Local Food Odyssey in Melbourne

On a recent trip to Melbourne, Australia, I took a little time out of my much needed vacation to visit a few of the people and organisations who are doing great things for local and organic food in the area.

First stop was to CERES Environment Park, which has been home to an urban sustainability movement since the 1970’s, with a big component being organic food production.

The park is a monument to the various people in the community who have not only believed in the dream, but let sweat trickle down their brows doing the hard work needed to turn a landfill into a thriving hub for sustainability education, action & innovation at the heart of a rapidly sprawling city.

This is one project to keep an eye on; delving a little deeper into CERES’ plan for the coming years, I learnt that they are taking grass-roots Community programs to a new level to add to the amazing array of projects already on site, including; an animal farm, community gardens, café, training kitchen, Education program, community bicycle recycling & workshop, demonstration and research Facility for sustainable water projects, nursery specialising in permaculture/natives and bush foods, and The EcoHouse, showing sustainable living retrofit options.  To add to that CERES was opened in the year I was born.

Delivering local and organic food to MelbourneFrom CERES, I took a wander across to one of the spin off projects – CERES Fair Food to meet Chris, and another Melbourne local foodie – Kirsten of Eaterprises & VEIL.

CERES Fair Food began from the market garden concept within the main park, and was so successful that they decided they should kickstart a vegetable box delivery scheme to reach more people with good organic, local food from the region.  Only 18 months later, they’re doing roaring trade, operating as a social enterprise, and forging a path of ethical food distribution.

It was great to sit and chat with the people we are working hard to support; the people creating local food enterprises, proving that not only can vege box schemes work, but they can thrive and bring nutritious organic food to the masses whilst creating jobs, feeding the local economy, and giving farmers a fair go.  Check out CERES Fair Food’s video:

Designing and nurturing fair sustainable food systems in VictoriaKirsten from Eaterprises – an organisation promoting regenerative food systems – was also a delight to chat with. Her plans for designing & nurturing food systems which take an ecosystem approach; using resources more wisely, and collaborating instead of competing, was a breath of fresh air.  The potential in a city the size of Melbourne is huge, and we have faith that her extensive connections in the area will lead to a better, fairer food system emerging.  Keep up to date with their progress at @eaterprises!

A final visit of the Australian Odyssey was to a slightly different group – those that tackle hunger & poverty head on.  The friendly Marcus from FareShare was good enough to afford me some time to give me a tour and then sit down for a coffee for a yarn about FareShare’s model of food rescue, cooking & distribution.

FareShare Volunteer bakes food to tackle poverty & hungerFareShare runs entirely as a charity, and does an amazing job of attracting donations of fresh & preserved food, which lands at their base in Abbotsford, before getting whipped up into new tasty nutritious treats by an army of volunteers and a couple of paid staff in their commercial quality kitchen.  It was an eye opener to tour the facility and see what is involved in a decent size food rescue organisation, which at the time was a’buzz with Bunnings Warehouse volunteers creating savoury pies, big trays of chilli and quiches.  Marcus told me that FareShare have several trucks on the road constantly picking up and dropping off – around 345 tonnes of food had been rescued this year alone.

The food is redistributed out to a variety of food banks which in turn will get the food to the charities who work hard to get it to the people who need it the most – in all 335 charities have benefited from FareShare’s work this year, and well over 821’000 meals have been served to people who aren’t able to feed themselves or their families.

We are so thankful that people like FareShare exist.  Much of this food might go to waste, so we’re really appreciative of all the food rescue organisation who’ve popped up around the world.  Our local crew here in Wellington, Kaibosh, are also doing a fantastic job.

Social Enterprise & Innovation co-working space in MelbourneA little time spent in Hub Melbourne also gave me a chance to catch up with the ever interesting David Hood of Doing Something Good, and Will Donovan of Ideas for Melbourne fame (among other things).  It’s always good to drop into the Hub to see who is around, and Will pointed me in the direction of one or two other people doing good stuff in local food, after his involvement in the OpenIDEO Local Food initiative earlier in the year.

My visit was complete, and I left Melbourne with a warm glow, knowing that there are some awesome people working on some great projects.  Hopefully I’ll be bringing back some of that innovation, excitement and depth of experience & energy to New Zealand, and then spreading it out around the world as Bucky Box begins to reach new people and places.Melbourne, VIC, Australia by night