Category Thrive

HELP & HEALING – How accepting help allowed a family and their farm to heal and regenerate

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There’s a successful shared-farming arrangement playing out in Lismore, NSW that was born out of a pretty extreme set of circumstances. But it proves that if we can shed the societal expectation that all exchanges around gain need to be financial, the benefits can be life-changing.

In the northern rivers of New South Wales lies a thriving certified-organic 16-acre farm. On it Mark Bayley is continuing the work he and long-time partner Sara Tindley started almost 10 years ago when they acquired an old macadamia orchard in search of new beginnings.

With a shared commitment to regenerate and heal the land, the couple cleared the majority of the ageing 1200 nut trees to make way for native and endemic plants, earmarked and began work on rainforest regeneration areas, planted over 300 new fruit trees and moved a house from Lismore onto the property to make the place their home. Mark and Sara then turned their attentions to market gardening on a one- acre plot, and launched Singing Farmer Organics which they built and grew into viable and rewarding venture.

THE FOOD FOREST – The farm that kick-started Hannah Maloney’s love of permaculture

Annemarie and Graham

If you’re interested in permaculture, chances are you’ve heard about, or visited, The Food Forest. An award-winning property spanning 50 acres, it is a certified-organic, permaculture farm and learning centre based in Gawler, an hour north of Adelaide, and is the life’s work of Annemarie and Graham Brookman.

Now in its 41st year, The Food Forest was established in 1983 with the intention of demonstrating how Australians can grow their own food, create a productive and diverse landscape, live in a low-energy, passive-solar house and earn a comfortable living, all while living relatively softly on the planet.

But this couple isn’t messing around. On their semi-arid property, they produce over 150 varieties of fruit including grapes (and wine), nuts, grain and vegetables and sell most of their produce at the Adelaide Farmers’ Market (which Graham helped found in 2006). All while raising two topnotch kids, juggling off-farm jobs in the earlier farm years and running a calendar of workshops – including their renowned Permaculture Design Course.

TAKING CHARGE – everything you need to know about owning an electric vehicle

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We’ve known for decades our transport choices are impacting the health of the planet and its inhabitants. So where are we at right now in terms of EV ownership in Australia?

Australia is massive; a land of sweeping plains and very long roads. With our relatively low population and mostly underwhelming public transport system, it’s no surprise that as a country, we love our cars and are often dependent on them. We have the second-highest rate of car ownership in the world, behind the US, to prove it.

But it’s coming at a huge environmental cost: last year the transport sector made up 19 percent of Australia’s emissions, according to the federal Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. Passenger cars and light commercial vehicles contributed 60 percent of that (and over 10 percent of Australia’s total emissions). The department’s website states that ‘without intervention, the transport sector is projected to be Australia’s largest source of emissions by 2030’.

ACRES AND ACRES – Community co-op

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Thanks to a vision to prioritise food security, sustainable practices, entrepreneurial opportunities and wellbeing initiatives for the community, the regional Victorian town of Corryong has shown that from adversity comes new beginnings.

When a group of food-growing enthusiasts gathered at the local Corryong Food Swap after the Upper Murray region was devastated in the January 2020 bushfires, they recognised the lack of locally grown fresh food. Acutely aware of the fragility of supply chains and the community’s reliance on them to date, Acres and Acres Co-op was set up in March 2020 to establish a local food source. Now providing food security, resilience and easier accessibility, it’s a result that turned the devastating effects of the bushfires into one of positive change.

The six founding members of Dee Mcdonald, Shelly Neale, Jacqui Beaumont, Digby Grotts, Pam Noonan and current director of Acres and Acres Josh Collings, decided to implement an action plan and sourced funding that has seen the co-op grow from a small market garden and monthly market stall run by volunteers, to recently purchasing the local greengrocer and employing staff. The shop not only provides easier access to fresh food but is also a retail outlet for local growers to sell their seasonal produce.

BENEATH OUR FEET – The fascinating world of fungi and why healthy ecosystems rely on it.

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A considered renovation and clever retrofitting turned a small dilapidated house on Wathaurong country into a rustic, coastal retreat for this creative young family.

When Harriet Birrell (otherwise known as Natural Harry) and husband Fraser West needed somewhere to live, they felt overwhelmed by the price of buying close to family on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula.

