The next step in the Eurobodalla’s local food economy. Have your say here!

The popular SAGE Farmers Market each Tuesday from 3 in Riverside Park, Moruya. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
The popular SAGE Farmers Market each Tuesday from 3 in Riverside Park, Moruya. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

The Eurobodalla food economy is pushing forward – like a pumpkin vine that sprouts from a compost heap.

“Growers are outgrowing the farmers market,” says local food advocate Kate Raymond.

“They need more avenues through which to sell at a high enough margin to keep doing what they’re doing.”

In recent years, the river town of Moruya has seen increasing numbers of market gardeners, spurred along by the community of people around the SAGE Farmers Market.

Shoppers gather like sprinters in the 100-metre race at the Olympics each Tuesday afternoon at 3 in Riverside Park waiting for the bell to ring – a signal that sales can start.

“Small-scale farmers are establishing businesses and creating a flourishing local food system,” Kate says.

“It’s a movement whose time has come.”

The river flats and volcanic soils of Moruya have a proud agricultural heritage that in their day supported large numbers of vegetable, dairy, and beef growers. For whatever reason, those practices all but died out but there is a growing sense ‘that day’ has come again.

Since 2009, when the community organisation Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE) started working towards its mission of ‘growing the growers’, locally grown food has become easier to access.

The award winning farmers market that has been the backbone of the SAGE initiative has created an appetite and an industry that requires more.

The bell that signals a start to trading each Tuesday in Riverside Park. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
The bell that signals a start to trading each Tuesday in Riverside Park. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

“A farmers market once a week can’t service everyone who wants to eat locally grown food and local farmers need to reach more customers,” Kate says.

An increasingly common sales avenue for farmers around the world is to sell their products through what is known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

A CSA is a farm share program, where the consumer and the farmer enter into an agreement of goodwill to exchange money for food. Consumers pledge to purchase the anticipated harvest well in advance.

“A farmer can plan their crops with greater confidence knowing that they will sell what they grow and sell it at a fair price,” Kate says.

“By supporting the farmer in this way, the customer receives a box of fresh seasonal produce every week, delivered to their door.”

The idea springs from frustration with the dominant and most familiar food distribution system – the supermarket, which mostly excludes local and small-scale growers from their supply chains, leaving local farmers no option but to sell directly to customers.

Moruya watermelons were a big hit over summer at the SAGE Farmers Market. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
Moruya watermelons were a big hit over summer at the SAGE Farmers Market. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

Woven into the arrangement is a sense of shared risk between the farmer and the consumer, which takes the CSA model beyond the usual commercial transaction we are used to.

If the season is difficult or hit by extreme events, pickings can be slim which impacts the quality and amount of produce a customer receives in their weekly box.

Local Harvest in the USA lists over 24,000 family farms on their website who are part of a CSA arrangement.

Local Harvest believes the element of shared risk creates a feeling of ‘we’re in this together’.

Their website says, “Some CSA members may be asked to sign a policy form indicating that they agree to accept without complaint whatever the farm can produce.”

However, they say the idea of shared risk creates a sense of community between customers and farmers.

“If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the winter squash and broccoli,” the Local Harvest website says.

“Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their customers and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first.”

There is a yin and yang to that shared risk though. When the season is powering and a bounty or surplus of produce is created those involved with a CSA benefit.

In that situation, recipes are swapped to add some variety to the way abundant veg can be used in the home kitchen, that produce can also be preserved and used out of season.

Where a supermarket supply chain might struggle to cope with a surplus, the CSA model summons peoples creatively, extending the harvest and reduceing food waste.

As part of a Eurobodalla based group keen to establish the CSA model here, Kate Raymond says, “Consumers increasingly demand to know more about where their food comes from and how it was grown,”

Local growers selling direct to consumers. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
Local growers selling direct to consumers. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

“Joining a CSA can answer their questions. A CSA connects the consumer to the grower in a very direct and transparent way,” she says.

To test the idea locally, a number of vegetable growers in the Eurobodalla are currently undertaking market research into the viability of establishing a multi-farm CSA program.

