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Robert Pekin

robert-perkin
Photo by Meena Kadri

Where do you live?

We rent an old three-bedroom Queenslander for our family of six in West End, Brisbane Queensland.

What do you do?

I assist in the running of Food Connect, a business based in Brisbane which turns its back on the supermarket system, brings farmers together and distributes what they grow straight to families (see www.foodconnect.com.au). The business model has branched out to most Australian cities.

How has permaculture influenced what you do?

A lot. The business has many of the twelve principles and the three ethics of permaculture embedded into its strategic planning process and manifesto.

Tell us more about Food Connect and how it works.

It’s a multi-farmer community supported agriculture (CSA) enterprise, that retails and wholesales ecologically grown produce and ethically produced products, from farmers and processors in an average radius of two and a half hours from Brisbane. Consumers can order and pay for their produce online, and pick up their boxes at a designated time and place.

We have established a unique community distribution network of pick-up spots (City Cousins) for our retail sales, and work with buyers clubs, small cooperatives, restaurants and cafes for our wholesale offering.

What are the main ethics behind Food Connect?

Our core values include: taking a stand for local farmers and urban eaters; fairness in the value chain; sharing risks; connecting eaters to growers and the land; and wellness of mind, body and soul for our people.

Our core purpose is ‘to transform our food system through demonstrating solutions guided by social justice and ecological sustainability’.

What circumstances bought you to creating Food Connect?

That’s a long story, but it mainly came about from losing my dairy farm in Victoria in the late 1990s, and seeking a solution to the issue that many of my farmer mates face. I believe in fair food for everyone.

What is the main driving force behind what you do?

Equity, and setting a standard for creating and designing solutions rather than putting effort into resisting the existing.

What is the greatest thing you have learnt through the process of setting up and running Food Connect?

That to be respectful of the organisation’s core purpose and the people who work with us, we have to be vigilant about the expectations and accountability of all the people who get involved. When you take on the status quo you need excellent people to work hard and be very responsible for their own actions.

What advice would you give other people thinking of starting up a similar program?

Start small and make absolutely sure you choose the right people to work with.

What is the Food Connect Foundation?

It’s the non-profit arm of Food Connect which has more of a national and international focus, and invests in innovative food enterprises for positive change. It also leads research and partnership development. At the moment its main focus is on understanding the concept of community finance and investment to attract capital and philanthropy.

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