July 13, 2017
Last week I visited the amazing Northern Rivers region and attended the Deep Winter Agrarians farming convergence. It provided food for mind, body and spirit.
The gathering has happened for the past 3 years. It began when a group of small-scale regenerative farmers decided that in the middle of Winter, when the weeds slow down and production is slower, they wanted to get together and discuss their farming experiences, challenges and opportunities. Held first in Daylesford Victoria, then in Gerringong NSW, this year it was in Bangalow, just outside of Byron Bay.
We began with a farm tour of 4 farms in the region, showcasing pastured egg and pork production, tropical fruit orchards, thriving community gardens, turmeric production using compost teas and worm wee and lettuce production on land that floods at least twice a year. It was inspiring to see other farmers using similar production methods to us and a crop of turmeric is definitely on the cards this coming spring/summer. The health benefits are phenomenal – particularly for achy farmer joints.
Following the farm tour, we began with farmer speed-dating. Not quite what it sounds but a great opportunity to quickly meet everyone in the room. We spent the next few days discussing land access, food distribution models, producer/consumer relationships, organic and peer-based certification systems, farmer health and wellbeing, farmer yoga, marketing, small-scale regenerative farmer survey results, pathways for new farmers to get started, CSAs, farmer/chef relationships, market gardens, investment into small-scale regenerative agriculture and the way forward for our somewhat broken mainstream food system. There were over 100 minds discussing these ideas - including farmers, journalists, students, food distributors and interested locals.
It was a rich and rewarding experience. It gave me hope for the future of our food system and our health. It made me feel connected to communities all over Australia who - like our own here in the Blue Mountains, Penrith and the Hawkesbury – are trying to produce and eat good, fair and nourishing food. Everywhere in Australia there is a movement slowly gaining momentum. It is a movement of people who care about the land, the wellbeing of farm animals, their own health and the journey their food makes from paddock to plate. We are lucky to be a part of it.
Yours in veg,