Steven and I recently took a trip south to Tasmania for the Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network ‘Food for Thought’ conference, which this year was focused on exploring meaningful livelihoods in urban agriculture. Needless to say, it was incredible! It was a sold-out three days of inspiration, meeting like-minded people, hearing from some amazing speakers, eating delicious locally grown food, touring some awesome community gardens and other Tassie community food enterprises, and having some really interesting conversations about the future of urban agriculture, the challenges, and the possibilities.
Some stand-out moments for me were Chris Ennis’ discussion about all the failures that you don’t often see behind the amazing project that is CERES, and the revelation that by sharing these failures and celebrating them, we can learn much more quickly and get on the right track, compared to just viewing pretty pictures of success, with no idea how to achieve it! Another moment was hearing brother/sister duo Harry and Bonnie Wykman from The Black Earth Collective talk about bio-intensive growing, and hearing about their own parallel adventures in small-scale organic gardening/farming.
Bonnie Wykman telling it like it is.
Finally, Steve Solomon showed me what a real carrot is supposed to taste like, and had plenty of other hard-won advice for aspiring market gardeners, most of which comes down to having truly superb quality vegetables (varieties, taste, looks, nutrition etc.) with which to entice people from the supermarkets back to the small scale farmer. I’m mid-way through reading his new book The Intelligent Gardener which is one of the best in-depth treatise on soil I’ve come across, and is a great reminder that the health of everything starts with the soil.
With that, I’ll let Steven describe his impressions in his own words (plus his computer is stuffed so I’m uploading the following text on his behalf!)
Firstly, a heartfelt thank you to the Organisers and people who helped make the Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network gathering in Hobart happen. There’s not enough characters in the English language to suitably explain how inspiring the gathering was, so I’ll just extend my gratitude to some of those that inspired me.
So thank you Chris Ennis, from CERES, for opening up your big book of failures, so that we may learn from your costly experience.
Thanks to Dr. Nick Rose, from the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, for explaining so efficiently and eloquently, that we all have the ability to subtlety undermine the current food system by changing the language that we use to describe it. Slow and steady wins the race.
Thanks to Steve Solomon, Author, market Gardener, Seed aficionado and graduate from the school of hard knocks, for offering a completely complimentary and yet totally contradictory method of producing food. (The amount of first hand experience this man carries is immense, just don’t get on his bad side).
Thanks to whoever it was that introduced me to La Via Campesina during morning tea, lunch, a networking session or a random encounter over the three days.
Thanks to Emily Gray for graciously and yet somewhat reluctantly taking on the role of President of the ACFCGN for the next 12 months. I’m looking forward to being a part of this with you at the helm and I’m reminded of a quote by the late Bertrand Russell, “The problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubt.”
And a massive thank you to Bonnie and Harry Wykman for researching and presenting the huge weight of information on Bio Intensive farming with a focus on human nutritional needs. You guys really dotted some “i’s” and crossed some “t’s” for me. Harry, thanks also for your dance floor moves on the Saturday night!
Lastly, a big hug for Costa Georgiadis, for being an Ambassador for progressive food systems change both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Thanks for being so focused, and yet so accessible.
As Costa pointed out in his closing speech, the growth of numbers in people who are actively taking part in changing the food system here in Australia is growing and the fact that this event sold out is a great big confidence booster for the future of Food security in this country. The big two supermarkets may have financial control over the majority of our food, but they have no chance of getting their greasy mits on our grass roots.