Last weekend, the Food Connect Foundation hosted farmer and author of Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture – A New Earth, Dr Charles Massy, who, along with Ray and Sam Palmer from Symara Organic Farm explored regenerative farming practices and how farmers are playing a pivotal role in healing the land. It was an appeal to encourage more farmers to become the new environmentalists.

While in Brisbane, we got to show Charlie around the humble Food Connect Shed and share our vision of how a local food hub could represent a crucial link between regenerative farmers and city eaters as part of the underground insurgency to create a fairer food system. On his return home, he took time out of his incredibly busy schedule to write his reflections about our plans, and we just had to share them here.

Thanks, Charlie – it was such a pleasure to host you and we’re so humbled by your support!


An underground insurgency

At this most crucial moment in our planetary, national, environmental and social existence, there is an increasing and urgent recognition that – if we wish to pass on a healthy environment and equitable society to our children and grandchildren – then things must change. There is also a realisation that change from ‘the top’ (governments, policy, UN, IPCC and so on) will be too slow and is too penetrated by vested interests.

However, the exciting reality is that bottom-up driven efforts are proving the most effective, rapid and democratic processes of change (economically, socially and environmentally). We are seeing this in the rapidly rising regenerative agriculture movement and now also in widespread food-social movements across the globe: whether the 200 million peasant farmer movement of La Via Campesina, or in a plethora of regional and social movements such as farmers’ markets, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture groups), and exemplary pioneering models like Brisbane’s Food Connect.

All these ‘bottom-up’ movements – what I call an ‘underground insurgency’ (as they are built on healthy agro-ecology farming transparently providing healthy, nutritious, chemical-free food off healthy soils and landscapes to local people) – are the pathfinders. As such, I believe they are the salvation of a new, healthy and more just society.

For over thirteen years Food Connect in Brisbane (initially instigated and led by Robert Pekin and then jointly with his partner, Emma-Kate Rose) has been one of the leading arrow-heads of constructive and visionary change in Australia. By linking regenerative farmers to urban consumers of like-mind they have been pioneers in democratising a food system; in making it fairer and more transparent and equitable to growers, eaters and ‘the plate’; in eliminating waste; and thus in instigating creative, positive, immediate and demonstrable regional social, environmental and economic improvements. These include defining a true cost of production for farmers with fair commensurate returns, and in turn delivering, via fair and transparent connection to urban consumers, direct social and environmental impacts.

Food Connect has now reached the next important evolutionary stage in this necessary transformative process. That process is the creation of a vibrant, openly-evolving food hub based around the imaginative re-envisioning and re-creation of a community-owned, revamped warehouse and social and community hub: the Food Connect Shed.

By providing the ongoing connection of ecologically healthy, nutritious food from farmers to urban consumers, the Food Connect Shed concept is doing more than just pioneering the next crucially needed change-step needed for our society. It plays a multi-transformative role by further expanding the existing diverse social ecosystem to include and empower like-minded commercial food processing facilities, retail shop-fronts and co-working spaces. Moreover, the ‘Shed’ will serve as a national template for ethical, fair, and ecological and social transformative change.

I believe this is one of the most important democratic, social and positive change developments in Australia today. Therefore, I most strongly encourage – and with all my heart – anyone who wishes to see a healthier world and future to invest in this exciting and path-creating development.

Dr. Charles Massy: farmer, and author of Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture – A New Earth.