The Dirt in spring 2023
Welcome to the Spring 2023 edition of our seasonal newsletter, The Dirt, where we dish the dirt on the latest comings and goings of Sprout Tasmania.
Spring is upon us for 2023, and I am sure I am not the only one that is sensing the change in the weather patterns. We are all witnessing the creep of warmer weather into our traditionally cooler seasons, and it definitely gives me a greater sense of urgency to keep doing the small things I can do as an individual, but also as CEO of Sprout to help make change happen!
In one of my recent weekly meetings with our Chair Libby Graham, I was sharing with Libby a ‘big, audacious’ vision that Ollie and I talk about a lot for Sprout, but which we don’t tend to articulate to anyone else except each other while on our long car drives across the state.
Upon hearing about this vision, Libby said “Jen, you need to write this down, and share it, this is really important.” So I did. I presented it to the Sprout Board and they reacted with so much enthusiasm, it was brilliant! The ideas that flowed from this discussion were just awesome.
So, in the interest of practising what we preach here at Sprout, by being vulnerable and sharing a bit of ourselves…I am sharing this very ‘bare bones’ vision with you now. I want to share it so you too can look at it, reflect, think, feel and give us any thoughts or ideas you may have about this vision, both now and in the future.
Imagine a place, where food, environment and people are at the core. It is a farm (or perhaps multiple farms) where many activities are taking place, and all things are interconnected.
- There are diverse small scale farming operations going on – pig farming, market gardening, orchards, cattle grazing, and more. Each enterprise employing people, enabling learning, mentoring and sharing of knowledge, efficiencies of scale and equipment. Providing clear pathways for people to learn about this style of agriculture.
- There is land specifically provided under lease arrangements, for those who apply to use the land under long term lease arrangements to kick start their agricultural career, when they don’t otherwise have any other means of accessing land.
- There are first nations people working on farm, sharing their knowledge of caring for country, their native foods and connection to land.
- There is infrastructure enabling a centre for excellence in chef training, where students are able to learn about not only the food from the farm, and how to prepare it, but they also tend to the farm and directly get involved in how the food is grown to really understand the ingredients they are working with and the people who farm it.
- This site also enabling value-adding, processing (boning room and the like) of meat, workshops with community and more.
- Sprout Utopia would have a closed loop, low impact philosophy, where compost would be created from the various waste streams (farm and kitchen/processing), the infrastructure would be off-grid, and all farming following practices that would improve the landscape function over time.
Phew! This is only the tip of the iceberg…but we know that by putting it out there at least in this format, it will hopefully inspire some great conversation and get everyone else thinking about these possibilities. Tasmania is perfectly suited to do this! We can do this! We can show other states what is possible with collaboration, vision and hard work. These next two images are an attempt to put these general concepts into a visual format. Get in touch with me if you have any thoughts, positive or constructive…I like either, you know me.
in our paddock
Cross Pollinate – a round up of the 2023 conference
What an amazing couple of days we had at this year’s Cross Pollinate.
Day one was at the fabulous Moonah Arts Centre. We had six live presentations, three recorded videos, one panel discussion and four facilitated sessions, all centred around the theme of financial viability. The following day had us on farm, at four separate locations, where we spoke to producers with incredible stories to share. The overall event was a wonderful example of the power of knowledge sharing, and of people coming together to learn and support one another.
It’s strange to think it was two months ago now. As you can imagine there’s a lot of planning that goes into Cross Pollinate and in the blink of an eye it’s over.
The good news is that you can listen to all the presentations from day one on the Sprout Hub. So, if you were there and want to revisit the talks, or if you missed out and want to know what all the fuss is about, head to the Hub now. Access is free for all members, and if you’re not a member this is possibly one of the best reasons to join today!
As always, thank you to everyone that made the event what it was. From the volunteers to the team at the Moonah Arts Centre, to the farms we visited on day two to everyone that attended, you all made it a special occasion. But most of all we would like to say thank you to all the speakers who presented on the Sunday. Every one of you committed wholeheartedly to the project and we can’t thank you enough.
The Small Scale Producer Survey – the findings are in!
The data has been collected, sorted, analysed, and digested, and it’s made for fascinating reading. A huge thank you to all that responded, it’s hard to put into words quite how significant it is to have the level of support we received for the survey.
Jen has been busy writing a report on the findings, and it is now available here together with a very snazzy infographic that illustrates the high-level findings. Please take time to read the report, to understand the sector, the challenges it faces, and what we can all do to help farmers.
The next steps for Sprout? Well, it’s simple really. We take the findings, and we act on them. We believe that the sector values our role, and we are more determined than ever to be the voice for small producers in Tasmania. So first up, we will be taking the survey findings to both the State Liberal and Labor parties, to help them better understand the small-scale farming landscape. We will also be asking Minister Palmer to commit to formulating a small-scale producer strategy for Tasmania as a true enabler of our local food system.
From there, we will continue to create more opportunities for learning and networking, we will further our work with government and philanthropists to increase the availability of financial support, and we will ensure that Tasmanian producers are given the recognition and support they require and deserve. So stay tuned!
The Sprout Producer Program – it’s time to apply for the 2024 program
Yep, it’s that time of year again. We are now on the lookout for the six producers that will make up the 2024 SPP cohort. Could you be one of them?
So, what exactly is the Sprout Producer Program? Good question!
