A Shared Ethos
The Little Green Corner in Geelong champions sustainable food options by utilising locally grown produce and running regular educational workshops.
There is something extremely rewarding about being able to grow your own food; whether it’s herbs in your kitchen garden, tomatoes and zucchinis in your inner-city courtyard, or pumpkins and watermelons in your veggie patch. It’s a sentiment that Hugh Whitehead values, sharing his sustainable way of life with Geelong through his café, Little Green Corner (LGC).
In 2015, Hugh opened LGC on a pint-sized corner building in the back streets of central Geelong, serving coffee and food made from locally grown and sourced ingredients. Nearly everything they cook with is from his wife’s parents’ farm 15 minutes away, grown in veggie crates out the back of the café, or obtained through trading with customers. “We’re not entirely self-sufficient, but we’re pretty close to it,” says Hugh.
It’s the five-acre-farm in Waurn Ponds, owned by Hugh’s in-laws, Linda and Andrew Wood, that produces most of the food for the café. Every morning Linda arrives at the café with crates full of fruit, veggies and eggs, and picks up food waste to take back to the farm for compost. “It’s very much a family effort,” Hugh says. The Woods’ farm is a property of epic proportions. Rows of fruit trees (lemons, kaffir limes, oranges, grapefruit, stone fruit, avocados and tamarillos) run in avenues next to olive and bay trees. Onion weeds sprout up near growing areas of leafy greens and root vegetables. The list goes on and the food is abundant. Chickens run around the netted sections of the orchard, scratching at the soil and keeping it fertile for ultimate growth. “The chickens actually do a lot of the work for you,” says Hugh, “you just have to keep them safe from foxes.”
Keeping a functioning farm generating fruit and vegetables like this is a huge job. “Linda tends to the garden a few hours a day, she enjoys the work but for her it’s the love of helping her family. They’ve always been into growing their own food and sharing it with friends, but they scaled up for the café,” Hugh explains.
As such, the menu is small and wholesome, with a few key breakfast and lunch dishes that change slightly depending on what Linda delivers each day. Chef Chris Welsh swaps silverbeet for spinach in salads, beetroot gnocchi for risotto and uses mashed broad beans instead of avocados. They also make cakes, focaccias and cordials in-house, using the excess fruit traded with customers for coffee. Their milk delivery is received in stainless steels pails from Schulz dairy in Timboon to avoid packaging waste.
“We have made many efforts to cut waste,” explains Hugh. “Solar panels on the roof, toilets with an integrated basin for water efficiency, and no bottles.”
Little Green Corner is open Monday to Friday, which leaves time on the weekends to hold workshops. The first of these was an edible gardening workshop with permaculturist Ben Shaw at his huge home vegetable garden in Corio. On this suburban plot, Ben has all the elements of a prosperous home garden: healthy layered soil, varied sun exposure, a chicken coop, paths that allow for a wheelbarrow and insect hotels, encouraging an interaction between flora and fauna. He suggests that the more diversity in the garden the better. Ben is also an advocate for gardening as a great way to interact with your community. In fact, that’s how he came to be friends with Hugh, he started trading surplus fruit for coffee at Little Green Corner.
Their shared ethos is a simple one, growing sustainably and eating seasonally. “It’s a way of life that really encourages community,” says Hugh – both in the garden and on the plate.
Other workshops by Little Green Corner include forages for ocean vegetables and edible weeds, as well as gnocchi making and knife handling.