Monday, October 22, 2012

wholefood mama: Robin Koster-Carlyon

I am so excited to bring you this post, the first in what I hope will be an on-going series of profiles of wholefood mamas from all around this great big world. It gives me great joy to begin with a fabulous wholefood mama who I have the pleasure of knowing in real life. Make yourself some tea and settle in to meet Robin Koster-Carlyon.

Robin is one of the most inspiring mamas I know. Together with her husband Peter and their two children Maya and Rye, this family have created Transition Farm - Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) on the Mornington Peninsula.

As explained on their website CSA is "a concept that originated in Switzerland and Japan in the 1960s, and its basis is to “put the farmers’ face on food”. In this way, CSA seeks to connect consumers with the story of their food, including both the farmers who grow it and the environment in which it is produced. CSA  is a relationship of mutual support and commitment between farmers and members. In return for an annual membership fee to help cover the production costs of the farm, CSA members receive a weekly share of the highest quality organically-grown harvest during the local growing season. When members obtain food from local farmers, they are directly supporting small, family farms in their community as well as receiving the freshest available produce."
(this is an example of the exquisite food members of Transition Farm received in a half share box (2 people) in January 2012)
What inspired Robin and Peter to set up their own CSA farm?
Robin explains, "Peter studied Permaculture with Bill Mollison.  Bill's advice on what the best thing to do to help the planet and its people was to either start teaching permaculture or run a CSA and produce food for your local community.  Peter then started to research the CSA movement.  We had already been growing vegetables for our own family.  We had been successful potato, carrot and raspberry farmers.  I had experience on a large scale vegetable farm.

We also started thinking about global issues like Peak Oil,  the global financial situation, the Mayan prophesy about 2012.  We knew that whatever was happening in the world, the best thing we could do for our family was be as self-reliant as possible.  We also felt the best thing we could do for our community was to grow food within the Community Support Agriculture model where we were growing for our local community and only using the resources that we had available to us.  I guess with age that old motto, "Think Globally Act Locally" has finally made sense to me."
How did you become interested in wholefoods?
I grew up in a food family.  My father is a butcher and my parents ran a very european style store with a huge meat case, deli meats, cheeses, breads, prepared foods, speciality groceries.  My mother is a wonderful cook.  We grew up eating "real" food.  I was a vegetarian for ten years and learned about protein alternatives and continued to diversify my pantry.  When I was 27, I moved to Peru. There, I continued to learn about locally produced foods.  I worked in communities that grew all of their own food and what they could not grow, they traded for from communities at different altitudes that could grow other staples like corn, quinoa and potatoes.  I love learning about food and I love growing food and I really love eating food that I have grown.  That makes me want to learn to grow more of the "staples" like quinoa and chick peas which I tried growing this year. Having children has been another adventure into food for me.  I actually never imagined how much time I would spend thinking about and preparing food as a mother.  As I really believe that you are what you eat, feeding our family whole food is really important to me.

What are your tips for encouraging children to eat well?
Grow your own food!  I think one of the best tips is to offer children fresh, organic produce.  It actually tastes better which encourages them to eat more!  And all year round, they can walk around the garden and graze.  There seems to always be a child friendly fruit or vegetable just waiting for a nibble.
I feel lucky because our children enjoy eating well.  I know children with parents who cook wonderfully and they just will not eat some of the food.  I think the best choice we have made is that anything in our pantry or in our fridge is fair game.  There are no foods just for the adults.  The children are watching us model good eating habits.

Can you describe family life on the farm?
Life on the farm with young children---It has been many things throughout their life time.  When Maya was just born, I would tie her on to me and head out to round up the sheep.  I helped Peter plant lavender plants with her on my back.  Planted the veggie garden with her on a blanket or in a wading pool.  She ate her first solid foods grazing in the vegetable garden.  I remember being so worried that a bee or a march fly would sting her.  And there were the stories about the parasites that animals carried.  And there was Maya crawling around in the dirt.  I have to admit, I wish I could have relaxed a bit more with her.  Part of me did wonder if she was going to end up filled with worms or eaten by bugs or get tetnus, etc.  But she survived and maybe seeing that made it easier to relax with the second child.  

I found it hard when Maya was born to not be able to do as much as I did before.  I could not take her on the tractor and I did worry that the sheep might jump in the yards.  Would she be safe in a sling.  Rye was a bit different because we do not have so many animals on this farm.  We have carried both of them either in a sling or as they got bigger on our backs.  So they have always been a part of everything.  It did limit what I could do, and when I could do it.  But this is a family farm.  When there are things that need to be done, they need to be done.  

