm box. So stay tuned for more insightful episodes of me&my health up.

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