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The Dirt – April 2024

Welcome to the April 2024 edition of our monthly newsletter, The Dirt, where we dish the dirt on the latest comings and goings of Sprout Tasmania.

in our paddock

The impact of small-scale farming

I thought I’d start this month’s newsletter by sharing an aspect of the Sprout Producer Program that is new to this year.

In February, as part of their online learning on the Sprout Hub, we asked the participants to discuss the impact of small-scale agriculture. It’s been really interesting to read their comments on the Hub discussion boards and in an assignment they’ve completed. We’ve had them consider whether small-scale farms need defining, the importance of small-scale agriculture to food security, and if small farms can be financially viable (yep, we’re still knocking at that door!).

In one discussion, we saw a couple of the producers talk about how the subject of food affordability needs to address the hidden costs of food, both to human health and to the environment, and how measuring nutrient density will be crucial in society understanding what they are truly paying for when they go shopping.

We’d love to know your thoughts, and even better, your data. Why is small-scale agriculture so important? We often see broad, sometime debatable statistics that demonstrate how smallholders feed the world, and it’s obviously a complex, contextual discussion, but if anyone has articles or research around the impact here in Australia we’d love to see them.

Here’s one that we uncovered recently, with some interesting discussion around the definitions of small farmers.

Cross Pollinate 2024

Speaking of understanding nutrient density, this is just one of the subjects we will unpick at Cross Pollinate this year.

We are starting to lock in speakers and presentations, all of which will address a broad theme called ‘Ideas for Hope’.

The format for Cross Pollinate 2024 will be similar to that of last year – short, sharp presentations, with panel discussions and facilitated sessions thrown in to the mix. We will also have recorded interviews from two great thinkers and doers, the leading researcher of nutritional psychiatry Felice Jacka, and one of the world’s leading small-scale farmer and educators, JM Fortier.

Surely, you’re hooked right?

This year we are holding two events, one in the north and one in the south. We will be back at the Moonah Arts Centre for the southern day, and will be in Launceston, hopefully at the UTAS Inveresk campus for the northern event. Each event will be a full day, with different speakers – so come to both if you can. Dates are still to be confirmed, and we’re hoping to announce them in the next week. But pencil in the weekends of mid to late June.

The Sprout Producer Program

The SPP landed in the state’s NW a couple of weeks ago, for two days of on-farm learning. 

Day 1 saw us start at Plump Berries, where Olivia and Aaron kindly showed us around their beautiful property in Barrington. We heard about the history of the farm, how they manage their berry farm, how the PYO model works, why they’ve made the call to remove certain berry types, and how their nano distillery helps with their efforts to make the business financially viable. We also had the pleasure of Robin Tait dropping by to say hello to the group.

We then headed up the road to Preston, where we had tours at 2 of this year’s participating farms. Tasmanian Buffalo, was first up, where Phil and Sheridan explained to the group the reasons behind their desire to be on the program. We were treated to a tour of the dairy and then headed into the paddocks, to hear from Phil about his management practices. Their herd of buffalo watched on, seemingly unsure what the mob of humans were doing!

Preston Ridge Free Range Pork were the last hosts. Dave and Stella first fed some of their pigs as we watched on – it’s safe to say the pigs were less circumspect then the buffalo – before we ended the day discussing the challenges and future plans of Preston Ridge.

Day 2 started at Mt Roland Free Range Eggs. In my eyes, Phil Glover is the father of Tasmanian pastured egg producers, and has always found time to share his learnings. We had a tour of his packing room and visited the chooks, before he handed us over to his wife Ange, who kindly showed us around their agritourism venture – Carinya Farmstay & The Barn Mt Roland.

From there we headed to see Mark Lambert, at Mersey Vale Dairies, for a walk and talk around his organic dairy farm. Mark’s journey into biological farming and organics is fascinating, and it was great to take SPP to his farm for the second year running.

