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Folk Creating A Fair Food Future

fiona
Photo by Kirsten Bradley

FIONA WEIR WALMSLEY – BUENA VISTA FARM

Describe your farm and what you do there.

Buena Vista Farm is a small family farm growing food (primarily pastured meat chickens, and a market garden with laying hens, bees, ducks, pigs and cattle), making delicious fermented foods, and teaching homesteading skills, in particular ‘from-scratch’ cooking (e.g. sourdough and sauerkraut).

We’re on eighteen acres of what was dairy farm that’s been in my family since the 1850s; I grew up here. Our plan was to grow coffee, and maybe put in a café, but we got excited about Joel Salatin’s ideas for stacked agriculture, self-sufficient (or inter-sufficient) and economically viable small farming.

It’s a tiny space to make an agricultural living, but with additional enterprises it’s possible. Our best investment was a commercial kitchen. We spend a fair bit of time running around after our three small children, but we love living and working here.

What brought you back from the city to the family farm?

We loved our city life, but began to suspect our food and its provenance, and started thinking about how to participate in the food system rather than just despair about it. We were lucky that my parents made part of the farm available. We wanted to live on the farm and grow clean food for our family, and were up for the challenge of building a business to work in together. We also wanted our children to grow up in the country, in a small community. We sold our house, bought our twenty meat chickens and three pigs, and lived off savings for a couple of years! The learning curve has been very steep, but a lot of fun.

What motivates you?

It’s exciting to do something new here, and my parents are nearby and closely involved. Dad is the technical advisor and he’s helped in innumerable ways. I’ve always felt connected to this farm, and I’m excited about it becoming a hub for local food production. We’ve got two full-time market gardeners who live on the farm, and draw an income from the productive and beautiful garden. We love supporting that and teaching. Running workshops and sending people home with sourdough starter and inspiration is incredibly motivating.

What do you see as your contribution to a Fair Food future?

We were surprised that there wasn’t a local farmer’s market, and we got one going with like-minded friends. It’s a weekly, mid-week afternoon market. We’re proud because it’s changed the way people shop locally – they can do most grocery shopping there, and money goes back to local famers – and it encourages small producers.

How would you describe a Fair Food future?

One where everyone respects resources, and our food economy is based on nutrition not money! I wonder how nutritious food getting processed into unrecognisable junk became normal. We need to make big changes to regulations, to encourage small scale food production. The networking in Australia between these producers – sharing stories and learnings– is exciting. A Fair Food future is being built right now by people determined to change the food system, effective laws will follow.

For more information visit: buenavistafarm.com.au

pete
Photo by James Samuel

PETE RUSSELL – OOOOBY

Describe yourself and what you do

I’m a worried optimist. I’m worried by the way that humanity’s fundamental survival mechanism – our food system – has been coopted for commercial ends, and what that means for future generations. I’m optimistic that enough of us are worrying about this and that, together, we’ll figure out how to reclaim our food system and restore its original purpose – to nourish all of humanity. I work with our team to find the next step towards realising a food future to alleviate my worries.

Describe Ooooby and how you created it

Ooooby (Out of Our Own BackYards) is an online marketplace for local food. We rebuild local food economies, because we believe that changing the way we produce and distribute food is fundamental to solving the world’s most pressing social and ecological problems.

We created Ooooby by trial and error; we experimented with a few different models before arriving at it. The philosophy behind Ooooby is that food is a fundamental human right, so it should be more like air and water: accessible to everyone in a convenient, affordable and fair way.

What motivated you to start Ooooby and what motivates you to keep going?

I believe we need to take more action to solve our big collective challenges, especially our current food system. As a father of five it’s hard to not think about what we’ll be leaving behind for future generations. I want them to have easy access to fresh natural food. I worry when I look at the way industrial and globalised systems have reduced food to a shadow of its former self.

It’s important to create local food systems for many reasons including: viable margins for small scale growers, local employment, ecological regeneration, personal health, community resilience, social interaction, reduction of waste and packaging, fairness, freshness and flavour.

How are you contributing to a Fair Food future?

