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The Dirt – JANUARY 2024

Happy New Year, and welcome to the January 2024 edition of our monthly newsletter, The Dirt, where we dish the dirt on the latest comings and goings of Sprout Tasmania.

With the new year comes a refreshed look for our newsletter. The format however remains the same, with specific updates of Sprout’s work from Inside Our Paddock followed by news from Your Community including details of workshops and events from organisations and farms aligned with our values.

We hope readers continue to find The Dirt of interest. We’d love to hear from you, so if you have anything you’d like to share with us, an event you’d like us to promote, or feedback on our work please do get in touch.

We are ready to dive head first into 2024, to continue our work advocating for changes to Tasmania’s food and farming system, and building capacity within the small-scale and agroecological movement.

We look forward to sharing with you what we’re up to.

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Jen is taking a well-deserved holiday, spending time with her family and recharging her batteries ahead of what will be a huge 2024 for Sprout Tasmania.

Before she packed the family tent and threw the bikes on to the ute, she found time to put out an end of year wrap up and it’s well worth a re-read.

It contained news of Sprout’s submission to the Tasmanian Tourism and Hospitality Workforce Advisory Committee, details of our upcoming small-scale meat processing project, and news of Sprout’s involvement with the State Government’s newly formed Tasmanian Livestock Taskforce.

in our paddock

Growing Good

As Jen mentioned in her wrap up, Growing Good was a huge success and the evening has become a wonderful way for us to end the year.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved – Stephen Peak and Laura Dyba who helped plan the event, our keynote speaker Sadie Chrestman, the team at The Agrarian Kitchen who provided their wonderful venue, the chefs – Zac Green, Tom Westcott, Glenn Byrnes, Edgar Rodriguez Pelaz, Sophie Pope, the amazing front of house and bar staff, guests, and all the farmers and suppliers that helped make it such a special night.

It truly is a celebration of people and produce and we can’t wait to continue hosting the event.

The Small Producer of the Year Award

At Growing Good we had the pleasure of awarding Stan and Briony from Fat Carrot Farm as the 2023 Small Producer of the Year. Once again, a huge congratulations to these inspirational champions of market gardening!

The Sprout Producer Program

A few weeks ago the outgoing and incoming SPP participants all met up at the spectacular Bona Vista Farm in Avoca. Jen spent some time chatting with the 2023 group, reflecting on the year they had, while Ollie put the 2024 cohort through their paces. After lunch we then celebrated the achievements of the graduates and presented them with certificates.

The changeover from one group to the next always brings mixed feelings. While we are excited to start working with a new bunch of producers, it’s always sad knowing we will have less frequent contact with the graduating farmers. But they will always be part of the Sprout family, and no doubt you will hear plenty about what they’re up to this year.

SPP 2024 is shaping up to be a great year. We’ve made a few changes to the program, with more producers, more field days, and better utilisation of our online management system, the Sprout Hub. And we have a great bunch of humans taking part!

As well as regular updates about the 2024 program, each month you will hear from one of the farmers participating.

Kicking things off this month is Vanessa Hall from Abruzzo Farm:

Welcome to Abruzzo Farm, a charming 50-acre slice of heaven nestled in the hills of the Meander Valley. Our story began in 2019 with a spontaneous purchase that envisioned a quiet retirement haven for the not-too-distant future. However, life had different plans; what started as a retirement dream took a delightful detour into the world of newborns and navigating the challenges of a changing global landscape.

Amidst the unpredictability, and with a lot of help from the local farming community, we found our passion in working with the land, nurturing a calm and healthy environment for our livestock, and creating a wonderful home for our daughter.

Currently, our farm is home to cattle and sheep, breeds chosen for their compatibility with our terroir. While the farm may not be vast, it is a place where every animal is known by name, and every inch of soil is cherished.

