I often wonder how many Tammi Jonas’s there actually are.  That’s Tammi above on the left in the brown chequered shirt surrounded by volunteer helpers in a barn/classroom raised especially for Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance’s (AFSA) recent sellout fundraiser at Jonai Farms.  

Not only is Tammi a farmer, a retailer and a parent, she has also been one of the driving forces behind AFSA’s Legal Defence Fund supporting small farmers who find themselves tangled in inappropriate food safety or town planning regulations. Why would seemingly harmless small farmers need a legal defence fund you ask? Well have you ever wondered what happened to those returnable glass bottles of Elgaar Farm organic milk that used to grace various Victorian food retailer’s fridges?  

In 2014 the Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority (TDIA) introduced new food safety regulations designed for large industrial dairy operations. The TDIA’s anti-bacterial “kill everything good or bad”approach was directly at odds with Elgaar’s probiotic methods which encouraged beneficial bacterial populations to out- compete pathogens like listeria.

And so after 20 years of selling milk and cheese to over 140 shops without a food safety incident the TDIA, instead of working with them, demanded Elgaar’s owners, the Gretschmann family, hand-in its processor’s license or lose it forever.

While Joe and Antonia Gretschmann are considered Australian organic dairy pioneers, their methods originating from dairy practices developed over hundreds of years in Joe’s Bavarian homeland, it was not lost on Joe and Antonia that in Europe their traditional practices would have been honoured and encouraged, but here in Tasmania they were being put out of business.  

For the next two years as they reapplied for their new license  Joe and Antonia almost went broke.  While doing the months of unpaid work to satisfy TDIA’s new requirements they sadly let go a dozen employees and watched two sons leave the farm. Meanwhile their unused milk was being dumped on the fields as fertiliser.

Finally, in August 2016, with a food safety plan that had grown from 60 to 600 pages and a $400,000 debt, the Gretschmann’s regained their license to process milk and cheese (though as you may have noticed Elgaar Farm’s milk is yet to return to the mainland).

Last Saturday more than 500 people gathered in Tammi and Stuart Jonas’ community raised barn to hear Joel Salatin and other inspiring farmers tell their stories and raise an incredible $40,000 to help families like the Gretschmanns fight unfair regulations and rulings that can devastate small farmers and prevent others from even trying.

You can donate to AFSA’s Legal Defence Fund here.

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