Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

I received this message on the BLF facebook page from Margot: 

I am a student from Northwestern University in Illinois, USA. This summer, I'm conducting a 6-country research project on local food systems and food security. I'll be visiting Brisbane from August 1st to 12th, where I hope to interview organizers of various forms of local food systems. Is there somebody at Brisbane Local Food who would be willing to assist with my research, either by email or phone prior to my visit, or when I am in Brisbane?

I told Margot that I would be happy to help her.  I suggested that I talk to you wonderful folks and try to arrange some quiet garden visits for her so she can see the range of different approaches we all take (I reckon that is one of our strong points, as a group).  She has now joined us here on here on the ning site.  If you are interested within the 1 - 12 August timeframe, please reply in this post.  I will try to arrange some kind of schedule, should we get sufficient interest. 

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For those of us in Brownies, Cubs, Guides or Scouts the notion of 'Be Prepared' is burned into our brains.

And for we seniors whose parents weathered the Great Depression, making do and mending is second nature. It is called recycling/upcycling and so on, these days but it gets back to using what is to hand to meet your needs. My parents while not 'hoarders' in today's sense, never threw anything out that was likely to be useful. There's a balance to be struck though lest we become knee-deep in krud.

If she was interested Andrew I could even introduce her   to the bogi President and she could attend one of the meetings as a guest if times suit her and she thinks it would be useful.

Thanks Darren - I'll let her know. 

All sounds very interesting. Happy to participate in anyway. I do think our group could be of interest. Margot may wish to look at websites such as Anne Gibson'sThe Micro Gardener and the fun YouTube videos that Morag Gamble from our Permaculture life puts out. There are others of course. I just think they are a great support to those of us are trying to grow our own food and they may be willing to meet with her. There is definitely interest brewing in the younger generation- like my kids in their early 20s and their friends. They may not yet be out with a shovel growing their own, but they are definitely interested in the lifestyle and in eating foods that are not available in supermarkets. They are more suspicious of traditional food networks and concerned about the environment . I'm quite convinced that they will end up working towards changes in food supply in the future. Even my lawyer 26-year-old nephew was saying how his peers consider beekeeping and growing food to be cool. Lots more bumping around in my head but need to pick up hubby from station!
I am very interested in the work of Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia, - the way he rotates stock across his land and has done amazing work to increase its fertility and productivity. Just last night I watched a video made in March in Victoria when he was on his 8th visit to Australia and he mentioned the importance of a Legal Defence Fund to support people involved in alternative food movements so that they can make a case when challenged by the big corporations and government organisations. That was set in motion some time last month while he was here. All this to say that, maybe things are changing and opportunities are increasing for grass roots producers, urban farmers etc to supply restaurants, markets and the like..??? Do any of our members produce to sell? At one stage I was looking at sourcing humanely grown and slaughtered beef and pork from someone whose details I found on the BLF site and now misplaced. Does anyone else buy direct from the farmer?

Buying direct would favour those with large families or a whole street or a small co-op. With just the two of us, we don't have the freezer space for a quarter of beef e.g.

I get my organic meat from a home-delivery service who source there stock from the organic butcher at Coorparoo. Most of it is very tasty but the Bacon is a disaster. They pack it in 500g and freeze so it has to be thawed to take out 2 slices then re-frozen. There's an opportunity there for someone more user-friendly to pack their products to the customer's needs.

Here is my interpretation of this little topic.  

You can "profit" from home farming in either two ways:  

1. sell to make money (increase incomings) or

2. provide as much of your own food as possible (decrease outgoings).

I don't supply to restaurants or markets.  To be able to supply regularly, that would mean I would have to specialise down to a limited range of products on my tiny patch which I am not prepared to do.  I only grow things that I want to eat.  I'm happy to preserve spare stuff or give it away.  I suspect that is a key difference between BLF and most food networks, especially the CSA approach in the States.  In other words, I focus on decreasing food expenses (and healthy eating and gaining a real sense of community). 

What I do want to change is to focus on high cost foods to maximise my decrease in costs.  Why grow carrots, if I can buy a pack for $1.29? (except mine would be organic).  My fish would be $30 a kg, as is my ginger, turmeric and quail.  Now of course, this is all still work in progress but I wanted to share my thought processes.

