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The Dirt – March 2024

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

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There is nothing like an election to get everyone in the community synthesising their thoughts and working out what really matters to them.

I have done just that this week, when preparing our Sprout pitch to both the Liberal and Labor parties (Rosalie Woodruff, you’re on my hitlist for next week), after many discussions with farmers and organisations we collaborate with. 

We really want to see our state’s agricultural and food sector thrive!

We want to see collaboration right across all scales of farming, from small through to large, where people can share openly, learn from each other, and feel safe and confident to be vulnerable about their concerns. We want to see end to end problem solving, looking at the required infrastructure to underpin direct to consumer food supply chains for the state, not just export channels. We want to see more opportunities for education in climate safe practices on farm for all scales. We want to see farmers being able to not just survive, but thrive. 

Change is hard, but we can do this! 

So when it comes time to vote in this state election, think carefully about which candidate in your area stands for the things that matter most to you.  Educate yourself on their promises and their stance on key topics, and make your vote count. We think food, farming and our climate are some of those key areas to focus on, alongside child welfare, health and education of course! 

Whatever the result of the 2024 State election, I will continue to work with the elected candidates, pushing forward on what we know is important to small-scale farmers and what will build a robust and healthy local food system. 

As Ollie has written about below, Sprout very much works in a two pronged manner, doing work in both a ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’ direction: Ollie doing the most amazing work in continually improving our offerings at the ground level through our scholarship program and our annual conference (as well as all the other things Ollie does!), and the work I am doing through representing all of you in meetings with State Government and continual collaboration projects across sectors and different organisations. 

Here is a snapshot of some of those things we are working on that might get the creative juices flowing (and remember, we love to hear any thoughts from you about this work, or anything else for that matter):

  • UTAS and Sprout – pathways for education in small-scale agriculture
  • Bethlehem House, Loaves & Fishes & Leah Galvin – local producer procurement project
  • Tas Institute of Agriculture – connecting researchers to small-scale farmers and the food system
  • Tas Farmers – looking to collaborate and support each other in the move towards sustainable, climate-safe agriculture.
  • Agfest 2024 – collaboration with 7 other organisations to create a space for conversation and learning about Tasmania’s food and farming future!
  • Tasmanian Animal Welfare Taskforce – representing the needs of our small-scale livestock farmers and the importance of everyone in the meat supply chain to take responsibility for animal welfare.

I am so passionate about this sector and the amazing work of our small-scale farmers! I do feel privileged to be in this position and I don’t take the responsibility lightly. 

Please keep in touch if there is anything here you want to find out more about, I am happy to chat. 

Until next time, 

in our paddock

Membership and donating

Welcome to all the new members who’ve recently joined Sprout, and to those that have enquired about donating, thank you. 

By our own admission, Jen and I are not great at talking about what goes on behind the scenes at Sprout. Perhaps the best illustration of this is the frequency with which we get asked by stakeholders, by friends, by farmers (even by our own families!) if we work full-time for Sprout.

You may be surprised to learn that Jen and I are each paid for 16 hours per week, which means together, along with Carissa our amazing bookkeeper, we are less than 0.8 of a FTE. We often volunteer extra hours, and we’re certainly not complaining as we absolutely love what we do. In an ideal world we would love to do more paid hours, but to do this we need additional funds to assist with the day in, day out work.

We believe there is much work to be done. We feel that what we’re doing is of value, and that by working from the bottom-up, building capacity in the small-scale farming sector, and from top-down, advocating for the challenges farmers face, we are contributing to making a resilient Tasmanian food and farming scene.  

By becoming a member, or setting up a regular donation, you can help us build a strong network of farmers, that grow and produce food sold directly to consumers, and that improve the land on which they farm. And please share what we do to farmer friends, non-farmer friends, food loving friends, and any folk that you think would be interested in our work and the work of farmers we support. 

SPP 2024 producer feature – Bryn Gwyn Farm & Vineyard

Bryn Gwyn (which means white hill in Welsh) is a 55-acre farm located in Forcett in the Southeast of Tasmania. The farm was historically used to graze sheep and it hasn’t been actively managed for decades. That is all about to change.

