Joel Salatin visits Jonai Farms for the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance

Tammi Jonas addresses a group of people

Host Tammi Jonas of Jonai Farms - a small-scale producer of pastured rare-breed large black pigs butchered, cooked and cured on farm and sold directly to their community.

The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) is all about the development of an equitable, sustainable and resilient food system for all Australians. With a focus on building and supporting more direct relationships between farmers and the people who want to buy and eat their produce, they focus on small-scale producers and community supported agriculture where food is produced in an ecologically sound and ethical way.

AFSA launched a Legal Defence Fund last year to provide advice to farmers and producers to better cope with regulatory and planning systems that are considered not to be well-suited to supporting local production, processing and consumption of agricultural food products. This weekend saw a fantastic fund-raiser with people travelling from all over the country to show their support. Soils for Life went along to hear about the opportunities of small scale agricultural production and learn about the challenges that small-scale producers are facing as they work toward sustainable, resilient production systems.

Annie Smithers

Chef Annie Smithers serves farmhouse fresh produce.

The activities kicked off with a dinner to remember by chef Annie Smithers, who uses up to 90% of her own fresh produce in her kitchen at her restaurant, du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria.

Joel Salatin, an innovative farmer from Polyface Farm in Virginia, USA shared his experience with regulations that he felt were often inconsistent and at times seemingly arbitrary. Joel spoke of the impact he saw that they had on the profitability and innovation by agricultural producers: limiting their access to markets across their communities; and reducing choice for communities who were less able to access and eat food purchased direct from the farmer. (Watch a full recording here on Costa Georgiadis' facebook page.)

Costa Georgiadis

Costa talks passionately to the crowd.

The next day, Costa Georgiadis from ABC’s Gardening Australia was joined by over 400 people at Jonai Farms in Eganstown, Victoria to learn more about the opportunities for small-scale regenerative farms and to listen to the stories of resilient farmers struggling against a complex and often ambiguous array of regulations that impacted their ability to pursue innovative small-scale agricultural production and supply their local communities.

Jonai Farm products

Jonai Farm products are butchered, cooked and cured on farm.

Jonai Farms is a small-scale producer of pastured rare-breed large black pigs with a small herd of cattle on just 69 acres. They butcher, cook and cure on farm and sell direct to their community through a subscription based community-supported agriculture arrangement. Tammi and Stuart shared their story about how they continue to learn and develop their production and marketing systems even crowdfunding their own licensed butcher shop, curing room and commercial kitchen. Along with the successes there continue to be challenges such as the risks around maintaining access to abattoirs as small-scale producers and the cost and energy of working through the regulatory and planning systems.

Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin shared his extensive experience.

Joel Salatin spoke again about his experience in the USA. He felt that the development of often arbitrary and variable regulations was driven by fears of big industrial systems characterised by a lack of transparency. This was in contrast to the more open neighbour to neighbour commerce that more fully typifies local, community based food production and consumption. The discussion highlighted concerns that whilst regulations were often portrayed as being about safety, inconsistency in application, such as where a farmer is allowed to consume their own products and share them with neighbours but not able to sell them, suggests that market access is more of a primary driver than safety.

Australian farmers Joe from Elgaar, Jo from Happy Valley and Mark from Moo View shared their stories of coping with complex and often ambiguous, changing regulation and the impact it had on their ability to sustain their family farming systems, employ locals and supply their communities.

Sally, the President of the AFSA spoke about the work of their organisation to create an equitable, sustainable and resilient food system for all Australians and how they hoped that they would be able to provide more comprehensive support to small-scale producers.

There certainly is a way to go for our systems to support strong regenerative agriculture outcomes for communities - producers and consumers alike.

Thanks to the hosts and all the presenters for an informative day and also to the traditional folk band the Ciderhouse String Band, who finished up the day with a festive spirit.

Tammi Jonas addresses a group of people

Tammi Jonas speaking at the fundraiser to help farmers and producers to better cope with regulatory and planning systems for local production, processing and consumption of agricultural food products.


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