“This is significant, as it’s a symptom of a local food economy that is outgrowing the perception that local food is a niche enterprise and is in fact becoming a bona fide industry,” Kate says.

The next phase in the Eurobodalla’s agricultural heritage is well underway.

Click HERE to take the local survey and add your thoughts to the market testing that’s underway.

Moruya festival harvests a new cultural relationship

Proud Wanbunja man Bindarray Jiibiny, by Toby Whitelaw
Proud Walbunja man Bindarray Jiibiny. By Toby Whitelaw

As is often the case, food became more than just a belly filler at the weekend’s Southeast Harvest Festival in Moruya.

A locally made blue cheese and leek tart at the opening event on Friday night was memorable, but more so were the new understandings and relationships that emerged between two cultures conflicted by a past of racism and brutality.

Held over a day and a bit, the Festival was a collaboration between a white fella and a black fella organisation that extended way beyond the traditional Welcome to Country, and by doing so they perhaps have shown the way for others when it comes to greater engagement and reconciliation.

This partnership between Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE) and the Cobowra Local Aboriginal Land Council has been described as one of ‘walking together’ in the lead up to this celebration of local food and growers.

“A lot of organisations in this area think that our culture has died, but it is still alive,” Lee-anne Parsons, the CEO of the Cobowra Local Aboriginal Land Council said.

“We are trying to be out there and share our culture, and I am just so proud that SAGE has come over and approached Cobowra,” she said.

John Newton, author of ‘The Oldest Foods on Earth’ was perhaps one of the first ‘white fellas’ to feel it.

John Newton, author of The Oldest Foods on Earth. By Toby Whitelaw
John Newton, author of The Oldest Foods on Earth. By Toby Whitelaw

“I’ve spoken in a few places around Australia in the last six months about this book I’ve written, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across a community of Indigenous and European Australians that are so…working together,” John told the Festival.

“I think the mistake that white fellas have made for over 200 years is telling Indigenous people what to do rather than asking them what they want,” he said.

The main day – Saturday, started with Walbunja man, Bindarray Jiibiny conducting a smoking ceremony in front of the pavilion at the Moruya Showground.

Bindarray invited people to walk through the smoke in order to dispel negative thoughts.

Cultural performances with the town’s children followed, Bindarrey explaining the paint and decoration that covered his body, and the moves of each dance represented the landscape and the animals of his country and the values of peace, unity, and harmony.

Moving undercover, out of the bright sunshine and sitting side by side, was an exhibition of Aboriginal and European farming tools curated by the Cobowra Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Moruya and District Historical Society.

Award winning, Mallacoota based, Indigenous writer Bruce Pascoe, telling the crowd that history is fascinating no matter who’s it is.

Bruce Pascoe. By Toby Whitelaw
Bruce Pascoe. By Toby Whitelaw

As the author of the acclaimed ‘Dark Emu’, Bruce detailed the evidence of Aboriginal agriculture and society prior to the arrival of Arthur Phillip and his cargo of convicts in 1788.

“We invented civilization, we invented art, we invented bread, we invented the first ground-edge stone axe,” he said.

He urged his captivated audience of ‘foodies and bloody hippies’ to share their experience at the Festival.

“Otherwise we stay the same,” Bruce says.

“It’s no good if you don’t take people with you, you can’t have knowledge if you don’t share it,” he said.

His words were then reflected in the act of ‘breaking bread’ with the crowd of around 200 people that packed into the stuffy pavilion.

The single loaf of bread was made of flour milled from hand ground grains of native Kangaroo Grass, following an Aboriginal recipe that dates back 36,000 years.

Kangaroo Grass bread. By Toby Whitelaw
Kangaroo Grass bread. By Toby Whitelaw

“Which is 17,000 years before anyone else on Earth thought to ground grain into flour,” Bruce said.

According to Bruce, the sense of ease and interest that unfolded around the market stalls of local apples, mullet and pumpkin soup at the Southeast Harvest Festival, wouldn’t have happened ten years ago.