The plan is to regenerate the soil, build an awful lot of fences, a new dam and start a farm that will be as interesting as it is diverse. The one third of the land that is Northeast facing will be transformed into a vineyard but one that specialises in less common, cold climate grapes. The one third that is Wattle forest will be used to rear free range, Heritage breed pigs – Tamworths hopefully. The remaining third, which is rough pasture, will be given over to sheep – with a few goats thrown in for amusement. Ultimately, we’d also like to have a small cellar door and start an agri-tourism business based around our wine and our heritage breeds.

Bryn Gwyn will be farmed by Andy Walton. Andy runs a successful custom home building business – Blue Gum Design + Build. His main aim in life is to prove his winemaker daughter, Libby, that she is wrong about the folly of starting a vineyard on dilapidated land in his dotage. Andy has had quite a few changes of career in his lifetime, and he loves stepping into the unknown. So, our money is on Andy succeeding (after a few painful and probably expensive mistakes!). His aim is to add a bit of variety to the local foodie/wine community by providing some unusual wines and some rare breed meats. If he can raise the standard of bacon with his Tamworths, he will be a very happy farmer. He is also adamant that a piece of land that once supported a family and supplied food to the local community, should be able to do so again.

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

And information on all the SPP alumni here.

Cross Pollinate

This week Jen and I met with board members Kate Field, Kate Plaschke and Lauren Byrne to start thrashing out ideas for this year’s Cross Pollinate. 

While we’re still to decide on the venue and date (think mid-June), we are planning a similar style to last year, with a number of short presentations on a diverse range of hot topics.

Keep an eye out for more details very soon!

Your Community

Introduction to Natural Sequence Farming

A reminder that Tarwyn Park Training are once again heading to Ripple Farm in Richmond for a one day workshop. The event will provide an introduction to NSF, helping you understand how landscape functions and what NSF can do to help soil health, biodiversity and water retention. You will also get to see what changes it’s made to Ripple Farm. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased here.

Super Soils and Compost Workshop

Goodlife Permaculture are running a series of workshops at Fat Pig Farm. Soil and Compost are the centre of their attention on March 23. Nadia, Sadie and Matthew will arm you with all the skills you need to build your soil and up your food growing game. This one is focused on the soil (the foundation of all food) so it’s aimed at people who are just getting started as well as folk who have been growing for a while and are now ready to look underground to improve what happens up top. Tickets are $250pp and can be purchased through the Goodlife Permaculture website.

Euthanase Livestock Training Course

On Tuesday 19 March at the Bushy Park Showgrounds, DairyTas & TasTAFE will be running a practical one day training course to support good animal welfare practices on farms.

This course is an accredited program delivered by an approved trainer. The training covers:

  • ALL legal methods for humane destruction of livestock
  • Practical instruction on the use of captive bolt devices, with a focus on operator safety and animal welfare.
  • Maintenance and storage of all equipment used to euthanase livestock and
  • Methods for carcass disposal.

Course Cost is $165/person and tickets can be purchased here.

Master your tax and super obligations with a new online learning platform

The Australian Taxation Office recently launched the Essentials to strengthen your small business website, providing more than 20 short courses and a calendar of key lodgement due dates to support small businesses.

The new platform supports a variety of learning styles with videos, case studies, audio content and written information. It also includes tips on areas where small business owners often make mistakes, such as goods and services tax (GST) and business deductions. You can do the courses at a time that suits your schedule, save your progress, and then pick it up again later. Head here to find out more.

Discover Watershed Supper Series

We have recently connected with the amazing folk at Watershed, a multi-use community space on the banks of the Inglis River in Wynyard, NW Tasmania.

Watershed is working with chef Isabel Sykes, who recently moved North from the Huon Valley, where she spent many years running the highly successful Red Velvet Lounge café, and are currently running a monthly dining experience, Watershed Supper Series, to spark community connection and dialogue on the North-West.

