On a farm tucked away in Upper Rollands Plains, about 40 minutes inland from Port Macquarie (NSW), live the Bailey family, who are passionate about reaching their community with home-grown produce.
Diving full-time into farming after their two eldest children left home, Rod and Desley Bailey, along with their four younger children, opened “Masters of Fresh”, a family owned and operated business that is well-loved by the community.
“My husband Rod is full-time in the garden—from 7am till 5pm,” explains Desley. “I do more the marketing and value-adding side of things. I go to the markets on Tuesday and Wednesday; on Thursday I make deliveries to cafes and restaurants. And Mondays I spend in the kitchen, so anything we have a lot of in the garden or anything that comes home from market I’ll turn into something else and sell it the following week.”
While Rod and a couple of hired farmhands complete most of the gardening work, their youngest Jack spends up to four hours in the garden per day, in between home-schooling classes, while the older girls still at home, Hannah and Ella, are busy completing their studies.
“We grow a wide range—pretty well all the common vegies that are in season,” Rod adds. “From autumn through to early spring we grow carrots, beetroots, cabbages, broccoli, silverbeet, chard, a range of herbs, Chinese vegetables, Kohlrabi. At any one time we’ve usually got 30 crops or so that we’re harvesting. At the moment we’re waiting for our zucchini and eggplant and tomatoes and things. That adds another 10 to 12 summer crops as well as maintaining the others.”
With a mission to help families thrive, the Baileys are not only passionate about cultivating high-quality produce, but also about making genuine, close connections with customers.
“My philosophy is that we’re called to live as Christ lived on this earth,” says Desley. “Christ’s method alone. If you are open and show that you care about people when they come . . . they are attracted to Christ in us. I get opportunities to make suggestions to help families struggling with a baby that’s not sleeping, or to befriend an elderly person who is so lonely that they come to the market for a hug.”
Rod says that God’s blessings aren’t only found at the markets and through community interactions, but also through the process of gardening itself.
“I’ve done a lot of things in my life—opened a health retreat in WA, been involved in youth training for mission and medical missionary work and all sorts of different things—and they’ve all had their blessings and opportunities. But I think for me, after spending many years with people all day and sometimes all night as well, having time with God in nature and being actively involved with Him in His work in the garden has been a great personal blessing. I believe my mental health is better than it’s ever been. I love being out in the elements. Cold, frosty mornings are fantastic; sharing it with the birds.”
“Another thing that is spiritually strengthening,” Desley adds, “is that—to a great degree—we’re at God’s mercy as to whether we make an income at all. Droughts, floods, hail—they’ve wiped us out. In February this year, when we got the break of the drought, we lost 90 per cent of our crops with that rain. It gives the community the opportunity to be part of us. They want to help us. When we hurt, they sympathise.”
To nurture connections with the community, the Baileys send out a weekly email to more than 400 subscribers. “It’s always something about the garden. They love it. They love reading about our family, our life,” says Desley.
The Baileys also open their farm to local women who bring their children to the garden each week for anywhere between 2 and 6 hours.
“The mums come and help, and all the kids are involved in different aspects of harvesting and gardening. They take home a box of vegies. We love that experience, seeing the youngsters learn. Some are Adventists and some aren’t. But I really enjoy the relationship I have with the youngsters,” says Rod.
While passionate about providing high-quality produce, the Baileys also want to equip and inspire people to grow their own fruit and vegies at home—as a way to improve food security in uncertain times and as a means of making community connections.
“A key aspect of food security is that more people need to start growing food in their backyards, to regain and enhance that knowledge. Today, society has given that responsibility to a small group of overworked farmers, which is destructive to them and to our cultural longevity,” Rod explains.
“The year before last I did a series of emails on the basics of gardening. Some customers said we were crazy because then they wouldn’t need to buy vegetables off us. But as part of our mission of wanting families to flourish, we actively encourage our customers to grow vegies in their own gardens.”
Desley adds that learning to grow vegetables is both a rewarding educational process, and a method of outreach.
“You could stay at home and look [how to grow vegetables] up on the internet, but I could find someone in my street—a grandma or grandpa who loves gardening—and that’s even better because that’s what we’re called to do. Now you have an opportunity to share with them.”
Rod adds, “In the Desire of Ages, Ellen White talks about ‘trust awakening trust’—how Jesus asked a favour of the woman at the well, made Himself vulnerable to win her trust. And when we go to someone to ask for advice that’s the start of a trust relationship. Who knows where that might lead.”