“Thanks to organisations like this…the Australian mind is changing,” Bruce proclaimed.

Jasmine Williams is the Aboriginal Arts Officer with South East Arts and is often called on to liaise between Aboriginal artists and event organisers.

“Like many white fellas, Aboriginal people are also really keen to share knowledge and break down barriers with non-Aboriginal people,” Jazz told About Regional.

Bruce Pascoe suggests making a pot of tea as one way of starting a relationship, Jazz also believes building a personal connection is key.

“Don’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing, or overstepping your mark – be genuine and honest,” Jazz said.

“Understand that Aboriginal people have been tokenised and taken advantage of  in the past.”

Her advice is to involve Aboriginal people and artists early in the organisation of an event.

“The worst thing you can do is leave it until time is running out and the budget is spent.

“This happens a lot in the South East, and Aboriginal performers are often left feeling like a last minute thought, undervalued and exploited,” Jazz said.

It’s a point echoed by Land Council CEO, Lee-anne Parsons.

Lee-anne Parsons, CEO of Cobowra Local Aboriginal Land Council. By Toby Whitelaw
Lee-anne Parsons, CEO of Cobowra Local Aboriginal Land Council. By Toby Whitelaw

“Our elders use to say that it (culture) was a secret, and you can’t tell’em (white people) all that because then it will become an industry…and you don’t see too many rich Aboriginal people on the South Coast do you?” Lee-ann chuckled.

In the final session of the Festival, Bruce Pascoe said, “What I have learnt here is that it is possible for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to work together.”

“I constantly go to festivals like this where there are no Aboriginal people, and I ask about it and the organisers say – oh we invited them but they didn’t come,” he said.

“People will not come to an invitation unless they know who you are, and you have to forgive Aboriginal people for not being sure of their welcome.”

In a fateful twist, Lee-ann believes the necessities of our shared future will force better relationships between the different cultures.

“We are all in hard times now,” Lee-ann said.

“All the environmental problems that are happening around the planet, we all need to be a part of caring for our country.”

 

Helpful resources from Jasmine Williams: Bega Valley Shire Council, Aboriginal Protocols and Guidelines and  Oxfam Australia Cultural Protocols

Thank you to Toby Whitelaw of Toby Whitelaw Design for access to his audio recordings and photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social justice the X-factor in Merimbula’s Joseph

Roll up, roll up for Joseph and his dreamcoat
Roll up, roll up for Joseph and his Dreamcoat

There is a certain civic duty sometimes that pushes you to attend a local event. Things only happen when people step up to make them happen, and in a regional community you want to see those people and their events succeed – people turning out is key.

What a buzz, what a bonus when that local event blows your mind!

‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ on stage now at Twyford Hall Merimbula will do just that.

As happens in small communities you will recognise many of the faces taking on this Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice classic – which only serves to heighten the emotion around this production’s success.

I took my seat in row 11 blind to the story.

Joseph is the favourite of Jacob’s 12 sons, jealous brothers conspire but Joseph lands on his feet as the Pharoah’s 2IC because of his ability to see the future through his and other people’s dreams.

David Willis out front of his red hot 10 piece orchestra
David Willis out front of his red hot 10 piece orchestra

It’s a big cast with close to 50 people either on stage or part of the polished, big sounding orchestra lead by David Willis.

Music is a constant, with no spoken word – all song, including an Elvis-inspired tune from the Pharoah.

Sitting at my desk now some hours after the curtain was pulled across the stage and the tunes are still going around in my head – ‘Go Go Go Joseph.’

The local vision for this show started three years ago on the back of a successful production of ‘The Sound of Music’ where director Shaun Wykes and actor/singer Hayley Fragnito first met.

“I just love the music,” Hayley says.

“And I am a bit of a softy for family, happy feel good stories.”

Joseph was the first of the many Lloyd Webber and Rice musicals to be performed publicly, with the premiere in 1970.

It has since traveled the world as a major musical but it is estimated that over 20,000 schools and amateur theatre groups have staged their own show.

