Healthy, Sustainable Food Systems out West – Part 3

Perth, 12th April, and Fremantle, 13th April 2016

Tuesday 12th April saw Nick Rose fly from Albany to Perth, where he met with Charlie Thorn, Director of Research and Development at Curtin University, and Professor Greg Morrison, of the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute. Established in 2008, CUSP forms part of Curtin’s multi-disciplinary Australian Sustainable Development Institute, and carries out projects around the transition to low and zero-carbon economies, and to renewable forms of transport.

Curtin University Sustainable Policy Institute

Curtin University Sustainable Policy Institute

The meeting was to explore potential synergies between the work of Sustain and CUSP, especially around the potential for multi-functional community food hubs as low carbon forms of food aggregation, marketing and distribution; as well as places that can support producers to transition to sustainable and regenerative forms of agriculture, leading to reduced emissions from agriculture and carbon sequestration is flourishing and healthy soils.

Curtin are keen to work with Sustain, as well as Augusta-Margaret River Shire Council, and other local stakeholders, to bring US farmer and food hub entrepreneur and trainer Anthony Flaccavento to Western Australia, as part of the inaugural Community Food Hubs conference and speaking tour.

Sustainable Urban Nutrition - SUN - John McBain

Sustainable Urban Nutrition – SUN – John McBain

Next, Nick met with John McBain, creator of the SUN – Sustainable Urban Nutrition project – at Como Bowling Club, South Perth. The aims of SUN are to establish:

  • A network of SUN gardens within walking distance of every house
  • Reducing ‘food and waste miles’ by the intensive local conversion of waste into food
  • Increased availability of affordable and locally grown fresh food
The site of the SUN project at Como Bowling Green, South Perth

The site of the SUN project at Como Bowling Green, South Perth

With the support of the club members, John negotiated access to a disused bowling green at Como Bowling Club, in which to create a small-scale market garden, which is now being managed by other gardeners. His emphasis has shifted to the establishment of a raised bed worm farm in which to grow plants, using as a medium the lawn clippings, which the bowling club generates in abundance.

SUN Worm Farm

SUN Worm Farm

As John puts it, this is:

“A SUN project worm farm – capacity is approx 1.5 m3 of castings roughly every 10-12 weeks plus heaps of leachate.”

The potential for producing food in our cities has only just begun to be explored – and projects like SUN can help pave the way to a flourishing and healthy food future at all levels.

DFS PosterIn the evening Nick spoke for an hour to an enthusiastic audience in West Perth, on the topic, Democratising the Food System. The event was hosted by Pauline Tresise of Slow Food Perth, and the evening was introduced by horticulturalist and Great Gardens presenter Steve Wood. Nick introduced his own involvement in the sustainable and fair food movement in Australia, beginning with his years in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, witnessing the impoverishment, inequality and violence that flows from excessive concentration of land and other resources in too few hands. He shared with members of the audience the powerful story of Berta Caceres, leader of the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras, who was brutally assassinated on 3 March for her courageous leadership in mobilising her community to safeguard their precious water sources from hydroelectric dam proposals. Part of her story is told in this moving 8-minute video:

Mother of All Rivers from Mill Valley Film Group on Vimeo.

Nick then linked the impacts of excessive concentration of the food system to Australia, with a discussion on the impacts of supermarket duopoly power. He spent the rest of his talk sharing stories of inspirational change and leadership of food system change and innovation, from Australia, the US, Canada and the United States. After he finished speaking, questions and discussions in the audience continued for a further hour.

Democratising the Food System, Perth, Prezi

Democratising the Food System, Perth, Prezi

Thanks to John McBain, an edited video of Nick’s presentation will be available in the coming weeks. For those interested, the prezi that accompanied his talk can be viewed here:

Democratising the Food System, Perth, Prezi

Wednesday, 13th April 


Vanessa and Ron Errol's backyard in Como, Perth

Vanessa and Ron Errol’s backyard in Como, Perth

Nick was fortunate to be staying with keen home gardeners and permaculturalists in Como, Vanessa and Ron Errol. Stepping out into such a productive space with a cup of tea was a treat in itself!

In the morning, Nick travelled to the beautiful port city of Fremantle, to deliver a presentation on the role of local government in supporting individuals and organisations to grow more of their own food locally; and to support wider systemic change through the adoption of a local food systems policy and / or strategy. Representatives of the City of Fremantle, and the adjoining Cities of Melville and Cockburn attended, together with some outstanding members of the local community experimenting with diverse and innovative forms of urban agriculture and sustainable living.

City of Fremantle

Food Systems Local Govt Freo PreziNick’s presentation was an adapted version of his presentation three days’ earlier, to the attendees at the Margaret-River Food and Agriculture Summit. He outlined some of the main drivers for change, and noted how local government was playing a leading role in supporting food systems change in Victoria and NSW, as well as in places he visited on his Churchill Fellowship in 2014, such as Milwaukee, Chicago and Toronto. Nick made the case for local government leadership in supporting the transition to sustainable, healthy and fair food systems, especially in the role of advocacy to state governments on issues outside the power of local government, such as planning policy and the promotion of unhealthy foods to children through advertising.

Rooftop Garden City of Fremantle

Rooftop Garden City of Fremantle

Discussion continued for two hours, accompanied by a delicious lunch prepared by a local catering company. On the way out Nick admired the rooftop edible garden being supported by the City of Fremantle, which is an acknowledged leader in the field of sustainability, both in WA and nationally.

Nick’s prezi can be viewed here:

Food Systems and Local Government, City of Fremantle, Prezi

Finally, Nick spent a delightful hour at Ecoburbia, the new home of Fremantle sustainable living pioneers Shani and Tim Graham. For five years (2009-2013), Shani and Tim organised the Hulbert Street Fiesta, which, in its final year, attracted over 7000 visitors. In her TEDx talk, Shani recounts the amazing experience that was the weaving of community bonds through sharing spaces and places at the street level:

In their new project – Ecoburbia, in Beaconsfield – Shani and Tim are experimenting with co-operative, small space living, with multiple dwellings on a single block, integrated with a highly productive urban food backyard, the centrepiece of which are without doubt the goats.

Shani Graham Feeding her goats in 'Ecoburbia', Beaconsfield

Shani Graham Feeding her goats in ‘Ecoburbia’, Beaconsfield

This house and land embodies Shani and Tim’s goal to take seriously David Holmgren’s challenge to ‘Retrofit the Suburbs‘ for resilience and sustainability in the face of climate change and peak oil. It is very much a work in progress, but the passion and commitment of Shani and Tim leaves us in little doubt that big things will flow from this small place in Beaconsfield.

* * * * * *

Finally, Sustain wishes to thank Shirley Collins for organising the Perth and Fremantle elements of this visit to WA. As we’re well aware, events don’t just happen by themselves: they take hours of coordination and logistics. Shirley herself has been a champion of fair and sustainable food and farming in WA for many years, with her support of Steve Marsh and the GE-free Australia network.

NIck Rose with Shirley Collins at Ecoburbia

NIck Rose with Shirley Collins at Ecoburbia

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