Ev­ery time we want to or or we have to tell all the neigh­bours

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - HOMEGROWN -

have to go back to the be­gin­ning, to where Ade­laide’s mar­ket gar­dens first came from.

Italy, 1954: 13-year-old Maria Mer­corella ( now Belpe­rio) and her fam­ily are pre­par­ing to leave home. They’ve sold their 20 sheep, four cows, two goats, two don­keys, their pig and their pad­dock of wheat. The farm house they’ll keep for a while, be­cause they don’t know if the air in Aus­tralia will kill the chil­dren. But de­spite their ap­pre­hen­sion at jour­ney­ing to an un­known land, they’re glad to be leav­ing. Be­cause, if all goes well, Ade­laide’s fruit­ful soil and plen­ti­ful wa­ter will pro­vide the Mer­corel­las with a unique op­por­tu­nity: for the first time ever, Maria’s fam­ily will be able to cul­ti­vate more food than they need to eat. For the first time ever, they will be able to turn a profit.

Ar­riv­ing in Aus­tralia, Maria’s fa­ther rents a 10-acre prop­erty in the eastern sub­urbs. Maria works hard on her par­ents’ farm, and boxes onions for a neigh­bour, earn­ing $3.50 a day. She mar­ries, and pur­chases a five-acre plot of land in Par­adise for $30,000 with her hus­band Pat Belpe­rio. They work hard: from 5am till dark ev­ery day, they till the land, grow­ing parsnips, car­rots, pota­toes and herbs.

To­day, Maria and her hus­band are in their 70s. Their farm, the only mar­ket gar­den re­main­ing in the area, is over­shad­owed by a gi­ant “for sale” sign. Sev­eral years ago, the fam­ily be­gan sub­di­vid­ing the plot and build­ing homes for a re­tire­ment vil­lage. If they man­age to sell all of the 15 homes planned for the site (the fam­ily is hop­ing to fetch $400,000 for each home), there will be noth­ing left but a small piece of land for Maria to pot­ter around on in her old age. She wants to keep this, be­cause she knows she won’t be able to tol­er­ate be­ing sur­rounded by dense hous­ing. She’s sad to see the demise of her gar­den, a life­time labour of love, but is philo­soph­i­cal about the change.

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