It is a one-year program that aims to support and develop small-scale producers to achieve their goals, creating significant future benefits for them as individuals as well as their business and the Tasmanian community.
Who can apply?
- Farmers in Tasmania
- At any stage of their business
- Any enterprise type producing primary produce
- Farming commercially
- Using regenerative practices or keen to transition
- Selling into the local food system
It is this mix of both farm type and stage of journey that we feel brings about incredible diversity to the conversations and support that comes from each cohort of producers completing the Program. There is so much that can be learned from others, even if they are striving to achieve different versions of success.
- The key components of the program are field trips, in-person coaching, online learning, and year-round support to help support and develop their farming businesses:
- Participants are given access to the Sprout Hub, our online centre for education and resources. The Hub will be the focal point for your learning throughout the year together with monthly online tutorials.
- Participants will visit a number of farms throughout the year, including each other’s. This exposure to different farms around the state provides crucial experience and understanding of different farm enterprises and methodologies.
- Participants will also receive coaching on business and financial aspects of running a farming enterprise.
- Throughout the year the Sprout team are on hand to help with any element of your farming journey. We aim to further you as individuals or partnerships, to support you through the tough times as well as celebrate your wins, and to ensure that your business has the best opportunity to succeed now but also into the future.
If this sounds like something you’re interested in, applications are now open and close on September 25th.
In the meantime, the 2023 program continues apace. We held our second coaching day in Campbell Town, in July our online workshop featured the work of Rural Alive and Well, while the August workshop saw Kim Croker from Fork It Farm speak to the group about the pros and cons of the various channels to market available to producers.
Board news – thank you Barry, and welcome Penny
We said “au revoir” and “merci” to Barry Hemmings recently. Barry was a passionate and articulate member of our board, but having been accepted into a DBA program at a business school in Paris he has understandably resigned from the board.
As always, we have been lucky to have his position filled by someone equally as passionate about our work. Penny Johnson is an ecologist who has experience working as a research scientist and statistical analyst for government agencies and private consultancies and is an enthusiastic home food producer, managing a large vegetable garden and orchard, laying hens and a small flock of Awassi dairy sheep, who provide an abundance of milk and cheese for the household.
As an ecologist she strives to understand how her management actions across her property interact with the natural environment. This has led her to a regenerative approach to farming, and the broader goal of creating a food system that is sustainable and aligned with what the environment can support. To this end Penny is committed to supporting the development of a localised food system that uses regenerative practices, is adapted to the local environment and focuses on producing abundant healthy food for resilient communities.
We are over the moon to have someone with Penny’s skillset and passion for the sector, and are already enjoying her contribution at board meetings. Welcome Penny!
We are currently welcoming further applications from people who are interested in becoming a volunteer board member here at Sprout so, if like Penny, you are looking for involvement with an organisation that supports farmers and strives to change the conversation about local food systems, then look no further! In particular we are keen to hear from you if you have skills in marketing or fundraising (although this is not a requirement – we welcome applications from anyone with a passion for our sector).
Should you wish to apply, please send applications including a cover letter and CV through to our Chairperson, Libby Graham at email@example.com and if you have questions about this opportunity, please feel free to contact us via details on our website.
Spout member benefits – ActiveVista discounts
We’re stoked to announce that our partnership with the team at ActiveVista is continuing. If you are a Sprout member you are eligible to a 3.5% discount on all equipment and seeds purchased through ActiveVista. Please contact us for details on the process to activate this discount.
James and his crew have been wonderful supporters of us and the small-scale farming sector across Australia and NZ, and we feel so lucky to have them literally on our doorstep! A huge thanks as always to James.
growing good 2024
The next event on our agenda is our end of year fundraising dinner, Growing Good. This will be held in early December, and we are working hard to bring you another sensational celebration of produce and people. Keep an eye out for our socials and updates in your inboxes for further info!
Sustainable Table map and report
Last newsletter we mentioned the incredible work made by the good folks at Sustainable Table, and the launch of the Australian Regenerative Food and Farming Map.
If you haven’t yet seen it, head over to check it out, and if you are a producer or work for an organisation that’s striving for change in food and farming systems we highly recommend applying to be part of it. It’s a fantastic enabler of connections between producers, eaters, allies and funders.
NRM Small Farm Living field day – save the date
NRM North will again partner with Lilydale Landcare for the biennial Small Farm Living field day on 12 November. The event will feature a range of speakers, demonstrations, stalls and displays, tailored especially to smallholders and small properties. Find out more about the SFL Program via the NRM North website.
Tasmanian Women in Agriculture are continuing to host some fantastic programs and workshops. Be sure to check them out if you can.
Seed Freaks are looking for pumpkin growers
Flo and the team at Seed Freaks have put a call out for any growers that might be interested in growing for them. This year they are looking for 4 or 5 growers with around 50-100m bed space to grow pumpkins.
Growers will be paid per seed package (5-7 seeds per package), and only need to provide seed from the first two fruits of each plant.
For all the details on how the arrangement would work, contact Flo and Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org
And lastly, a huge congratulations to Tasmanian White Asparagus for being awarded the Delicious Harvey Norman Produce Awards – ‘Unearthed producer’ of the year for 2023, as well as to all Tasmanian producers that were finalists, including Sprout Producer Program alumni Rob Mather from Valley Fresh Farm, who was a finalist in the From The Earth category.