A lot can happen in a week. For our friends around the world, there have been some very interesting developments in Australia regarding local food of late.
Funding community food
Just last week the Australian Federal Government scrapped the Community Food Grants program, taking back $1.5m earmarked for investment in community gardens, city farms, farmers markets, and food co-operatives and hubs around Australia. Needless to say, this didn’t go down well.
However more shocking was the response of AusVeg, the leading body representing Australia’s commercial vegetable growers. In a statement on their website AusVeg have welcomed the decision, and dubbed the canned program as “risky”. According to AusVeg’s William Churchill, community gardens pose a biosecurity risk and “many community gardens are run down, and could potentially give the wrong impression of horticulture”. Whatever that means.
The response has caused some outrage across Australia. In the midst of this turbulence, we felt compelled to write this article.
We’re not at all funded by government. Hey, we wouldn’t knock it back, it’s just not something we’ve actively pursued or that’s been made available. Believe me when I say a project like RipeNear.Me is expensive and exceptionally time consuming. So why do we persist? Because we believe in the cause.
It seems the fear of AusVeg, and perhaps the Australian Government, is that community grown food will somehow compete with their supporters' livelihood. If correct, we feel this thinking is shortsighted for two reasons:
- Growing your own food increases the likelihood that you'll support local farmers. You learn to appreciate what it takes to grow food. You learn about seasonality, and you become aware of the need to support local food security.
- Neither AusVeg nor the Government really have a choice. People who make a stand and dig the earth to feed themselves and the community will continue to do so, regardless of funding. What’s more this recent debacle will add fuel to the movement.
Supporting community grown food
RipeNear.Me has always been about putting food back in the hands of the people through creating the marketplace, community and connections that motivate people to have a go. We've seen people get excited about planting fruit trees to eat and sell the surplus, while others get motivated by mixing with a community who’re passionate about growing beautiful, organic, irregular food.
We believe both these motivations are important. And we believe it will make a difference to the world's food security. Most importantly, we know that we don’t need government funding to make the change the world needs. We just need good people to get their hands dirty, and connect, smile and share.
Growing your own food and being part of a community like RipeNear.Me isn’t just a hobby. It’s being part of the change that the world needs. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re a change-maker and we’re the better for it. If this comes as a surprise please allow me to be the first to congratulate and thank you.
Funding or not, big agriculture support or not, it doesn’t really matter. Sure it's great when we have it, but it's not necessary to grow a sustainable food system.