Hayley Fragnito as Maria in The Sound of Music.
Hayley Fragnito as Maria in The Sound of Music.

Dreamcoat Production’s version at Twyford Hall has all the polish and professionalism of this year’s big touring production through the UK, North America, and New Zealand but it has an X-factor born of its regional roots.

“This is a not-for-profit show and the money raised is going to be donated back to our local community,” Hayley says.

Proceeds from the two-week season will go to the Sapphire Coast Advocates for the Social Justice.

“We have been hearing stories from John Liston who plays Jacob in the show and who is heavily involved with the Advocates,” Hayley explains.

“He’s coming along and saying, ‘Today I helped this homeless couple, the lady was eight months pregnant‘ and this is where the money from the show is going.

“The moment the cast realised that, it’s amazing how much more they are willing to give.” she says.

Hayley is a school teacher at Wolumla who took time off term four to help make Joseph happen, she is a constant on stage as the narrator, her presence and voice shines brightly next to the colours of the show’s famous coat.

Jesse Zammit as Joseph during dress rehersals
Jesse Zammit as Joseph during dress rehearsals

Moruya’s Jesse Zammit is the one wearing the coat, his commitment to the role is perhaps another of this production’s magic ingredients.

Attending rehearsals meant a four hour round trip twice a week for Jesse in the 10 weeks leading up to opening night.

“There’s a big cocktail of motivations,” Jesse says.

“There is such a community spirit and a love for art and creativity, and to be involved with these people just reinvigorates your desire.

“I think that’s missing a bit in the world, I think commerce is trying to strangle art and so just to see a community say, ‘It’s not about the money, it’s just about doing it because we love it’ is so refreshing,” Jesse says.

Jesse and Hayley are friends from ‘way back’ and Hayley was determined that Jesse would be Joseph. Jesse and his busy artistic life were reluctant at first until Jesse had a dream – spooky considering the role dreams play in the life of his character on stage.

“I’ve always believed in dreams, I am a bit of a nutter in that way, I think dreams do have a message,” Jesse explains.

Waiting in anticipation at Twyford Hall
Waiting in anticipation at Twyford Hall

So after initially saying ‘a polite no’ to Hayley and avoiding repeated attempts to bring him on board, Jesse was convinced to take on the role after a dream in which he saw Hayley’s disappear at not being able to find another Joseph.

With time on his visa in the UK winding down, the show’s director Shaun Wykes returned home to do the show, again at Hayley’s instance.

Shaun says he has been enamoured with Joseph since he was three years old when his sisters returned home from a production in Sydney and performed their own version for family.

“It has been an honour to bring this show to the town I grew up in and see it flourish on stage with this incredible cast and crew,” Shaun says.

While reflecting on the power of being involved in community theatre Shaun says a strong connection to people and place develops.

“You appreciate people’s time and how much effort they put in and you see good in the world,” he says.

Tweleve year old Luca Yi as Benjamin
Twelve-year-old Luca Yi as Benjamin

A strong feature of the show is the cast of young performers and singers from local high schools and primary schools. These teenagers and children do us proud, their involvement ensures that relationships like the one between Hayley, Jesse and Shaun continue to be formed.

A special shout out to 12-year-old Luca Yi from Bega who plays Benjamin, the youngest of Joseph’s band of brothers. Luca takes on the song ‘Those Canaan Days’ leading his more grown-up cast, with the audience cheering loudly .

“The people coming up to you after the show and the joy on their faces, when you can give that sort of a gift to people – it’s awesome.” Hayley beams.

Dreamcoat Production presents ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat‘ at Twyford Hall Merimbula until December 4. Click HERE for ticket details.

*Author and family attended at their own expense.

The power of a simple homemade meal By Leah Milston

Leah Milston @ Mystery Bay By David Wallace
Leah Milston @ Mystery Bay By David Wallace

Years ago when my children were small and I was very depressed, a friend arrived on my doorstep with a homemade meal.

I had gone from an energetic high to a motionless low.

