Albany and the Great Southern, Monday 11th April, 2016
At the invitation of Evelyn Lee and Libby Johnson of Community Food Events and CLEAN (Communities Linking Environment, Agriculture and Nutrition), Nick Rose co-facilitated co-facilitate a highly participatory food systems and food policy workshop in Albany on Monday 11th April, 2016. A diverse and very engaged group of local food system stakeholders grappled with the issues and opportunities facing the region’s food system. This work built on the previous visit by Nick to Albany, with Dr Jennifer Alden of Growing Change (Bendigo), to facilitate workshops and discussions on the potential for a Great Southern Food Hub.
Professor Martin Caraher of City University, London, provided a ‘big picture’ overview of the food system and food security challenges at the regional, national and global levels. He highlighted the major inequities in the global food system which have led to a steep rise in food insecurity and food poverty, even in rich countries like Australia and Britain.
Participants then carried out an ‘asset mapping’ exercise, where they individually wrote down their knowledge, skills and passions, thereby creating a collective map of their own resources as a group. As it always does, this exercise revealed what an extraordinary and rich diversity of skilled, knowledgeable, experienced and passionate people were in the room.
That was hardly a surprise, given that participants included teachers, producers, a microbiologist, an ecologist, a chef, an acupuncturist, an economic developer, a social planner, and a health professional, amongst others.
Participants then used the Circles of Social Life framework to brainstorm the key issues facing the Great Southern food system.
Some of the key local issues included land use conflicts over the ‘right to farm’, a continued high dependence on chemical inputs to sustain agricultural productivity, the need for knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer mechanisms, high levels of dietary-related ill-health and a growing issue of food insecurity.
The top priority issues identified by participants included the need for more education and awareness-raising, amongst both the residents and visitors of the Shire as well as policy makers, about the need to value local food producers and businesses more; and this was linked to the ongoing commodification of food, which devalues producers. Another top priority issue was the need for a more coordinated approach amongst local and state governments, the need to find political champions for food policies and strategies, and greater levels of networking and information sharing amongst food system stakeholders. At the ecological level, the need to address loss of soil health and vitality was seen as a pressing issue. A further high priority was the need to get youth connected to agriculture.
After a delightful locally catered lunch, Nick Rose shared with participants some of the food systems policy work undertaken by local governments in Victoria and NSW. He referred particularly to the food policies of the Cities of Melbourne, Hume and the City of Greater Geelong, the Local Food Strategy of the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, and the draft Sustainable Agriculture Strategy of Tweed Shire Council. Nick emphasised how the policies delineated clearly the roles of Council (facilitator, enabler, advocate, regulatory authority) as well as key food system goals, based on the values of sustainability, resilience, health and well-being, fairness, and acknowledgement of the universal human right to adequate food.
Participants then mapped out the already existing food system and food movement initiatives in the Great Southern, revealing a huge diversity of activity and organisations. Next, the representatives from the City of Albany, the Shire of Cranbrook and the Shire of Plantagenet shared with participants where their respective Councils are up to on these issues. The main news is that, as a result of a recently concluded Economic Alliance between the three Councils of the ‘lower’ Great Southern (Albany, Denmark and Plantagenet), work has begun on a Tourism Strategy; and work is likely to commence soon on a Food Strategy, with a focus on economic development. The Great Southern RDA (Regional Development Australia) has also committed to developing a heat map of the Great Southern, to reveal the levels of agricultural production and related infrastructure.
Finally, participants worked in groups to elaborate what they would like to see as a participatory and inclusive Food Strategy stakeholder and community engagement process for the region. The list of stakeholders that needed to form part of the engagement process was significant, and included the following:
- Food Bank WA / Albany
- Gillamii Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
- CBH Co-op
- NRM and Tourism / Fisheries
- Producers Associations – ARCH – Albany Regional Commercial Horticulturists / GS Livestock producers Association / GS Wine Producers Association / WA Farmers Federation
- WA Country Health / Cancer Council / Hospitals / Aged Care
- Farmers Market coordinators – Albany / Bayonet Head / Boat Shed / Walpole
- Community Gardens – Mt Barker / Mia Mia / Rainbow Coast
- Denmark and Kattaning Agriculture College
- TAFE – Horticulture/aquaculture/dip sustainability
- Transition Towns – Denmark
- Festivals – Taste Festival / Food for Thought / Festival of the Sea / Heritage Apple Festival / Porongrup Wine Festival
- Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program – PS Little Grove, Cranbrook, Mt Barker, Parklands
- CLEAN _ Communities linking Environment Agriculture and Nutrition
- Retailers/ Restaurants
The workshop report is currently being written up by Evelyn Collin, and we’ll publish further details in due course. The CLEAN Committee wrote these words a few days after the workshop:
A big Great Southern thank you to Dr Nick Rose and Professor Martin Caraher for an informative and inspiring discussion on the opportunities and pathways forward for our Great Southern Food System conversations. The FOOD: Systems, Security and Policy event sponsored by South Coast Natural Resource Management, Sustain: Australian Food Network and Healthways was well attended by local government, industry and community representatives. The networking dinner hosted by Nilla’s Italian Kitchen was a delicious way to end the day, high lighting the role food plays connecting people to each other, the environment around us and in nourishing our bodies. Thank you to everyone who attended and all our sponsors. A special thank you to Richard Davy, Libby Johnson, Nilla Spark, Richard and Irene Bunn, Chris Meuzelaar and Evelyn Collin