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Farm to Family: A Christmas Feast

Melissa Brown can't wait to taste the fresh local produce she will prepare for her family this Christmas.
Melissa Brown can't wait to taste the fresh local produce she will prepare for her family this Christmas. Renee Albrecht

MELISSA Brown started planning this year's Christmas lunch seven months before the big day - but she believes she should have started earlier.

This year's Christmas feast at the Brown home will be the result of hundreds of hours of toil, with the family aiming to grow and raise as much of the produce as possible.

It has proven to be an immense challenge, but Melissa has pledged that any item on the menu that they can't produce themselves will be from local producers.

That means all the meats, salads, cheeses, drinks, condiments, dressings, dips, breads and decorations will be home-made or locally made.

A pig, a duck and a chicken raised on the property are all slated for the table, while a spread of salads will be sourced from the garden.

Home-brewed beer, home-brewed ginger beer and lime cordial from a producer down the road are all on the drinks menu.

Melissa has already amassed a stock of marmalade glaze, jams and chutney.

"The condiments are made from the abundance of produce we have had throughout the year - nothing goes to waste, what we don't use goes into a chutney, jam or broths," she said.

She said growing the food for the family creates a powerful connection with what eventually appears on the dinner plate.

"The whole family can join in, kids can help plant, water, weed and harvest produce, and after spending time caring for the plants, they are keener to eat the fruits of their labour," she said.

"The same magic has an effect on adults, too.

"When you toss a home grown salad together, cook a pot of greens or serve a stir-fried medley of vegetables, you have a deeper appreciation of its amazing path to your plate."

Every time she collects eggs from the chickens, she thanks her "lovely ladies" for the produce.

People have asked Melissa how she can eat an animal the family cared for. She admitted to "doing all the wrong things" to get too attached, like naming the animals, but said she has never been more thankful for a meal.

"As a family we have become a lot more grateful for our food because we knew and loved the beast who sacrificed their life for us to eat," she said.

"The kids will ask, 'What's for tea tonight,' and my response sometimes is 'Lovely Louise', our first cow we processed."

Melissa loved the idea of creating and presenting food in its purest, freshest form.

"When you grow your own food, you know what goes into it - its overall care," she said.

"If you grow organically, you can eat organically.

"Not only is it beneficial for you, but also fewer chemicals and less distance travelled to get the food on your plate makes for a smaller carbon footprint," Melissa said.

Fresh, organic food isn't the only way the project has furthered the Brown family's health.

Despite having always dabbled in veggie gardens, she soon discovered how much of a "rookie" she was. Since she began the project, she has found local mentors to fill the gaps, and is now "literally learning from the ground up".

"The more I learn about farming the more I realise I don't know," she said.

"I am just a farming baby in the grand scheme of things."

The project has seen its fair share of hiccups, including her purchase of 48 quail eggs that only yielded one surviving chick.

She hopes her efforts will inspire others to think about where their own food comes from, not only for Christmas lunch but all year round.

Gympie Times

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