Last stop – Abruzzo Farm, and another of this year’s SPP participants. Vanessa and Shane were featured in our February newsletter and have a wonderful story that intertwines love, Italy, wine, a daughter, good food, and now a deep passion for farming and Tasmania. Ending the weekend on their farm and hearing how quickly they’ve embraced their community, and how fast they’ve learnt how to improve the function of the landscape on which they farm was perfect.

A huge thank to all the farmers we visited, and to the SPP cohort for fully embracing the weekend.

SPP 2024 producer feature – Elicia Casey-Winter

Elicia Casey-Winter is the food production grower at Government House Tasmania, growing food for the Government House kitchen, and community programs such as the School Food Matters Program in conjunction with Eat Well Tasmania and Loaves and Fishes. Elicia currently looks after a 2500sqm area including a market garden with a polytunnel, greenhouse, citrus orchard/chook yard, berry enclosure, nut orchard, heirloom French garden and a community garden space.

Elicia uses an ecological approach to growing food, valuing soil health and biodiversity. Permaculture techniques and principles are used throughout the food gardens and heavily influence the overall management of the space. 

Elicia hopes to grow nutrient dense food and share her knowledge and passion with her community. Her role also includes hosting produce tours, school groups, community volunteers and training horticulturists. She wants to advocate for small scale farmers, educate kids and adults about where their food comes from, and explore how we can grow a sustainable food future. 

Elicia grew up in Southern Tasmania, left home to study in London and Melbourne during her early 20’s before returning home. She ran a small business for 5 years before realising her dream of becoming a food grower. In 2019 Elicia completed her Permaculture Design Certificate with Good Life Permaculture, in 2021 studied a Diploma of Sustainable Living at UTAS, specialising in plant science and global/local food production systems. She began working at Government House 18 months ago and loves working on her passion! She lives on a 1-acre property in Southern Tasmania with her partner Amos, their kelpie Luca, many chickens and her parents in-laws, who have built a house on their property. An example of sustainability focused intergenerational living with food production at the heart of the property’s design.

You can find details of all this year’s participants here.

And information on all the SPP alumni here.

Your Community

Southern Tasmanian Association of Meat Producers (STAMP)

The ongoing and indefinite closure of the Cradoc multi-species abattoir has led to a number of producers realising that improved communication, representation and collaboration of meat producers in Southern Tasmania has becoming increasingly important.  This has led to a collaboration forming an incorporated association with the explicit purpose of supporting meat producers in Southern Tasmania.

If you are interested in joining the association, the only criteria for membership is that you grow livestock and have an interest in meat processing. They would also like to keep it to producers south of Oatlands, mainly as this southern region is so poorly serviced by meat processing and logistics. The membership application form is here and if you would like a copy of the Constitution, email to southerntasmeatproducers@gmail.com.

Permit to build an on-farm abattoir in VIC granted

On the subject of meat processing, we read with great interest that Jonai Farms were recently granted a license to build an on-farm abattoir in Victoria.

You can find the details on Jonai Farm’s website, including the below extract:

On Tuesday the 5th of March, we received the VCAT orders that uphold Council’s decision to grant us a permit. The VCAT ruling affirms our position that abattoirs are intrinsic to livestock farming, and recognises that smallholders are losing access to the large abattoirs at an alarming rate.

Perhaps most importantly, a strong precedent has been set that small-scale abattoirs are an appropriate land use in the Farming Zone, and we Jonai are very hopeful of seeing many more flourish in the years to come!

Congratulations Tammi, and thanks as always for working hard to campaign on behalf of all small-scale farmers.

Young Farmers Connect – National Survey

Keep an eye on for YFC’s socials over the next couple of weeks, as they are just about to launch their National Small Farms Count Survey. It’ll be going live in early April, and we urge all small farmers to be involved.

Please remember, data is so important for organisations like us and YFC, as this is what we can take to the table when we’re speaking with stakeholders, governments, and potential donors.

Calling Tassie Producers!

Tasmanian food producers are invited to share their stories about tech revolution in food.

