Growing up on a mini farm in the bush suburbs of Wahroonga, Christine Corner says she always had an interest in growing food.
After moving to Mudgee 11 years ago to be closer to her parents, she spent much of her time helping on the property by tending to the trees and vines on the family’s certified organic orchard and vineyard.
While working on the family farm Christine was able to cultivated a large market garden, supplying locals, Sydney stores and online horticulture companies with planting stock.
Over the years she gained holistic management, horticulture and permaculture design/teaching qualifications.
While undertaking a permaculture course, Christine became aware of the benefits of fermented foods for gut health, mental health and overall immunity.
“I have always eaten well and looked after my health but something was missing, I had terrible gut pains for years and the specialist diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome, I thought I should give fermenting a try, I bought a ceramic fermenting crock from my now dear friends at Hazelcombe Farm, and the rest is history,” she said.
“When I was travelling and away from my precious ferments I noticed that my body craved them, that’s how I came up with the business name Crave Natural, my gut was screaming out for more of the beneficial bacteria and yeasts that are found in sauerkraut, kombucha and other fermented foods.”
Crave Natural now supplies health food stores, provedores, butchers and cafes all over the central west and Sydney with Sauerkraut, Kombucha, Water Kefir and other vegetable ferments.
Christine also runs fermenting vegetables workshops, plus Kombucha and gardening workshops.
“After running my successful fermented food business for several years, I felt I really wanted to get back to teaching the community how to grow vibrant, healthy food themselves and how to transform and suburban small block into a productive garden,” she said.
“For me it’s all about community, nourishing our internal gut community (microbiome), connecting our local community and educating the wider community. I now have the joy of combining my loves in my business - growing food, preserving food and teaching people the skills that will nourish them for life.”
A majority of the vegetables Christine uses in the products and workshops are from local organic and chemical free growers, situated in Bathurst, Orange and Wellington. She processed around 10 boxes of cabbages a month and 40 kilograms of carrots and beetroot.
“We are what we eat, our whole body is dependant and made from the foods that we consume, why not give ourselves the best fuel possible. We need to eat fresh, vibrant foods, grown or grazed on healthy soils, if the soil isn’t balanced and healthy, full of microbes and life, the food grown on it will be lacking,” she said.
“I am a big believer in natural farming, not using toxic chemicals or methods that destroy soil life, we have to value the land and treat it with respect. We are very lucky in the central west region to have many forward thinking farmers, growing and supplying delicious, nutritious and ethical produce. Get to know where your food comes from or better yet, grow it yourself where possible, nothing beats picking the majority of your meal within 20 metres of your kitchen door.”
Her home garden has evolved using permaculture and natural farming techniques, with minimal effort.
“It stated off as a typical garden, kikuyu lawn out the front and back, hard as concrete soil and edible plants. I have planted the orchard in the chook pen area which provides mulberries, feijoas, lemons, limes, oranges, pomegrates, figs, apples, crab apples etcera,” Christine said.
“This area also houses the work farms made out of baths. The chickens are made to work, providing me with an endless supply of compost and tasty eggs, a foot of deep litter is always kept in the chook run, helping to prevent disease, intestinal worms and allowing the chickens to forage for food. The front and back yard have been converted to garden, leaving a patch of grass for my two dogs and on the front path, the rest has had cardboard and woodchip put on it, which I planted into after three months, it was easy and free.
“By inter-planting different species of plants and in having a diverse range of vegetation, I have encouraged a healthy ecosystem that has minimal pest issues and every plant seem to help the others around it, companion planting in action. Flowers are also important in any garden to attract beneficial insects and for beauty. I have pumpkins growing over the lavender hedge out the front, tomatoes on the verge, garlic under the roses, daffodils poking their leaves up through the cherry tomato and marigolds amongst the eggplant. You go out with a basket to harvest but realise very quickly you will need a wheelbarrow.”
Many locals are employed in the kitchen on processing days, volunteers also help on occasion where Christine passes on her knowledge and skills in exchange for labour.