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Connecting land, community, farmers and capital for the better good

Balancing the urgent need for better land stewardship with empowered farmers, localised food systems & resilient communities

Photo of Carolyn Suggate
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Organic & Regenerative Investment Co-operative

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Farmer Co-op or Farmer Business Organization

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Open Food Network Australia Beechworth Food Co-operative

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://organicinvestmentcooperative.com.au/mission/

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Australia

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Wangaratta, Victoria, Australia

What country is your selected Place located in?

Australia

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We live near Wangaratta, running our own certified organic mixed enterprise farm for the past 8 years. Our children have gone to school in the region, we enjoy the pristine natural environmental of ski fields, mountains, rivers and lakes. We are also acutely aware of the need for better access to more local food. Wangaratta is the central point of the North East of Victoria. A highly productive farming region, that has strong agricultural ties and a strong collaborative community spirit. The region is at high risk of increased tourism, increasing land prices and extreme climatic events. This means that land is an important resource, that should be stewarded well, and preserved for food & community resilience for the long term. The community has a strong connection with it's history - of indigenous land management, and sadly the removal of these communities upon European invasion. Since this time the farming communities have grown in strength of land assets, yet not in success of localised food systems, but more dependant on commodity driven farm production. The food enjoyed is seasonally diverse, yet lacking in local provenance. There is limited ethnic diversity, with strong English & European influences across the region. This is slowly changing, as Australia's migration diversifies to regional areas - and with this comes the richness of changing food and cultural systems. The role of agriculture is highly valued in the region, however it would have more resilience if the localised food systems were understood and valued to the extent they need to be. This would have a knock on affect on the health and diets of the people in these regions. And the community resilience of strong localised and direct food and farming systems.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Thriving local & diverse farmers markets should be in every town, every weekend. Making local food affordable, short supply chains and connections with farmers.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

94000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

The North East of Victoria is at a cross roads of change, both climatically, regionally and demographically. This includes the impact of change from a traditional farming & agricultural area, to a thriving tourism destination that has put pressure on land prices and farming communities. It has also affected our regions connection with our food, our limited range of local food supply, the community and the way our community interacts with our region. The future challenges of our food system is a strong dependancy on a centralised but fragmented food supply, that puts our farmers and food at risk. Instead of empowering strong regions like the North East, to have a climate & food resilience strategy that empowers & incentivises farmers to produce diverse and local food more than commodity driven farming systems. Through this fundamental step, our food and communities could change forever, for the better. The culture of communities is then returned to our food & community systems rather than an externally controlled commodity market. Our farmers are also more valued in our communities, as some of the reasons that people come and enjoy the region, rather than just price takers in a world food market. We need our Government to realise the importance of long term and resilient food, land and farming policies. That protect the fundamental right to grow food, to make a living from the land and to feed our communities. Through affordable land and long term lease tenure this can be achieved with aligned organisations that have these measures in place. When farmers are incentivised to broaden their food and farming offering, and maximise the productivity and diversity of their farms rather than producing just one singular at risk product for one of the large supermarket chains. To return to local food systems takes a region systems change. From the land, the food, community and the entire region to change the way they interact with our food systems.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our vision of connection local food systems with land, people and capital brings all the players in the story together, for a collective and successful outcome. With escalating land values, and commodity driven farmers there are extreme and opposing pressures. Rather than seeing our food security and local food systems as a central part of the solutions and key driver for change. Through returning to locally based food cooperatives and farming communities, and empowering farmers to diversify their farming systems we can change the way that land is viewed. One farm at a time. And empowering farmers to shorten their supply chains, and to see their markets diversify and return a higher proportion of the profit to the farmers. At the same time consumers are connecting more directly with the farmers - and understanding the regional food systems and regional provenance to a much higher extent. Through this entire systems change - the North East region becomes more climatic and community resilient - and powered by the land and people, rather than singular external forces that puts many at risk.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

When you enter the North East of Victoria - you are entering a new type of food & farming system. One that is powered by the people that is a collective of locally owned farmer and food cooperatives that supplies the region the majority of it's food supply all year round. Farmers are making a good living from the food they grow, the food is affordable, healthy and regenerative for the land. People are more connected with where their food comes from, seasonal and regional eating, and take it less for granted that we live in an area of extreme cold and hot climates. The children in the region know where their food comes from, have diverse skill sets as they have grown up part of the land, with family deeply involved and connected with food and farm production. There is local funding for incoming farmers and those that are looking to diversify their current commodity based farm system, with deeply valued respect for the land, food and farmers as a community. Together we can change the way that we interact with the land, people and food - if we understand and value it better than we do now.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our region needs solution orientated pioneers - people willing to challenge the status quo, and explore new systems thinking. This comes through localised and diversified farming systems, to regional communities and shorter supply chains. Through pathways of food production, demand and streamlined technology that can enable farmers to grow to demand, rather than to a commodity market. With aligned capital securing the land over the longer term, it enables farmers to diversify and have security of tenure and diversity rather than high production input food production. This type of large scale diversification across an entire region could be a model for many communities across Australia. With the North East Victoria being an exemplary area of food, fibre, agriculture and tourism. That together can offer resilience, diversity and opportunity of change. ORICoop would work with localised food change makers, to enable more cooperatively minded organisations to emerge (like Beechworth Food Coop that already is a leader in our region), and empower the community to realise the effect of member owned Cooperatives, and shorter supply chains. And with diverse multiple enterprises there is further opportunity for the land value and production to be further enhanced. It takes a community and region to make a whole food systems change - and we can see that ORICoop, Open Food Network and Beech Food Cooperative could work together collaboratively in Australia to do this. And be a model for many other regions that are currently struggling with difficult climates, low commodity prices, low farm profitability and high risk in food security.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Word of Mouth

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Photo of Kylie Newberry
Team

It's great to see a submission by ORICoop! It's such a brilliant model. I'd love to see you do well.

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