‘We had a very small budget,’ explains Harriet. But when the option arose to renovate a small, run-down house on land owned by relatives, the couple jumped at the opportunity. At 40 m2, ‘It’s not technically a tiny home, as it’s not mobile and cannot fit in a trailer, but it’s small nonetheless’. By utilising their own skills and labour and incorporating upcycled and reclaimed materials, the couple made the house liveable within six months, creating a compact but well-considered space, full of light and closely connected with the outdoors.

ODE TO OAKHILL – The rundown churchyard transformed into a supportive food justice farm.

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A once vacant and decrepit vicarage in Melbourne’s inner-north suburb of Preston is now home to Oakhill Food Justice Farm, a community space and urban farm empowering members with knowledge, skills and stronger social connections.

Situated 9 km from the CBD, Oakhill Food Justice Farm is the second such initiative of not-for-profit organisation Sustain. In the past 17 months and with the help of staff and volunteers, Sustain has turned a run-down churchyard into a thriving hub which educates, feeds and nurtures its community.

‘This place-making initiative demonstrates the power of urban agriculture to create beautiful places of nurturing and healing for people, plants, soil, birds and bees,’ says Sustain’s executive director Nick Rose. ‘Oakhill is central to Sustain’s mission to expand urban agriculture across Australia.’

The initiative is a great example of what’s possible when access to appropriate land and facilities can be combined with adequate funding. While volunteers play a large and important role at Oakhill, funding enables the recruitment of skilled staff, allows the farm to offer educational programs to kids, a paid-internship program to youth and means its community- focused goals can be reached more efficiently.

According to Nick, more than 1000 people have visited the Oakhill urban farm site and engaged with it in a variety of ways, and he says the potential and positive impacts are growing on a weekly basis.

Localisation: Small, Slow And Local

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Author, filmmaker and founder of Local Futures Helena Norberg-Hodge explains how adopting an economic strategy based on the wisdom of indigenous cultures and smaller communities could be the answer to human, societal and environmental issues.

‘Buy local’ campaigns have been prolific over the last couple of years, indicating a growing awareness of the need to support our local communities. But localisation, or more particularly economic localisation, actually goes much deeper than just buying what you need from your nearby and independent stores. Because as paradoxical as it might seem, opting for small, slow and local is a big-picture strategy that can address the root causes of the global environmental and social crises we’ve found ourselves in.

Market Gardening: The Happy Farmer

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Is it possible to run a market garden using permaculture principles in the middle of the desert and make it viable?

On the outskirts of Alice Springs in view of Tjoritja, the MacDonnell Ranges, with the red desert sands stretching for thousands of kilometres from his back fence, Rod Angelo runs a market garden. Known as The Happy Farmer, Rod supplies fresh greens to the residents of Alice Springs, and he makes his business viable by turning waste streams into inputs that would otherwise cost money.

The climate in The Alice is unforgiving to growers. Miss just a single one day of watering and you will have to start again. With temperatures regularly over 40 ºC during summer, growing food is an art and requires dedication and local knowledge in equal measure.

Indigenous Culture: Dreamtime Stories

Walbunga and Ngarigo
Dreamtime and Creation stories exist to teach people how to look after the land, its creatures and their custodians. But to truly appreciate their significance, we first must understand what is meant by the Dreamtime and the Dreaming. According to Indigenous beliefs, the Dreamtime is the period when creation spirits or ancestral beings walked with humans and shaped the world. And depending on the local beliefs and stories, the creator could come from the sky, the land or the sea. Creation ancestors laid down the foundations of all life, including what people had to do to maintain their part of this interdependence. This is Indigenous lore. The lore ensures each person knows his or her connectedness and responsibilities to family, to Country and for their ongoing relationship with the ancestor spirits.

Permie of the Year: Mandy Milburn

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Dedicated to building resilience and food security through respectful community connections, Pip’s 2021 Permie of the Year recipient personifies the three key ethics.

‘Open hearted’ is how the 2021 Pip Permie of the Year Award recipient Mandy Milburn describes herself and, when you look at where the 49-year-old has found herself after a relatively tumultuous life, it’s pretty hard to argue.

These days, Mandy leads the team running the Kununurra Community Garden located in the eastern reaches of Western Australia’s Kimberley ranges. Just 45 km from the Northern Territory border, it’s a relatively small and remote community and its hot, semi-arid climate is extreme. She co-launched the Kununurra Community Kitchen five years ago and recently merged the two under the same not-for-profit banner, and now uses both entities to support, influence and nurture real and positive change within her diverse community.