Greens are cheap, but I use a lot of them,  so I grow them as well - mine are organic so the focus there is mostly on organic/health reasons.  I also want to raise the issue of taste.  I hated tomatoes until I grew my own.  They taste completely different. Same with most of my greens, and fruit.  My homegrown food is just plain better eating.  

These are the kind of things I want to share with Margot.  Also, like Cathie said, home farming has become cool right now (probably for some good reasons).  I dunno what the rich folks eat, but I do a lot of home gourmet at my place. 

I agree with Elaine that this is a very wide ranging topic that will be difficult for we humble home growers to address. There are though some issues which while not unique to South East Queensland she could possibly address.

I have for a long time thought that Governments and here I mean Local and possibly State governments have allowed all our best agricultural land in the South East corner to be sold off and divided up into housing blocks, when it could and should have been preserved for supplying the food needs of our community. The areas which have the best soil for growing are now mainly grass lawns, when they were always capable of much more. Areas like Mt. Gravatt, Sunnybank, Redland Bay used to be market garden areas. Does Government have responsibility to preserve these areas for growing our food, to keep food miles down, nutrition levels up, etc.

It is never too late to pursue such a theme. We now see some of our prime agricultural land that is left, being threatened by ground water contamination from coal seam gas exploration and extraction. Some of this activity could see us destroy  much more of the Darling Downs and Gatton type areas, which would have a devastating effect on very productive land.

Most of our home gardens are grown on much poorer soil, and we have to put in a lot more effort to get results than these great soil areas. That Is how it should be. We have the time and inclination to make a go of providing our own food from land which no farmer in his right mind would contemplate.

I try to grow on very poor soil in my 5 acre plot. I really believe that this is the sort of land that should be divided up into housing blocks, the only thing it is really good for is growing grass. We should leave our good soils for agriculture.

Other areas that may be worthy of exploration is the increasing interest around in starting community gardens, there is one out my way at Jimboomba, but I am not involved, and the increasing number of schools starting to interest kids in growing veges, etc.

Thanks Roger and Elaine, for your comments.  I agree totally. Someone has let me loose and I can't hold back.

Our best farming soil is getting ruined by greed and Government looking to expand in the wrong directions. We are lucky to have those pockets of land such as the Darling Downs etc. and other fertile grounds that can feed a city  and a large portion of people.  

It would be so lovely to have suburban households in our street or local area, growing vegies, fruit and nuts, to supplement our food supply.  We should share and have a greater variety of fresh food straight from under our feet.  But the greedy people just come in and subdivide the land and put as much roof over the soil as the law will allow.  There are only 3 people in our street now that grow or supplement their household food requirements.  There were about  20 only about 15 years ago, whereas the whole street had food growing in their yards about 50 years ago.  This was a large farming area with very good food growing soil, with orchards and vegetable gardens around the 1900's.  This area remained the same for many years, but lately as one can see from aerial photos there is not much space left.

I don't wish to sound despondent but we need to keep our food growing areas, in the farming hectares in our country.  We are only caretakers of our land for the time we are alive, and then what?

As some of our members have said - our children and grandchildren can be influenced by what we do. 

The future of what we do, must be protected somehow, but my old bones are not what they used to be.  Maybe our gardening naked day might bring some attention to our needs.   I will plant a radical plant in a pot in the bathroom on that day.   Need a cuppa and a sit down.   Maybe our gardens will be on our roof in the years to come.

You're going to wimp-out Christa and garden naked in your bathroom? :-O

You and Roger have touched on a vital topic. When I first came to Brisbane in 1963 the Redlands were a vibrant production area with an Edgells cannery to complete the picture.

The reduction of our fertile areas - in a country with little fertile soil - is a major challenge in food security. Australia, the driest inhabited continent on earth, is facing massive challenges in keeping our water supply un-polluted. And from where I sit, we are losing the battle.


I hope we haven't lost the battle Elaine.    And yes I am a wimp, just noticed there are too many mirrors in the bathroom, is there a full moon on that night. 

Probably not a full moon. Currently moon is 3 days 'old' so by 6th May not yet full, I am assuming 'full' is half-way.

You're much less of a wimp than I am - no poncing about pantless for me on this day or any other ;-)

Lost the battle - always expect a half-full glass so no, we've not lost the battle. But we're sailing very close to the wind. I can see now why backyard edible-growing is so important. I had not realised how much of our arable land we have lost forever.

The roofs which cannot take the weight of gardens could always collect water. So much wasted roof-space with industrial and commercial buildings.


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