I always managed to look after my children but everything took so much effort and time.

My friend was concerned about me, she had a sense I wasn’t well in the way friends know. She had no idea of or experience with what I was going through but thought a home cooked meal would be useful.

She was so right.

The fact she offered no advice and was honest about not knowing what I was going through, was such a relief from the well-meaning but ill-informed advice that I had been receiving from other people.

She made me feel so cared for – and what a relief to know that I could feed my family that night without worrying about what I was going to cook.

It’s a gesture that touched me and one I have tried to pass on; seeing someone in need and trying to think of something practical to do for them.

It can be just sitting with a person, folding laundry, bringing in firewood, taking children to school, feeding a pet, or going to the shops.

We don’t need to understand fully what someone is going through in order to help them.

When someone is ill it can be hard to know what sort of assistance is needed and even hard for the person who is unwell to know. So if you want to help – start with the simple stuff.

For me, when I was sick I felt I was so isolated, so alone, like no one understood.

When I received that home cooked meal all of a sudden I was not forgotten or alone, I was given strength to get through another day, a day closer to wellness.

During Mental Health Month there is much emphasis on what the individual can do to maintain their own mental health.

The importance of diet, plenty of exercise, being connected to the community, positive ways of thinking, coping with a stressful life by using meditation, mindfulness, cognitive behaviour therapy – all are seen as important parts to promoting mental health.

I am adding something new, an idea from author and philosopher Shannon L Alder:

“When the “I” is replaced by “We” illness becomes wellness.”

We all have the potential to make such a difference in someone’s life, and all it can take is a small gesture like a delivered homemade meal…or writing an article and sharing your experience.

Don’t be afraid to be the ‘we’ Shannon Alder talks about.

 

About Leah…

Leah Milston was diagnosed as being Bipolar over 40 years ago.

She says she spent the first 16 years living in denial, the next 16 she describes as ‘reluctant’ but for the last 9 years Leah has embraced the way she is wired.

So much so Leah is now a voluntary speaker for Beyondblue and was previously a voluntary rural ambassador for Black Dog Institute (2007-2010) and regularly writes articles and speaks on radio about mental health issues.

She is also a representative on the Eurobodalla Health Services Community Representative Committee.

Since 2005  Leah has been the owner, manager and personality behind Milston’s Past and Present in Mogo. The shop has enough order and enough chaos and quirkiness (just like it’s owner) to make it a  wonderful place to browse.

About Regional – the podcast, episode two, October 18 2016

About Regional – the podcast, episode two, October 18 2016

About Regional strives to capture the colour, wisdom, and issues of South East NSW, in episode two of the podcast…

Bega Valley election material
Bega Valley election material

* Long time Eurobodalla Council watcher Keith Dance wants to change the way Local Government is elected in NSW.

Having served two terms on Council and contested every election between 2000 and 2010, Keith believes the system encourages too many candidates to stand, which makes it impossible for voters to make an informed choice.

Keith reckons part of the solution comes from Victoria.

John Alcock and Howard Charles
John Alcock and Howard Charles

* The small Monaro town of Nimmitabel, south-east of Cooma is heading into summer with more water security than every before. A new dam has just opened on the outskirts of town.

Howard Charles and John Alcock are two of the fathers of the Lake Wallace Dam, both were keen to jump the fence and show me around.

* The Archibald Prize has just wrapped up for another year at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney.

But these famous faces aren’t being put away, they are hitting the road for a tour of regional NSW and Victoria – including the Bega Valley Regional Gallery.

Gallery Director, Iain Dawson gives us a preview.

And a bush dance to finish with, the Kameruka Bush Orchestra in full flight.

Listening and streaming options:

Click here to listen via AudioBoom

Click here to listen via Stitcher

Coming soon to iTunes!

NSW Local Government Elections – there has gotta be a better way

People casting a vote
People casting a vote

The results of the poll have been declared, the new Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire Councils are getting down to work, however some voters are perhaps still wondering who are these people?

