In fields and backyards in and around Melbourne there’s a new crop of farmers sowing the seeds of organic and regenerative change.
Market gardeners like Paul Miragliotta at Days Walk, Remi Durand at Remi’s Patch, Joe;s Garden’s Em Connors and Bellfield city farmers Kirsty, Pat and Charlotte are stepping in to fill the shoes of retiring organic pioneers from the 80’s and 90’s .
At its heart farming is an act-of-faith – each season you start anew, work hard, hoping things go your way and at the end there will be enough of a harvest to go again for the next season.
For a new farmer successfully working in harmony with dozens of natural variables to bring in a crop of broccolini or yellow pear tomatoes is a small miracle of timing, hard work and good luck.
And for many new growers this seasonal dance with the Earth is what farming’s all about – there is however another mundane yet equally important side of farming that goes wrong all too often.
CERES Fair Food’s Produce Buyer, Joshua Arzt, regularly receives calls from distressed growers desperately looking for somewhere to sell produce that doesn’t have a market.
This week a call came in to help a Mildura watermelon grower who had 20 tonnes of freshly picked melons and no buyer. Sadly this kind of market-failure happens to farmers everyday.
Joshua Arzt is a tall, plainspoken Brooklyn native; in trademark wireframe spectacles he’s been buying organic produce in Melbourne since the early nineties.
Back in the day Josh remembers the Footscray wholesale organic produce market being very tightly controlled by a group of farmers – in some cases “Soup Nazi” like rituals were required in order to secure a few cases of apples or a regular supply of bunched spinach.
Thirty years later the organic produce market has changed completely – today there are so many options for farmers and buyers – Farmers Markets, CSA’s, wholesale agents, the Open Food Network, even farm direct sales on Facebook.
And these days with thirty years’ experience and a large procurement budget Joshua finds his role in organic market has also changed.
Using Fair Food’s buying power constructively, Joshua gives new farmers like Paul, Remy, Emily, Pat, Kirsty and Charlotte another source of income while they grow their farm direct sales.
Joshua also acts as a back-up market in emergencies – it only takes a tomato crop to come on all at once or a rainy weekend when no one comes to your Farmers Market stall to leave a grower with hundreds of kilos of unsold produce.
To Joshua this is no act of do-goodery just a wise investment in the future.
This week CERES Fair Food is getting (among other things) from our young farmers;
Spring Onions from Paul at Day’s Walk Farm
Bok choy from Remi’s Patch
Cherry tomatoes from Em at Joe’s Garden
Cucumber from Kirsty, Pat & Charlotte at Bellfield
Have a great week