Growing Farmers
Growing farmers

My sisters, brother and I grew up being farmed out to my relatives’ farms during school holidays to help pick up hay in the summer and then feed it out again in the winter.

My mother, a schoolteacher, was the first in her family to get a degree. It went without saying that almost everyone the family knew and everyone who came before them were all farmers.

Going home after the holidays to our tiny block in a new suburb felt like we were odd ones out.

Less than a generation later all of our family’s farms had been sold.  My grandfather, aunties, uncles and cousins, part a great shift in agricultural economics, had moved into towns and cities.  

These days only around one percent of the population are still farmers. Sadly, my sons will never be sent off to help cousins pick up and feed out hay during their school holidays.

This migration from city to country however is about to run into a demographic cul-de-sac

At the recent Age Care Royal Commission it was reported that the average age of an Australian farmer is 59 – that’s 20 years older than most industries.

The kicker is that within the next fifteen years 50% of our farmers are expected to retire.

Which begs the question – who is going to farm?  Who will grow our food?

Which begs another question – if you want to farm and you’re not from a farming family and you have no land, how do you even begin to learn?

Organic farming is still a small enough world that when an established grower retires we feel a noticeable gap in supply.

At Fair Food we’re always looking to support new farmers who we know will one day step up to fill the boots of the Joe Sgro’s, the Jason and Marg Alexandra’s and the Helen and Peter Kamvissis’s.

The thing is skilled organic farmers just don’t magically happen – they need land, training, resources and time to learn the discipline and intricate skills it takes to reliably grow and bring in a crop.  

Which is where Growing Farmers comes in;

Growing Farmers is a Melbourne community organisation fostering the next generation of aspiring growers.

Their Backyard Farmers Project matches trainee regenerative farmers with residents who have large unused front or backyards.

Growing Farmers covers ongoing costs for compost, mulch, and seeds and provides mentoring, infrastructure and equipment to help the young growers create a flourishing, small-scale market garden.

Farmers donate, swap, or sell produce to their community and make friends with neighbours on volunteer days, meetups and farm tours.

This fledgling program has matched farmers to five backyard farms (check out their great video here featuring new farmers Catie and George and their farm host, Sapphire).

Our goal is that some of these young farmers will graduate from borrowed backyards to their own land become the regenerative growers who will feed us into the future.

And to do that we’re going to send Fair Food’s Pay-It-Forward donations to Growing Farmers right through autumn – you can find the link here.

Open Table Friday Foodbank monthly market
Fair Food’s Pay-it-Forward

In 2020, during the lockdowns Open Table and their partners, Cultivating Community and Yarra Libraries, were providing fresh food relief parcels for a growing number of people with little income or access to Jobkeeper.

In support, Fair Food launched a Pay-it- Forward and to date you have paid forward over $47,000, including a $10,000 donation from Fair Food.

These funds have purchased thousands of fresh food parcels for people to cook in their own home, and supported the ongoing Friday Free Food Market which continues on a monthly basis.

We’ll be having another Pay-it-Forward for Open Table this winter, in the meantime you can learn more about them here.

Have a great week

Chris

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