Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting inside the delightful setting of Wandering Cooks to share in an open conversation on one of the poignant topics of our current day. It was surreal to be in a room of like minded people to hear from some of Brisbane and Australia’s biggest names in food systems change talk about the issues, the journey and the solutions to one of our most fundamental and ancient practices, agriculture. The question put forward was ‘Are Farmers the new Environmentalists?’ and I believe the speakers put forth a strong case on why that is becoming the necessary role for the modern farmer and why it is integral that we all play our part in facilitating these farmers.
Dr. Charles Massey, renowned author of Breaking the Sheeps Back and Call of the Reed Warbler presented his information on the deficits created by the current industrial systems and how regenerative practices have remediated Australian farms and Australian farmers. Drawing from over 35 years of experience in the field from starting as a naive industrial farmer with dead soils before becoming an ecologist and radically changing his onsite practices. His book Call of the Reed Warbler is effectively a field guide on how to utilize regenerative practices and the benefits that can be expected using first hand experiences of Australian farmers, I highly recommend reading it. For me it was an enjoyable reaffirmation of the interconnections between soils health, plant nutrition and overall human health, the knowledge that our practices are constantly affecting our current and future standard of living. As Charles mentioned, ‘the paradigm in agriculture of today is that we are still repeating the same practices and seeing the same results, farmers with dust bowls can be neighbours with someone utilizing regenerative practices who still have 2.5cm of green pasture in the current drought and won’t ask why!’.
What is Regenerative Farming?
So for the people who aren’t familiar with the concept of Regenerative Farming, it is the utilization of practices which rehabilitate the onsite natural systems of a farm to benefit the local and wider ecosystem, basically acknowledging that we are part of a living system and facilitating the processes of the living system to produce the healthiest environment for our needs. Keeping in mind that humans are a major factor of the ecosystem, this also means the rehabilitation of the farmer to realign with the natural systems and regenerate the wider community. To me this is irrelevant of scale, it can be from a balcony garden, to a 1000 hectare farm, to the entirety of a cities limits and is why this is the Plight for the People, as Ray from Symara Farms put it ‘Eating is an Agricultural Act, so any person who eats participates in the agricultural system’. Regardless of whether we want to acknowledge our participation or not we all play a role, I think it is a positive thing as it means we all have a place within the system, we are all able to help each other achieve a better socio-economic platform and we can all facilitate an environment worth handing over.
The Basic Principals of Regenerative Farming:
- No herbicide, pesticide, fungicide use
- No synthetic fertilizer use
- Regenerate onsite topsoils
- Increase onsite biodiversity
- Improve onsite water cycles
- Enhance the overall ecosystem
- Improve the health of the local community
The Community of Regenerative Farming
Now we have the research backing the practices, we have the farmers utilizing the practices and as consumers we have awareness that this is facilitating positive change for the wider community, but how do we achieve wider access to the agricultural products which ensure these practices are able to continue expanding? Well that is where we are fortunate here in Brisbane to have the keystone foundation for access to local agriculture, Food Connect. Robert Pekin and Emma-Kate of the Food Connect Foundation and the hard working team of Food Connect Brisbane have facilitated the connection between local farmers and the fresh food community of Brisbane for over 16 years, this community has been the grassroots push to maintain ethical practices on local farms which provide healthy, nutrient rich food to the community while ensuring a fair payment which allows the farmer to continue building a healthy environment. By participating in a weekly produce box you are supporting 80 farmers within a 500km radius of Brisbane to keep following the path of ethical growing. You are supporting the growth of local production and ensuring the future of Brisbane’s food remains local, which is vitally important, because if we are to regain and maintain trust within our agricultural system we need it to be transparent and we need to be able to access it. Funnily enough this system is known as Community Supported Agriculture and is literally where the community supports the growth of the agricultural practices which they think benefits their community the most. It gives confidence to the farmers who are providing the best practice to continue and mitigates the detrimental practices by lowering the economic standard of the farms utilizing them. This is a proven successful model the world over for regaining community trust in local farmers while rebuilding an ethical agricultural system and Food Connect are offering this on a city wide scale. They are also in the midst of crowd sourcing investor owners from the community to buy the hub they currently reside in, they want over 400 women in the local community to form the base which will carry Food Connect into the future. If you are a person who feels a bit helpless against the big multi corps which dictate farming practices, land usage and farmer livelihood then this is a powerful community to be a part of as your dollar and participation speaks a volume which the people up top listen too.
This is our time, this is our battle, it is time to link arms and go forth as the platform of change and regenerate the future we want to facilitate!!
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