Inaugural Community Food Hubs Conference and Speaking Tour – Keynotes and Vox Pops

Community Food Hubs Conference and National Tour 

Keynotes and Vox Pops


“Well done, it was the best conference I have ever been to. Amazing presentations, panels and workshops.”

Attendee, Bendigo Community Food Hubs Conference, 2016


Between August 8-18, Sustain facilitated Australia’s first national community food hubs conference and speaking tour. The tour encompassed 13 separate events in every state and territory bar SA and the NT. These events were the result of a wonderful collective national effort that involved no fewer than five universities, five local councils, four TAFEs, agencies of the state governments of NSW and WA, and numerous not-for-profits and community organisations.

Sustain’s intention in devoting substantial time and resources to the organisation and coordination of this national tour was two-fold;

  • First, we wanted to create spaces for dialogue and discussion amongst a wide diversity of food system stakeholders, especially those who don’t normally participate in local and fair food events.
  • Secondly, we wanted to raise the profile of the local and community food sector in Australia in general, and of community food hubs in particular. We wanted to stimulate conversations, facilitate encounters and generate momentum for new projects and collaborations, to the lasting benefit of the growing local and fair food movement in this country.

 The Conference itself was an outstanding success, with the event;

  • providing a thoroughly-researched overview of this rapidly emerging sector, foregrounding the benefits, opportunities and challenges of establishing and operating Community Food Hubs in Australia
  • clarifying the many different forms that Community Food Hubs take, and the diverse variety of social and economic purposes that they serve, including enhanced health and wellbeing, increased net regional product, expanded employment and training opportunities, food enterprise development, and environmental sustainability
  • showcasing approaches in establishing Community Food Hubs in Australia and internationally; with an emphasis on lessons learned from both successes and failures
  • exploring the historical and present experience with Food Cooperatives in Australia, and opportunities for linkages and mutual support between Food Coops and Food Hubs
  • identifying the types of partnerships, skills, experience and capacity, infrastructure, governance options, funding requirements and financing options that are needed to commence a Community Food Hub operation

In case you couldn’t make it to Bendigo, here is a look at some of the keynote presentations and panel sessions from both days of the conference, with interviews conducted by Sustain Director Dr Nicholas Rose.

Keynote Presentations

Anthony Flaccavento, President, SCALE (Sequestering Carbon, Accelerating Local Economies) 

 Anthony is an organic farmer near Abingdon, Virginia, in the heart of Central Appalachia. He has been working on community environmental and economic development in the region for the past 27 years. In 1995, he founded Appalachian Sustainable Development, which became a regional and national leader in sustainable economic development. Anthony left ASD in December, 2009 to found SCALE, Inc, a private consulting business dedicated to catalyzing and supporting ecologically healthy regional economies and food systems. SCALE works with community leaders, farmers, foundations, economic development agencies and others in Appalachia, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico the Arkansas Delta and other communities. Anthony speaks and writes about sustainable development, economics, food systems and rural development issues extensively, with some of his pieces appearing in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Solutions Journal and elsewhere. His new book, Building A Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up: Harnessing Real-World Experience for Transformative Change will be published in June 2016.

Kathryn Scharf, Chief Operating Officer, Community Food Centres Canada 

 Kathryn worked for six years as Program Director at the Stop Community Food Centre where she helped to develop the Community Food Centre program model and the strategy to take the model to a national scale. She has worked for 17 years in the community food security sector in Toronto on everything from grassroots work in community food programs and alternative food distribution systems to program development, communications and initiatives aimed at changing systems through food policy and action. She is the co-author, with Nick Saul and Charles Levkoe, of the Metcalf Solutions Paper, In Every Community a Place for Food: The Role of the Community Food Centre in building a Local, Sustainable and Just Food System.

Serenity Hill

Serenity is co-founder of the Open Food Network. She is from a farming family in Warrenbayne in NE Victoria (beef and wool) and was brought up with a strong sense of social and economic justice. She believes in the need for systems that care for the land and people that depend on it. Serenity first worked in government and then academia seeking ways to make a difference. She has extensive experience in policy development in the Victorian State Government, particularly natural resource management and climate change adaptation. Her PhD research studies explored what motivates farmers, and the significant increasing challenges most face in context of climate, input costs and the market dynamics stacked against them.

This early experience solidified a belief in regenerative agriculture, which builds soil, is resilient to shocks, and supports hap py farmers staying on the land. Serenity believes regenerative agriculture can only become the norm if supported by fair markets and supply networks, in which the basic economics support farmers to manage the land within its capacity. The Open Food Network was always about the long game, supporting a movement of people seeking alternative distribution models that can scale beyond a niche.

Bruce Pacoe, Bunurong elder and writer. 

Bruce Pascoe is an award-winning Australian writer, editor and anthologist. His books include Shark<>, Ruby-eyed Coucal, Ocean, Earth<> and Nightjar<>. Bruce has also written a number of non-fiction works, the latest  includes Dark Emu 2014, Convincing Ground<>, a Wathaurong language dictionary <> and The Little Red, Yellow, Black Book<>.  His novel, Bloke, was published in 2009<>. The children’s novel, The Chainsaw File<>, was published by Oxford in 2011. Fog, a dox was published in 2012 by Magabala and won the Prime Minister’s award for Young Adult Literature in 2013. Dark Emu was published by Magabala in Feb 2014 and won the NSW Premier’s Book of the Year in 2016. It describes the extensive agricultural practices of Aboriginal people which calls into doubt the description of the land as ‘empty’ and the Aborigines as ‘hunter gatherers. Seahorse (YA) was published in 2015 by Magabala and Mrs Whitlam (YA) in 2016. He attended the ANZ literary festival in London and the Dublin Literary Festival in 2014 and travelled to Ireland, Edinburgh, Mongolia, India,  Washington and New York to talk about Dark Emu at Writers’ Festivals, Universities and Indigenous communities in 2015 .


Christy Spier

Chrisy’s role is Urban Engagement Officer Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges – part of the State Government Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. Christy is a liaison point with the local government regarding Environmental and Food Protection Areas that have been created in SA as part of the new food bowl legislation that reforms South Australia’s planning system and that will protect the environment and food bowls.

Lynda Hoare, Baw Baw Food Hub

Les Cameron, Goulburn Valley Food Cooperative 

Annemaree Docking , City of Whittlesea

John Butler, The Real Food Box

Gary McQuillan, CEO, Cardinia Shire Council 


Sally Ruljancich, Colin and Sally’s Organic Lamb and Beef 

Linda Cornelissen, Heathcote Community House 

Nerida Hyett, La Trobe University

Merri Harris, Serpentine Jarrahdale Food & Farm Alliance Inc.

Panel Presentations

Emma-Kate Rose (Food Connect), Chris Ennis (CERES Fair Food)Jodi Clarke (South East Food Hub), Leanne Malek (Foodbank South Australia)







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