Feature Friday: Echo Floria

Today we’re delighted to share a project from another of our graduates, Kieran.

Kieran started his studies with an undergraduate degree in philosophy, towards the end he developed an interest in environmental philosophy and agricultural history.

“I was feeling unsatisfied with reading about these landscapes without actually knowing how to interact with them. Studying horticulture was the logical next step, and luckily I had the results to get in with literally no previous experience. As it turns out, lots of people at Burnley are in a similar boat, so it really has been a transformative experience in that regard, and a great one to share with peers.”

But Kieran’s green thumbs to more than flip pages of books. He and his wife Kate are developing a half-acre farm in Lancefield in the Macedon Ranges. They document and share their journey on their Instagram page called Echo Floria. But the real goal of Echo Floria is to serve their community as an educational platform for sustainability, agriculture and small scale farming.

Check out @echo.floria on Instagram to watch Kate and Kieran document their farming journey and share tips

“Echo Floria came about in the first instance when my wife and I were in the early stages of learning to grow food. I had enrolled in the Master of Urban Horticulture at Burnley, and we were searching for other social learning programs. We believed that there was a space in that market for a new style of sustainability and agricultural education. The idea then developed into a means by which we could both bring our respective sustainability expertise together, and also to build a life where our work was better integrated into our lives.”

Between tomatoes and dahlias, Kate is picking chamomile for their tea

Something they thought was missing from the programs they had attended was a focus on the personal context and motivation behind people’s growing desire for self-sufficiency. They wanted agricultural education to inspire the satisfaction in the lifestyle

“For example, to explore the sheer joy of learning to make passata with tomatoes that you grew for yourself from seed.”

Kieran watering some tomatoes – homemade passata anyone?

They’re looking to develop programs to teach people about food production. In the near future, they’re hoping to open their gates to people wanting to learn by following their process, to discuss food production, the state of the world, and how to develop social and environmental durability in their communities. Unfortunately they’ve had to put the development process on hold until the COVID-19 situation simmers down.

Until then, Kieran just submitted his thesis exploring the learning journey of 30 first generation farmers across the state of Victoria, and is currently working on papers to publish some of his findings. Science communication for Kieran is not just about thesis writing, but also conveying ideas on improving farming practices in the workplace.

“Qualitative social research is my focus area of study, but practically science communication is part of my daily life. It’s been great to develop both a philosophical and scientific background to my work, and I find that the two farms I currently work on benefit greatly from that paradigmatic diversity. For example, I work in the kitchen garden for Du Fermie in Trentham with Annie Smithers, and we are gradually implementing soil management practices which cause less disturbance and foster richer biological conditions. Constructing conversations which foster perspective change was something that I focussed on closely while studying SciComm with Jen.”

Just some of the rewards reaped from a good day’s harvest.

“Following graduation, which I am getting painfully close to, I’m interested in working on programs and projects that in a sense revisit an early vibe of scientific naturalism. One of my favourite books is Feral by George Monbiot. The writing is so moving, but by the end of it you’ve learned all of these amazing things about the ecological sciences. I think that a broader and deeper scientific literacy in our communities would lead profound shifts in the way that our lives are organised, and what constitutes good living. Echo Floria is our attempt to capture that process, and share science with a personal story.”

Follow Echo Floria on Instagram and Facebook to see their farming journey, and to get in the loop for their upcoming workshops! For more about Kieran, see his Student Profile on our blog.

– Written by Rosie Arnold