Farmers Path: With Sim Hanscamp

Interning and working on other farms was fantastic, but I just couldn’t wait – I wanted it to be entirely “on me” and to learn through doing it myself, so I jumped into my own agricultural experience... and dug up the yard at my rental property...

 

Simeon Hanscamp is an Urban Farmer creating intensive biological production systems (i.e. growing a lot of vegies in a small amount of space) on rented land for profit.

Right now it's all happening in West Heidelburg in Melbourne's North-eastern suburbs. Spoke and spade provide healthy, local, fresh produce, grown on three urban sites covering 750m2 growing space, with just enough room left in the backyard for the washing line. They produce weekly $25 veggie boxes for about 40-60 families depending on the season.

 

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WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT WORKING IN AGRICULTURE?

Puzzling the complexities of working alongside nature is fantastic and highly engaging. I love creating and solving real issues in everyday outdoor and indoor tasks.

 

WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WORKING IN AG?

Deciding which hat to put on at any given time, and how long to wear it for. I find it difficult to manage being a: small business owner; harvester; marketing communicator; entomologist; salesperson; field manager; educator & advocate, ethical producer; greenhouse horticulturist; spreadsheet extraordinaire etc... Small scale farming is a diverse set of generalist skills. I am mostly untrained in, and more average at, every hat than I want to be but I need to be excellent over the majority, to make a flourishing business.

 

WHAT WAS THE VERY FIRST STEP YOU TOOK ON YOUR AGRICULTURAL CAREER PATHWAY?

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I started making compost and was fascinated - at the abundance of life! My first active decision was a 14-day Permaculture Design Certificate entirely outside my existing social circle or career path. Permaculture ideas along with my resolve to address larger environmental concerns, led me to continue down that line of questioning, and those answers, led me to market gardening.

 

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR LEARNING JOURNEY.

In between finishing an unrelated university degree, I spent a delightful summer interning on a market garden and decided farming was for me. After three years plotting, a stack of videos and podcasts, an online course and seeing several other market garden set ups, I took a risk and dove straight into it with about 80 farm days up my suburban sleeves. Before planting, I studied a Cert IV in New Small Business through the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) that gave a context to think through the business plan and financials. I then dug up the yard at my rental property, started selling CSA boxes six months later and now have three suburban blocks (one fifth of an acre production) within ten minutes of each other producing a small array of quick turn-around, high-profit crops. This season I will sell about 60 CSA shares of $25 produce grown by me weekly around Heidelberg, Victoria.

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WHAT ARE THE TOP 3 AGRICULTURAL LEARNING EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD?

  1. Transition Farm internship gave me an appreciation for the work ethic required, methods of farming, the social nature of farming, and systems to make the farm work for you, not the other way around.
  2. Books. Podcasts. Videos. Note taking. Listening. Observing. Critiquing. Applying.
  3. Starting a farm!

My start-up has many flaws, I’ve made many mistake, and the learning curve is steep. The fear of mistakes that can delay us to start but the learning has been so incredibly valuable, perhaps particularly because of the mistakes! Starting early had consequences (one task requires more energy and problem solving to achieve the same task and finances are less stable), but the opportunity to learn skills, have full responsibility skills and gain confidence outweigh those consequences for me. I have to keep learning, and apply that learning in new and different situations, else the farm will fail. Interning and working on other farms was fantastic, but I just couldn’t wait – I wanted it to be entirely “on me” and to learn through doing it myself, so I jumped into my own agricultural experience.

 

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WHO ARE YOU LEARNING FROM RIGHT NOW? 

  • Curtis Stone (Book: The Urban Farmer: Growing food for profit on borrowed or lease land)
  • Jean Martin Fortier (Book: The Market Gardener)
  • Claybottom Farm & Neversink Farm
  • Chris Blanchard (Podcast: Farmer to farmer)
  • Diego Footer (Podcast: Farm Small Farm Smart)
  • Facebook Group: Australian Market Garden Success Group (lots of great Aus market gardeners on this)

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STARTING OUT IN AGRICULTURE?

Funnily enough…Intern, work and see as many "good" farmers/farms as you can. Discern who you want to learn from as there are many different systems and approaches. Leverage time well... I was unorganised during my internship...I wish I could go back, take better notes/questions and work more hours! I didn't own my learning like I value learning now.

 

WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED FOR ABOUT THE FUTURE OF AG?

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The new generation of small scale farmers that can address real issues, enjoy meaningful work and connection with community. I'm excited about the potential that agriculture has to educate about and reduce impacts on global warming. With small scale tools, access to excellent knowledge and customers who care about where their food comes from, I envision countless urban farms, market gardens and broad acre/livestock farms showcasing regenerative ag models. I'm hopeful about our future.

 

Check out Spoke and Spade on instagram, facebook or the interwebs to keep in touch. Or if you are in Melbourne, get on board for the Spring CSA Veggie Boxes.