The Age’s Future of Food series has been an incredible overview of the complex issues faced in our food system, particularly the tensions between farmers and the supermarket duopoly. I’d take my hat off (if I was wearing a hat) in acknowledgement Royce Miller and Melissa Fyfe’s excellent work on this series. From the number of articles they’ve pumped out in a short time, through their insight, their perseverence in really grappling with the issues, and their commitment to balanced exploration over media sensation – if their aren’t journalism awards for this kind of thing there should be food sector awards!!
The Casey Food Hub gets a guernsey in today’s piece, Food from Somewhere, (quoted below) which also features our good friend and general inspiration Kat Lavers and the amazing produce we enjoy from Rod May. While never quite sure how things you say to journalists will come out (and I’d probably have tempered it slightly if I had the pen), the general message of Eaterprises and the Australian Food Hubs Network comes through clearly – everything that’s going on is fantastic AND we need to think more systemically to provide real options for farmers and eaters and take on the supermarkets. This is exactly the focus and driver behind our work on Food Hubs and the Open Food Web.
Here’s the quote from today:
In Victoria, the idea is gathering momentum. Kirsten Larsen, a Melbourne University food policy researcher and campaigner, is a champion of the European-style markets. While she supports organic food box schemes and farmers’ markets, she says the alternative food marketplace ”simply isn’t big enough”.
Larsen says the current model of monthly farmers’ markets doesn’t work for many farmers because to make a living ”they end up driving all over the state”. Regular local markets held in suburban and town centres across the state would draw more farmers to markets, and encourage more people to take up the farming challenge.
She is working with local government, including the City of Casey in Melbourne’s south-east, on the idea of a ”food hub” that allows farmers to bypass established food supply chains. ”I don’t believe we have all the answers. I don’t know this is going to work. But it’s about trying to give people real choices. The thing we need to do is grow the pie.”
Just a couple of qualifiers to be clear on what I mean – farmers markets are fantastic and I love them AND regular outlets, close to home (for farmers) that take larger amounts of produce would be better. These could be bigger, more regular farmers markets and they could be municipal market style and they could lean towards regional Food Hubs that buy local and wholesale to local greengrocers (just one example – see more here). We need to try all of these things, and have lots of options that meet different eater needs (convenience, choice etc).
And we may not know exactly what will work, but I’m pretty sure that a lot of what we’re doing will (and is) working – there’s an exciting appetite for real change from farmers and eaters, and incredible opportunities for community food projects and businesses. This is only the beginning . .