No rewards for food miles

Ian Mackay of Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee, Jan Green of Noosa Biosphere and Jason Lewis of Slow Food Noosa. Photo Erle Levey.

By Phil Jarratt

It was billed as the Noosa premiere of Damon Gameau’s film Regenerating Australia, a timely polemic about the virtues of regenerative farming practices, but the Country Noosa-organised soiree at The Apollonian Hotel the other night was so much more.

Part country fair, part old-time revival meeting, and a little bit Woodstock without the music – although whistling accordionist Nicholas Reefman delighted the patrons on the terrace – it brought together the leading lights of Noosa’s growing new farming movement along with a lot of new and old residents just feeling their way with permaculture gardens or small acreages.

After a rousing and entertaining Greetings to Country from Udjeee Tais, Country Noosa’s Bryant Usher explained some of the objectives of the night.

“What we’re trying to do is create a connection between consumers and all our people who produce food locally. We want to get into the restaurants and let them know that we can provide good, healthy local food. Regeneration is what we have in our minds and community and connection are at the forefront of that.”

With air travel and carbon offsets coming back into focus as travel restrictions ease, Bryant hit the nail on the head with this analogy.

“We want to eliminate food miles – there’s food that travels way too far to be consumed, and we want to reduce or eliminate that in favour of good, locally produced food.”

Guest speaker Dave Rastovich, equally renowned as a champion free-surfer and committed environmentalist, explained his unique take on permaculture.

“Over the last few years we’ve been creating what we call the Surfers Garden, which is basically bullet-proof. It can handle the laziness of surfers, and that enables us to be sustainable when things go pear-shaped.

“In the last couple of months we’ve experienced two floods and over that trying time it was so wonderful to be able to supply food, on a small scale, to our own community.

“The need for that is only going to grow with climate change and it’s good to know that our garden can withstand our surfer’s work ethic, which is pretty small when the waves are pumping.”

Rasta won the hearts and minds of the surfer/growers in the audience when he concluded, “Look, we’re complete novices. I don’t have much wisdom to share, other than this – after all the wonderful times we’ve had through surfing in our family, really none of it compares to the joy we get from being able to grow food for family, friends and community”.