Your contribution will support the work of PhD candidate Lydia Hana who is working across the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture. She wants to connect ambitious, hard-working producers with the cutting-edge technology that could revolutionise their businesses.

“Imagine extending the shelf life of that perfectly caught fish or creating innovative new products from Tasmania’s tastiest berries and vegetables. These are the possibilities that keep me going,” Lydia said.

Are you keen to find out more or maybe be part of it? You can reach out to Lydia at lydia.hana@utas.edu.au 

Regenerative Agriculture Network of Tasmania’s screening of Rachel’s Farm

Join RANT for a screening of Rachel’s Farm at the Palais Theatre on April 7.

  • Palais doors open at 5pm with Food Vans in carpark.
  • Bring your own alcohol/drinks.
  • Explore an array of community information stalls showcasing local initiatives and resources.
  • 6pm – Rachel’s Farm movie/documentary begins!
  • 7.30pm – Farmer panel discussion
  • Farmer panel discussion – Matthew and Sadie, Fat Pig Farm; Matt Tack, Our Mates Farm; Celia Leverton, Regenerative Agriculture Network Tasmania and recent Churchill Fellowship, Geeveston Community Grows team.

Resilient Farming Tas

Resilient Farming Tas are running a fantastic new program that will work with individual farm businesses here in Tasmania to prepare a Farm Business Resilience Plan.

The planning process will identify risks and opportunities associated with drought, the effect of other climate extremes and other unexpected events. The aim of this Program is to support you to access a range of tools to manage the effects of climate change and other risks to your farm business.

The final ‘Plan on a Page’  will list priority actions that you will implement to control risks to your business and make the most of opportunities. Head here to register for the program.

Have your say on pricing and competition in Australia’s supermarket sector

Small businesses involved in the grocery supply chain are encouraged to make submissions to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) inquiry into pricing and competition in Australia’s supermarket sector.

The ACCC wants to hear from small businesses about:

  • competition within supply chains
  • trading arrangements, margins and price transparency, and
  • whether supermarket buying power is impacting suppliers’ commercial viability.

Submissions can be made through the ACCC’s consultation hub and can be kept confidential if requested. You don’t have long to make a submission, as it closes on Tuesday, 2 April 2024.

Further information is available at the Supermarkets inquiry 2024-25 page on the ACCC website.

Get paid to talk about food

Dr Donald Reid from UTAS is putting together a media research focus group of around 10-12 individuals who will be shown a media campaign that promotes local, seasonal food. The group will then be asked to answer questions and contribute to a conversation.

All participants receive a $50 IGA voucher for their time, and the contributions will be anonymous. Contact Dr Donal Reid at donald.reid@utas.edu.au for information and if you’d like to participate.

Poultry Butchery Course

Heritage Farms Tasmania are hosting a Poultry Butchery Course on Saturday May 4 in Forcett. So if you want to learn how to humanely process poultry for your own table, head here.

Discover Watershed Supper Series

A reminder that if you’re based in the NW, the Watershed in Wynyard has a couple of amazing supper events on in the upcoming weeks.

The Supper Series is an intimate dining experience carefully curated around seasonal produce, using food as a way to open up conversations around sustainability, food justice and connection with our environment.

The next dates in the series are:

Saturday, April 20th at 12:30pm
Thursday, May 23rd at 6:30pm For more information and reservations, head here.

Some further reading

What are you reading on Substack?

On the back of their podcast, I’ve been enjoying reading the Poor Prole’s Almanac. Last week, I found myself engrossed in their two part piece on The 20th Century Permanent Agriculture Revolution, and in particular the individuals involved in agricultural policies in the US during the 1930s and 40s.  I (Ollie) studied history at University (in part because the course offered only 4 hours of lectures per week) before becoming obsessed by farming (in part because it offered a counterpoint to the laziness I demonstrated at University), so The Poor Proles Almanac is really floating my boat!

We love hearing from you, so please drop us an email, contact us via our socials, or give us a call if you have feedback on anything mentioned in this month’s newsletter.

Thanks as always,

Jen and Ollie