Grow it Local

| August 28, 2013

There is a noticeable shift towards sustainable food production as part of a local real food movement. Jess Miller from Grow it Local talks about her campaign that encourages people to connect with their local community and become urban farmers.

I grew up on a herb farm on the Mornington Peninsula, so I have been tickling worms for nearly 30 years. My Dad grew plants ‘the old fashioned way’, which means they were sown by hand, propagated by hand and potted-up by hand; and between him and Jimbo, our year-round-tan truck driver, our plants were delivered to nurseries all across Victoria.

Most weekends and every Wednesday you would find my Dad at a street or craft market, generally waxing lyrical for an audience of women ten-deep about how to grow coriander, alongside the Delgrossos, who grew apples and cherries, ‘Spud’, the baked potato guy, and a range of other folks who also did things in a slightly old fashion way.

Toward the end of the nineties, Bunnings came onto the nursery scene in a big way. The wholesale nurseries who could afford to scale (which usually meant machines, pesticides and hydroponics) did – the rest went out of business. Including my Dad.

I think this is as close as I can come to understanding what some farmers must feel like. There seemed, especially throughout this period of time, two choices: You either take the shortcuts and go big and survive by supplying Coles and Woolies, or you keep plodding along, break your back and perhaps go out of business eventually; that is, if the sheer sadness of it all didn’t get you first. I think a lot of really proud and wonderful people were hurt by this, and we as a community suffered greatly for it.

But there is a resurgence in local growing. Not only among people who are doing it in the backyards, communities, balconies and even windowsills, but I think at a grander scale.

Partly, I think this is due to a healthy scepticism of the big guys, a degree of economic prosperity and I hope a reinvigorated pride and appreciation for top quality produce. Farmers and organic markets have a lot to do with this.

Local food also tastes a shit load better.

We proved this when we applied our ide of ‘Crowd Farming’ at the TEDxSydney event at the Opera House. We encouraged those that were attending on the day to contribute something that they had grown to be eaten for lunch. We also made heroes of the dairy farmers, bakers, baristas, brewers, butter churners and livestock farmers that take the time to do things the ‘old fashioned way’ – with pride, love and conviction.

The response was incredibly overwhelming – by attendees, the media and partners. I think we managed to tap into something that is simmering away – a genuine need and desire to grow, be connected to each other and eat food that nourishes us.

To coin the wonderful Jill Dupleix – “There is no doubt that this is a movement”.

It was a beautiful event. One that we were all immensely proud of, and one that I took great pleasure in giving my old man a big hat-tip for.