I have found the balancing act between mothering and anything else, really to be just that.  Both Peter and I feel very blessed at the amount of time we have spent with our children.  Working from home and running your own business does allow you to be with your family.  I also feel lucky that the daily demands of farming have really been taken on by Peter.  I have never felt as if I had to choose between taking care of little children and running the farm.  As they get older though, and we are trying to grow Transition Farm and solely support ourselves on farming, there are times when I need to do something on the farm instead of doing something with them.

Maya and Rye are at a great age now where they can choose to come along and work with us or stay in the house.  Most of the time though, they choose to just come with us.  There is always something they can do to help.   I feel like a pioneer family when I say it,  they are another pair of hands.  And it is fun working together.  We talk about things or listen to music.  They come and go with some jobs, wander in and out of it, exploring on their own, making up games, building "shade" and then finding something to play with in the shade.  Last summer I paid them to collect cabbage moths and green shield beetles.  I needed quite a lot to be able to roast them so that I could use the ash in biodynamic preparations.  They were great at the job!  They help seed, help weed, help harvest, draw pictures on the farm black board.  Farming is not rocket science.  Maya and Rye can do most things that we do around here.

What is a memorable meal for you? What made it special?
I loved the food at our wedding.  We were married in my home town, on the beach.  The reception was held in a community "beach shack", wooden shutters that pushed up, ceiling fans, beach sand, ocean.  There were gardenias and bougainvillea blossoms.  It smelled sweet and salty.  The fish was caught that morning.  The meat came from our store as did the rest of the side dishes.  It was all seasonal food, prepared on site and presented beautifully on palm fronds and banana leaves. The cake was a traditional Trinadad fruit cake brought from the island by my Trinadadian friend and soaked with rum and love for weeks before the day.  It was then covered with marzipan which reminded me of the Christmas boxes my great grandmother would send every year from Holland with all sorts of lovely Dutch treats.  My sister was working in Austria at the time and brought back beautiful dark chocolate which we melted and dipped strawberries in.  And another friend made four different sorts of truffles.  The food not only tasted great, it was very fresh, wholesome, beautiful and filled with memories and love.  I find full sensory experiences including great food last in my memory.

What do you say to people who say they don't have time to cook?

Food is not an essential.  We can go days even months without eating.  But to live feeling nourished, food is essential.  I look at food as living energy.  I like to eat food that is still vibrant.  And the only way to do that is to cook or prepare whole foods.  You may not think you have time to cook, but will you have time (and money) to be sick?  I think that eating well balanced vibrant food keeps our body at its optimum.  

What do you like to do when you are not working?
 I like spinning wool, knitting and crocheting, making clothes, making dolls and toys for the children, painting.  I like walking and keeping fit.  I am trying to teach myself how to surf.  I like going on adventures with my family-finding a new hike or visiting a new beach or just going to our favourite beach with a picnic meal.  I am trying to help the school start an outdoor edible classroom so the children have a place where they can be part of a thriving ecosystem and learn to grow food.  I also work with pregnant and birthing women and their families.   I really enjoy supporting women and their partners and families.

What do you love about your life right now?

I love my family right now.  I love that Peter, my husband, is following his dream.  I love him for dreaming it.  I love mothering my children and being a part of their lives.

If you are hungry for more here is Robin's extensive and fabulous list of links to blogs or websites that in her words "excite me or make me think". Look out for the next post that includes recipes from Robin.

Thank you Robin so much for the information and above all the inspiration to grow, cook and enjoy real food and family life. 

Kirsten Bradley passionate about permaculture, local food and community, tiny houses, family and more  (
Joel Salatin author of many books including You Can Farm (
Linda Woodrow author of The Permaculture Home Garden  (
Jenny Blyth is a fantastic midwife, film maker and the great author of  The Down to Earth Birth Book - One of my all time favourite books for pregnant and birthing couples ( )
Maya Donenfeld artist and author of  reinvention - sewing with rescued materials ( )
Amanda Blake Soule mother of five, living in Maine and author of several books including The Rhythm of Family and Creative Family (
Lianna Krissoff who wrote a wonderful preserving book Canning for a  New Generation and has just released a book on whole grains (
Janisse Ray author of The Seed Underground- A Growing Revolution to Save Food ( )
The Greenhorns- Young farmers movement in the US ( )


  1. My husband and I are moving to a property not too far out of Canberra in about a month and one of my dreams is to have a small CSA style set up to provide organic vegetables (and fruit if we can grow it) and eggs to our family and friends.

    Thanks for sharing Robin and Peter's inspiring story!

    Luna. :)

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