In our farming journey, we have adopted practical regenerative techniques and are committed to ensuring a balance between our livestock and the native fauna needs. We’re not experts; we are keen to learn and discover more about how tending to the soil as a living organism can support not only the health of our farm but also contribute to the broader ecological harmony of our surroundings.

Our vision extends beyond becoming solely a processed meat box producer of our own livestock. We aspire to play a role in identifying and enhancing networks and processes within Tasmania. Our goal is to foster a community of smallholding farmers who share our commitment to animal welfare and quality standards. By leveraging established logistics and processing, we aim to create a network where these farmers receive fair compensation for their efforts.

The overarching objective is to promote Tasmanian meat, not just to local communities but also beyond, showcasing the exceptional quality and ethical practices upheld by our community of farmers.

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

And information on all the SPP alumni here.

Cross Pollinate

Our thoughts are beginning to turn to Cross Pollinate 2024. We are yet to settle on the location and dates, but we’re thinking mid-June once again. Keep an eye out for details in the upcoming months.

We are also yet to settle on this year’s theme. As always, we have plenty of ideas, however we’re always open to suggestions. If there are broad topics you’d like to see covered please do get in touch via email at info@sprout.org.au.

Strategy Day

January will see us continue working on updating Sprout’s strategy.

Jen and Ollie have been working with Bonnie Tuttle and we also have a strategy session coming up with our amazing board. We look forward to bringing you further news on this work once it’s completed.

Your Community

The Oxford Real Farming Conference

The ORFC begins on January 4, and crucially for us antipodeans features an amazing online program. 

In case you’ve not heard of it, the ORFC is held each year in the UK and is billed an alternative farming conference. It attracts farmers, growers, activists, policymakers and researchers from around the world who are interested in transforming our food system, and it’s well worth buying online tickets. The best thing is you don’t have to stream the sessions live, meaning you can watch them back in your own time.

As always, the broad programme delves deep into farming practices and techniques as well as addressing the bigger questions relating to our food and farming system.

Farm Business Resilience Program

During the Drought Ready Forum on 1 November at Campbell Town, Minister Jo Palmer announced that RM Consulting Group (RMCG) had been chosen to support roll out of the Farm Business Resilience Program funded through the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.

Over the next two years, RMCG and delivery partner Optimum Standard (Aus) Pty Ltd will work together to extend a tailored program to over 200 farming businesses state-wide. More than 50 Tasmanian dairy farmers are already accessing a similar program through Dairy Australia’s Our Farm, Our Plan being delivered locally by Dairy Tas.   

Designed for all enterprises large and small, the program will work with farming businesses to build on what they already have in place and provide:

  • business coaching to improve confidence in making business decisions and managing farm risk;
  • knowledge and tools needed to get the most out of the farming business;
  • support to develop strategies and actions on how to manage risks and progress opportunities; and
  • offer new skills and techniques to build personal resilience, to help focus on opportunities and be equipped to deal with challenges.

More information and a simple EOI form can be found at the Resilient Farming Tas website.

Veg boxes

The good folk at Seabrook Valley Farm have just launched a limited number of veg boxes. So if you’re up in the north-west, close to Wynyard, and looking for nutritionally dense, spray-free, seasonal veg then get in touch with Ben and Ellie asap

Meanwhile, down in the Huon the Gardners Bay Farm team have extended their veg box subscription. Head to their website or message them on Instagram if you’re interested. 

The Grassroots Festival 2024

The Grassroots Festival is taking place on the 14th and 15th of February in Montumana, at Gunningham Family Farms.

The festival is an immersive, boots on the ground, hands in the soil, two day event covering a range of topics including soil health, alternative and diverse pasture species, livestock health, farm forestry, financial health, farmers stories, carbon and renewable energy.

There will be various demonstration sites on the day, hosted by experts to provide interpretation and welcomes small holders through to commercial farmers. The line up of speakers looks fantastic!

For all information and the link to book tickets head here.

We hope you enjoy the summer season, see you again at the start of February.

Thanks as always,

Jen and Ollie