Jennifer Congdon – Woodstock: Farm, food and family

Independently published, Australia, 2021

The subtitle says much about this book, which is not simply a family history but a social history of the Riverina region where the Woodstock Farm is situated.

Details of how the farm estate has changed over the years also perforce chronicle the major events of the times, both internationally and nationally – the wars, the Depression, the droughts, the changing agricultural scene.

Jennifer Congdon talks about Woodstock: Farm, food and family

At the same time, Woodstock is a warm and intimate view of the author’s family life. We meet family members from several generations and share the family’s griefs and celebrations, the patterns of life on the farm and importantly, the food that was part of that story. Recipes passed from generation to generation, given by friends and aunts quickly become an expected and much cherished part of the pattern of farm life.

Jennifer Congdon’s background in library work shines through in her presentation of original documents and early photographic records of life on the farm. The ordered and logical structure of the book is further testament to this. Woodstock is presented to us under four seasonal headings. Of course, the cycles of Nature determine work regimes on a farm – harvesting, planting, lambing and the like.

The sustainable practices of this farm also require new ways of managing and caring for the land as well as the crops and animals raised there. It hasn’t always been an easy road working this way and has meant accepting lower yields than neigbouring farms might produce. It has, however, made for a life of contentment with the assurance that the dearly loved land is held in good condition for the future.

Jennifer Congdon writes from the heart in telling these stories of farm and family. She is an articulate and engaging storyteller whose respect for the farm, her family, her history and the community are clear to the reader.

Whether she writes of the generosity, hard work and warmth of her mother, the milling of their Woodstock grains into artisanal flour, the contribution of her forebears to the property and the district or contemporary family times like Christmas, there is always a quiet love in the words.

Beautiful photographs enhance the text and help the reader to understand that so very important sense of place and tradition.

This book would make a welcome addition to any cookbook shelf but also to the collections of those interested in Australian social history. It is available in select bookstores and through:

Living Arts Canberra purchased its own copy of this book. Thank you to Jennifer for such an interesting and informative conversation.