Ooooby’s role is to provide a low-cost sales and distribution system, which reduces traditional supply chain costs by up to thirty per cent. Growers are paid a minimum of fifty cents in the retail dollar, and everyone else in the supply chain can be paid fairly without the customer paying too much.

We’ve seen direct positive change in the areas where we’ve started the Ooooby system: for example, in Auckland growers have been able to continue their smallholdings when – prior to supplying to Ooooby – they were faced with the grim prospect of closing their farms. Bill and Marilyn tell their story in the video on our website. We’ve also donated more than $25 000 worth of fresh produce to food banks, and we’ve employed more than fifty people, paying above award rates.

What do you see as a fair food future?

One where food distribution is no longer dominated by corporate interests with a ‘profit first’ mentality, but controlled and coordinated by the crowd. Where food production is no longer dominated by massive monocultures, but crowd-sourced – where everyone has an opportunity to contribute to our food supply through low cost and localised micro-farming grid systems.

For more information see: ooooby.org/Auckland

penelope
Photo by Michelle Dupont

PENELOPE DODD – PRODUCE TO THE PEOPLE

Describe yourself and what you do

I tree/sea changed to Tasmania over ten years ago, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. We are incredibly blessed with beauty, a slower pace, and the opportunity to live a simple life while making a difference in any area you like.

Describe what you have created with Produce to the People (PttP)

PttP grew from a backyard vegetable gathering project, to a community-wide food distribution and primary school gardening initiative. It gathers and redistributes a yearly average of 25 000 kilograms of fresh, locally grown produce – that might otherwise have gone to waste (with a market value of around $240 000) – and has taught children in seven primary schools how to grow their own food. Through PttP hundreds of vulnerable people in the north-west of Tasmania have the opportunity to eat fresh fruit and vegetables.

Describe what you do on The Farm

We create a healthy and sustainable food system that benefits us all. On two acres (8094 m2), within the grounds of Burnie High School, we operate a diversified, four-season farm and an education centre that hosts thousands of visitors each year. We are a social profit organisation; our ethos is ‘grow, gather, give’. Our work includes:

– providing a free-food hub, distributing otherwise ‘wasted’ locally-grown produce; up to seventy people come each

day

– hosting Work for the Dole projects (work experience for unemployed people)

– improving sustainable farming practices

– training farmers in resilient, regenerative techniques

– helping children discover the sources of food, and preparing them to steward the land

– increasing public awareness of healthy, seasonal,

sustainable food.

What motivates you?

Stubbornness and a desire to belong to a community that cares about each other’s wellbeing.

How are you contributing to a Fair Food future?

Through education, access and innovative social enterprise. Longer-term benefits include: community health and wellbeing; volunteer experiences; and influence of students.

People can support us by donating – investing – so that we can contribute to farmers’ costs, and develop our outreach vegie box scheme (e.g. for elders).

What motivated you to start up and run PttP?

I began PttP as a way of sharing excess backyard grown produce within the wider community – particularly with those who don’t have access to fresh food. I’m an advocate for individuals to nurture their community.

I’ve learnt about the complexity of food insecurity: food waste, climate change impacts, supermarket contracts (and effects on farmers), generational poverty, food literacy … it’s endless. I know that the most vulnerable in our community deserve access to healthy food.

How would you describe a Fair Food future?

A time and place where everyone has access to locally-grown seasonal food, grown with respect for the land, with a fair price paid to growers, and access to information for those who want to grow their own.

For your information visit: producetothepeopletasmania.wordpress.com

angelo
Photo by Dan Palmer

ANGELO ELIADES – DEEP GREEN PERMACULTURE

Describe yourself and what you do

I’m a presenter, trainer and writer about sustainable gardening and permaculture; and a forest gardening advocate. I run a thriving demonstration permaculture food forest garden in Melbourne which I regularly open to the public.

When I’m not consulting, teaching, working in the retail garden nursery industry, conducting development work for Sustainable Gardening Australia or enjoying my own garden, I run the educational, sustainable gardening website Deep Green Permaculture.

Describe your garden

I have designed and built Melbourne’s first proof-of-concept backyard demonstration food forest garden, based on ecological design principles. This long-term project is a research study, with detailed figures of yields over several years, which are publically available.

