Making Local Food Work

Meredith’s speaking at Making Local Food Work

Here is the text of Meredith’s opening address:

Thanks for coming. We hope that you’re all looking forward to today with as much enthusiasm and anticipation as we are. ‘Local’ means different things to different people. For today’s event, it means Southern Gippsland – from the sea to the Strzeleckis and beyond, from Westernport to beyond the Prom. Here are some of the places people have come from today – I like saying the names:
Mt Best
West Creek
Stony Creek
Glen Alvie
Mirboo North
Allambee South
Fish Creek
French Island.
This is an area that has an enormous amount going for it; and it’s easily considered a resource for other parts of Australia, even the world. No problem with that of course.
But those of us who live here also need a lot of different things from LOCAL food. We’re concerned about:

  • Health of friends and family
  • Making a living
  • Living at minimal cost to the environment
  • Being a part of a community that is resilient, one that is about cooperation rather than competition.

Grow Lightly has been working on these things for a decade or more, from a very very small start. We have grown a lot but still find there are many things we want to do that we can’t do as things stand. Meanwhile we have become aware of many other plans and projects, all working towards similar goals. The trouble is, we don’t all know about each other.
In southern Gippsland there are:

  • Food swaps
  • Farmers and community markets
  • Community gardens
  • Gifts of vegetables and fruit to friends and neighbours
  • Share tables at meetings of community groups, clubs and associations
  • Opportunities to pass on surplus to people who need it – one we know about is the Milpara Emergency Food Bank
  • Cafes, shops, pubs that want to highlight local produce
  • Very many farm-based small businesses working on value-adding
  • Other small businesses marketing what they produce locally
  • Increasing numbers of small market gardens
  • And increasing numbers of people wanting to find out about organic agricultural and horticultural practices; or about how to do more for themselves, become more self reliant.
  • There’s the work done by Landcare
  • Clubs, associations, interest groups and workshops on all SORTS of topics – honey, olives, flowers, soap or compost or wicking-bed making …
  • Festivals and celebrations

At the same time, there are gaps – small communities that have trouble getting access to good fresh fruit and vegetables; enterprises that can’t readily distribute what they produce to a local clientele; others that need easier access to foods grown or prepared locally; people who want to start a garden or a food-based small business, but don’t know where to start.
Put simply, that’s what today is about.
Grow Lightly has been planning a gathering of people such as this for simply ages. We ALL need to find out more about what’s happening in this area, and think creatively about new ways of working together.
Today you’ll hear directly from twelve different local projects, but that is the tip of the iceberg. There could have been twice or three times that number. We are inviting you to do as we will: to start with what you hear and see, as well as with your own priorities and commitments, but during the day to use your imagination, develop your own bigger picture and use this opportunity to pass on your ideas – about what you would like to see happen, as well as what you might be able to help with – and help us all work out where we might go from here.
Thanks again for coming – and thanks in anticipation for helping to make local food work in southern Gippsland.


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