Leading up to Polling Day on September 10, locals had to contend with a field of candidates that would have filled a few of buses.

Fifty-five candidates stood in the Eurobodalla, 26 in the Bega Valley; contesting nine spots on both councils.

Many voters expressed frustration leading up to the poll around the lack of information about each candidate. People had a real sense that they were voting blind and resented a feeling of being forced to vote without the necessary information.

Moruya’s Keith Dance has served two terms on Eurobodalla Shire Council and lays claim to having contested every council election between 2000 and 2010.

He says he has been arguing against the way councilors are elected for many years.

“My argument has always been – we have eight vacancies (plus the Mayor), we should have eight primary votes,” Mr Dance says.

“As a voter, we should be able to elect our council, not elect one member of a group and hope that their preference trail will go where we want it to go to fill the other seven spots.”

An advocate for below the line (number every box) and first past the post voting, Mr Dance is of the view that many candidates simply contested the election to direct preferences to a lead candidate.

“I makes it hard for people to decipher, to work out what the candidate’s credentials are, or even to know whether these people are fair dinkum,” Mr Dance says.

Eurobodalla Shire Council HQ @ Moruya
Eurobodalla Shire Council HQ @ Moruya

Rather than simply placing a ‘one’ above the line next to a candidate’s name, Mr Dance wants voters to be able to vote for each position on council directly.

‘Above the line’ voting plays out at Eurobodalla Shire elections more so than in the Bega Valley, where the makeup of candidates tends not to lend itself to that extra voting option. Having said that though, preference flows did influence the size of the field south of the Shire boundary at Dignams Creek, so the argument put by Mr Dance is relevant for both Shires.

“We should have eight primary votes,” Mr Dance suggests.

“That would shrink the field down because you would only have people who were fair dinkum about being elected.”

He believes there are at least two people elected to Eurobodalla Council on September 10 that had no desire or ambition to sit in the council chamber. Mr Dance claims these candidates found themselves higher up the preference flow order than was originally intended and hence elected on the back of a strong lead candidate.

“Now they have to try and work out whether they can fulfill the commitment of an elected councilor,” Mr Dance says.

“I used to spend three or four days a week (on council business) so the commitment to be a councilor is fairly high.”

Keith Dance from the About Regional podcast:

Coincidently Victoria is heading into Local Government Elections next month and part of the process unfolding south of the border has merit and would increase voter engagement and confidence according to Mr Dance.

This longtime council watcher believes the postal voting method many Victorian councils adopt would be a win for disillusioned voters in NSW.

“Voting information is sent to the elector and they return it as a postal vote,” Mr Dance says.

“You do not have to run the gauntlet of going into the polling booth with umpteen people in front of you shoving paper in your face saying ‘vote for me, vote for me’ it frustrates the hell out of people.”

Mr Dance says the Victorian system includes candidate profiles as part of the voting information sent out to people on the electoral roll, reducing confusion while increasing confidence in the process.

“We had nearly 12% informal voting, a 12% vote is enough to get one candidate elected, it’s wrong, it just doesn’t work,” Mr Dance says.

Bega Valley election material
Bega Valley election material

A spokesperson for Local Government NSW (LGNSW), which represents the interests of the Local Government sector in NSW, says postal voting does not have widespread support.

“Postal voting could disenfranchise a significant proportion of the voting population, particularly young people and those with less permanent addresses,” the spokesperson says.

Mr Dance disagrees and says, “It allows people to have a proper vote.”

“It needs pushing and now is the time to do it, after the election, people have had enough of this,” he says.

A spokesperson for the NSW Electorial Commission says NSW Local Government Elections are administered according to the legislation.

“Responsibility rests with the Premier and the Minister for Local Government, reforms are therefore a matter for the government of the day,” the spokesperson says.

Any organisation or member of the public can make a submission on the conduct of elections to the NSW Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

“I raised this issue at a public meeting in Moruya,” Mr Dance says.

“There would have been 70 people in the room and I damn near got a standing ovation.”

Disclaimer: Author is part time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council