In around sixty square metres of garden, I have over thirty fruit trees, over twenty varieties of berries and over sixty medicinal herbs. Built in late 2008, in its fourth year this garden produced over 230 kilograms of food – 160 of fruit, sixty of vegetables and eleven of berries – around 14 tonnes per acre.

What motivates you?

I created my garden as an experiment, to determine how sustainable and productive an ecological system of gardening really can be when we let nature do most of the work. With qualifications in the biomedical sciences, I value solid evidence and reliable research methods. Sound science is reproducible, and I’ve reproduced the systems of nature as taught in permaculture.

My motivation as an educator is to help people to understand the amazing ecological systems that exist in nature. And how to work collaboratively and harmoniously with these systems to live more sustainably, to garden more efficiently and grow food more productively.

What contribution can urban agriculture make to feeding a city?

Food security is only attainable when food is produced in all areas available: in urban yards and public spaces; in market gardens on city fringes; and in rural areas on sustainable, large and small scale farms. By using all three systems of food production we can produce resilient systems, which will feed the cities and the rest of the nation.

What do you see as your contribution to a Fair Food future?

I have, on a local level, successfully spearheaded advocacy and educational initiatives over many years, which have brought the concepts of permaculture, food forest gardening and backyard orchard culture into the mainstream, and into the awareness of local governments around Victoria. The results from my work have also attracted attention nationally and internationally.

My website receives around 2000 views each day, and is approaching two million views to date. My articles have been translated into other languages for international audiences.

What do you see as a Fair Food future?

One where food is grown sustainably in rural, peri-urban and urban areas with a focus on growing nutritious, healthy food, and fairly rewarding farmers and growers.

For more information see www.deepgreenpermaculture.Com

tammi
Photo by Jonai Farms

TAMMI JONAS – JONAI FARMS & MEATSMITHS

Describe Jonai Farms and Meatsmiths.

We are a family of ‘ethicurean’ farmers raising pastured, rare-breed large black pigs and a small herd of cattle on twenty-eight hectares of volcanic paddocks just outside Daylesford, Victoria.

We butcher, cook and cure our pork and beef on the farm, and sell our uncommonly delicious meats at the farm gate and through deliveries to Woodend, Castlemaine, Bendigo, Ballarat and hubs across Melbourne.

How does your farm and business work?

We run what we call an ethically-viable no-growth farm business model, where respecting the ‘pigness of the pig’ is paramount, and decision-making is guided by concern for the animals, the soil and the people, both on the farm and in our community of eaters.

We have a miniscule supply chain as all butchery and further processing is done by me, here on the farm; and we sell all our produce directly, primarily to households. Most sales are through our community-supported agriculture (CSA) model: we have over seventy members who have subscribed for six or twelve months, and receive a monthly delivery of mixed cuts. This ensures that the entire animal is sold, and we remain viable. Our members learn more every month about farming practices, different cuts of meat and how to cook a broad repertoire of delicious recipes.

What motivates you to run your business as you do?

A firm belief in the importance of food sovereignty, the right of people: to nutritious and culturally appropriate food, produced in ethical and ecologically sound ways; and to collectively determine their own food and agriculture systems.

How are you contributing to the fair food movement and a Fair Food future?

Our biggest contribution is to farm in a way that is fair – soil to stomach – and then to share what we do with the public. We practise radical transparency, so that the world may understand the challenges and opportunities of regenerative, ethical agriculture; and we take every opportunity to write and speak about the Fair Food movement and everybody’s part in it.

And, of course, I’m also the President of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA), where I fight hard for: the rights of small-scale farmers in the face of scale-inappropriate regulation; the rights of farm and food workers to fair wages and conditions; the right of everyone to nutritious and culturally appropriate foods; and the importance of moving away from industrialised agriculture and highly centralised control of the retail food market.

How would you like to see a Fair Food system in the future?

I always say ‘we don’t need to scale, we need to multiply’. A Fair Food future would see: regions full of small-scale farmers feeding their local communities; peri-urban land protected for the important role of providing food security to our cities; and a new generation of children being raised with deep knowledge of food production, and with excellent access to nutritious foods. A Fair Food system would be delicious.

For more information visit jonaifarms.com.au

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