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.

Dates for the series are:

Wednesday, March 27th at 6:30pm
Saturday, April 20th at 12:30pm
Thursday, May 23rd at 6:30pm

For more information and reservations, head here.

Soil First Tasmania’s Farmer Friday

Soil Tasmania are running their first Farmer Friday of the year on March 5, at North Motton Beef.

Join them for a paddock walk at David & Emily Blacks farm, where David will discuss matching calving patterns to suit seasonal feed availability and using multi species summer fodder crops and cash crops to fill the autumn/winter ‘pasture pinch’ as well as other observations and challenges encountered in their transition from conventional to regenerative farming. 

The event kicks off at 3:30pm, 111 Saltmarshs Rd, North Motton.

Universal Basic Income for Farmers

I (Ollie) recently sat down with Jo Poulton, a UK based small-scale farmer who has been travelling around Australia for several months working on farms. She swung past Broom & Brine for a tour, and wanted to hear more about Sprout’s work.

Jo has been researching and pitching for UK farmers to receive UBI and is hoping to set up a pilot program where 100 farmers would received £1000 per month for 3 years.

Other similar programs around the world are also underway. Participants in the Basic Income Works (US) pilot program, receive $1000 every month without questions, one of over 150 similar pilots running across the world with 10,000 people currently enrolled.

Jo has set up an online launch event of their first discussion paper entitled: Sowing the seeds of stability: The case for a basic income for farmers, farmworkers and food producers in the UK. It means an early start for anyone wanting to tune in, but it’s an interesting project! 

Where: Online (via action network and zoom)

Start: Wednesday, March 13, 2024 • 6:00 PM • Greenwich Mean Time 
End: Wednesday, March 13, 2024 • 7:30 PM • Greenwich Mean Timehttps://actionnetwork.org/events/report-launch-sowing-the-seeds-of-stability-the-case-for-a-basic-income-for-farmers-farmworkers-and-food-producers-in-the-uk/

Pastured egg business for sale

Here’s an exciting opportunity for anyone interested in running a pastured egg business!

Angela from Mountain to Mouth recently contacted us to say they are selling their business. With existing customers, huge demand, and potential to expand this could offer a great opportunity as an additional enterprise to an existing farm.

As part of the offer, Angela will supply all the customer contacts, contact information for feed, packaging and re-stocking of new pullets. They will also assist with any ongoing support, training or assistance to the new owners. For full details on what is available, and the price, please contact Angela on 0407 664 740.

Some further reading

The Weekly Times recently threw up a couple of articles that illustrate the challenges we see on a regular basis. The first related to Castle Estate, a SW Victorian abattoir that recently halted its private slaughter service, citing service kills as being too difficult and too costly to manage. This has meant over a thousand livestock owners have had to look elsewhere for service kills.

We know the situation in Tassie is similar. As a small-scale livestock farmer in Victoria, quoted in the article, said “It is up to us farmers, I think, to come up with more solutions. Ideally, we have more small-scale abattoirs like we used to and decentralise the whole food system. That is good for animal welfare; good for profitability – particularly if they are run cooperatively, because value gets taken out at every step.” This is so true. We’re not sure if and how we can get there, but we will continue to fight for smaller producers to access abattoirs more easily.

The other article in the Weekly Times quoted a AUSVEG industry survey, conducted in the opening weeks of the new year, that found 37 per cent of surveyed vegetable, potato and onion producers would consider leaving the industry.

Retail prices and pressures from supermarkets are clearly affecting larger-scale growers. At Sprout we advocate for growers that sell direct to consumer, and clearly this is a model that best rewards the growers and end customer. However, we understand that larger-scale operators still rely on supermarkets, and we welcome the Senate inquiry into price gouging.  If you have the means, buy direct from your farmer whenever possible. Keep an eye out for veg and/or meat box subscriptions, shop at physical or online Farmers Markets, or at retail stores, cafes and restaurants that have direct relationships with farmers. The more you source direct, the more farmers will sell direct.

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