Fresh food a-plenty with The Growing Abundance Project
If you step outside of Melbourne and visit rural Victoria, you will find an wealth of small volunteer groups doing their bit to support their local communities. One such place is Castlemaine, birthplace of The Growing Abundance Project! We met one of the organisers recently when she fed a group of us with some beautifully locally-sourced food (there wasn’t much left when we were done!) and Nikki agreed to answer some of our questions.
Can you describe what led to the formation of Growing Abundance?
The Growing Abundance Project was formed in 2010 after some community discussions were had about community gardening, food waste and the growing Transition Town movement that had started in the UK. One of our local orchardists was concerned about the amount of wasted fruit she had that could be used but was not suitable for the markets. The need for creating a localized economy arose from these discussions and the elements needed to start this were formed.
We now run a harvest program that harvests from existing backyard and orchard fruit trees and share this amongst our community.
The Canteen business serves local and preferably organic food to our school kids, the catering business demonstrates wonderful ways with seasonal and local produce and our Hub Plot Garden looks fantastic all year round. In all our actions we work as advocates for local food, happy farmers and a healthy local economy and planet.
What has been the most rewarding experience of the Growing Abundance journey so far?
The most rewarding experience so far has been seeing connections in the community made through food. In the beginning we were a place for people to drop excess produce for others to use and now we see members of the community doing this more and more without us. The awareness around supporting local growers is increasing as well.
We are also loving creating ethical social enterprises and developing ways to normalize the use of local food. Oh the list could go on!
If a national food initiative was to take elements from the operating methods of Growing Abundance, what changes would you like to see rolled out nationwide?
More procurement policies in place for larger organisations like local councils, schools and businesses to source local and seasonal food. Less imported food particularly when it can comparably be grown here. I would love to see more growers as our average farming age is 53 and more financial incentives for young people to start growing.
The National Food Plan was developed by the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance a few years back which began this work and continues to do so.
What do you see as the greatest challenges facing today’s food consumers?
Convenience and price. It is really hard to deny that buying a tin of tomatoes is cheaper and easier that bottling your own. Our economy is based around paying less for food so we can have bigger mortgages and better lifestyles. In the meantime it is common knowledge that a cheap item is not necessarily cheap. There are far reaching impacts including the work conditions and pay rates for people in other countries as well as the impacts on our local workers and farmers.
What does 2021 hold for Growing Abundance?
Our café (opening in 2017) will have created a viable market for more market gardeners to start growing and the demand for local food (which is much tastier) will increase. More people will be growing and sharing produce and consumers will preference local food over supermarket bought and we will be less grant dependent.
In the meantime, we will still be promoting local food, it’s benefits to the eater, the grower and the earth it is grown on. I think we have a long way to go when we come up against big globalized food industries but maybe by 2040 there will be some significant changes in the way we eat and respect the planet. My prediction is only through necessity (economic or otherwise) will it come.