Real Dirt on CERES: an update
'Where to' for Fair Food: Results of our December Exit Survey
News from our Farmers: Schulz Organic Dairy, Harding St on the ABC, Feijoas Return & Loui Retires
Events: Meetups, Michael Ableman
News From Our Food Hosts
'Outside the Box' Food Blog: 3rd Edition
New & Awesome Ethical Food Resources Online
Real Dirt on CERES Update
It's a now been over a month since the The Sunday Age reported that produce grown at CERES Organic Farm was banned from sale because of lead contamination, just the week before CERES Organic Farm was given the 'all clear' by Moreland Council. The truth was a lot less spectacular; five privately leased 4x4m community garden plots had lead above recommended levels. Understandably fear spread quickly and in the following weeks people stayed away from CERES. Sales of Fair Food boxes dropped alarmingly, while the CERES Market, traditionally attended by families, felt like a ghost town. For a while it looked as though one poorly researched article might force Fair Food and the CERES Market to close.
We responded with "The Real Dirt on CERES," an article in our last newsletter and an info page on the CERES website, several articles in the Moreland Leader and one in Crikey. With the truth coming out, the community began to rally around CERES; people returned to the CERES Market and the vibe shifted from fearful to positive. At Fair Food sales went from the quietest two weeks in months to one of our biggest weeks ever! It all culminated in the best attended Harvest Festival in 10 years. It was an uplifting experience to feel the groundswell of support. People simply decided CERES Market and Fair Food was not going to be closed by a careless newspaper, hungry for a sensational story.
Thank you to everyone who wrote emails and letters, gave legal advice and shared "The Real Dirt on CERES." A very special thanks to our farmers, Paul Haar from Archies Creek and Noleen Glavish from Emmaline Farm who donated food to help CERES through the downturn in trade. Meanwhile at CERES, the five community garden plot holders with lead levels above safe limits are being helped to get their soil right so they can grow food again. To ensure the kind of fear and panic that was generated by The Sunday Age article won't happen again CERES, with the help of Moreland Council, are instituting a regular soil and plant testing regime.
To date, The Sunday Age have not apologised or corrected the article.
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Where to from here for Fair Food
When your workplace is threatened with closure it really sharpens your thinking. In the gloom that followed The Sunday Age article we took a hard look at what Fair Food is doing. Two years ago when we started Fair Food we dreamed we could be more than an ethical business demonstration project. We wanted to make a positive difference to an unfair food system. Everybody knows Coles and Woolworths control 70-80% of the grocery market. Their insatiable need to post larger and larger profits coupled with their enormous buying power gives them the motivation and the ability to push down the prices they pay to farmers and processers. The outcome is that citrus farmers get 20 cents per kilo for oranges, fancy lettuce farmers get 10 cents per head and dairy farmers 30 cents a litre for their milk*. Low prices push smaller growers off the land and leave room for only the growers who can produce at an industrial scale.
Fair Food has farmers lining up to sell their produce for fair prices but we can only buy as much food as our customers need. And while over 5000 people have signed up as Fair Food members since 2010 only 1000 shop regularly.
What's going on? People are looking for an alternative to the big supermarkets but something's obviously not working in our Fair Food model? We surveyed all the people who had tried Fair Food but were no longer buying a box and we heard two things time and time again - I'd love to support Fair Food but I want to be able to choose my produce and I can't always make it to Food Hosts, so I need a home delivery option.
We want as many people to be able to buy from Fair Food as possible, so over the next few months we're introducing a pick-your-own box feature and offering a carbon offset home delivery service. It'll cost a bit more to shop this way but we understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to food.
Now Fair Food has survived it's only made us more determined to connect more people with local food, employ more workers looking for their first jobs in Australia and give more farmers a fair price for their produce.
CERES Fair Food and Organic Farm
*CERES Fair Food pays our farmers $1.30 per kg of oranges, $1.40-$1.80 per head of fancy lettuce and $2 for a litre of milk delivered direct from the farm - check out the Schulz Organic Dairy article below.
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News From Our Farmers
Schulz Organic Milk at Fair Food
Michael Schulz manages Victoria's oldest organic dairy. He also has the good fortune of being the son of the legendary Herman Schulz, the man who created Timboon Farmhouse Cheese. Schulz Organic Farms is on 832 acres of very fertile land South West of Timboon. Striving to create a self sufficient system that builds and sustains soil fertility, the Schulz's have used crop rotation and composts to enhance the vitality of the soil, grasses and animals. Micheal's son, Simon (pictured), with help from Herman started processing small batches of whole milk from friesian and jersey cows right on farm in 2006. Committed to keeping as much vitality in the milk as possible, the Schulz's process their milk at a much lower pasteurising temperature for a longer time than mainstream processors. Schulz milk is on special this month, get some from our webstore or CERES Market.
The Return of the Feijoa
Paul and Terri Haar are our only growers of the much sort after feijoa a.k.a pineapple guava. Dubbed "the new banana" by Fair Food staff during last years banana drought - Paul and Terri's feijoas were so popular we couldn't keep up with demand. Popular in New Zealand back yards for decades, if you haven't tried them yet you're in for a treat - their sweet tangy flavour and slightly gritty texture inspire frenzied sessions where a bowlful somehow disappears before your eyes. You can find them in the extras section on our webstore
At 75 one of our all-time favourite farmers has called it a day. This Monday Loui (short for Aloyouis) Van Den Broek will drive a ute load of butternuts from his 10 acre farm in Pearcedale to stand 50 at the Melbourne Markets for the last time. Loui is a master grower - his corn, leeks, celeriac, bok choi, broadbeans, beets and fennel are much admired by other growers. He is also an extremely hard worker and has never employed anyone to help him, he grumbles that they can't keep up so he doesn't bother. There aren't many like Loui and, as I write this, I can't believe I will no longer be vying to learn his secret corn variety or be pleading with him to stay for just one more season. All the best and thanks for the produce and the conversations Loui.
CERES' Harding St Market Garden on ABC's Gardening Australia
Episode 3 of the current series of Gardening Australia's featured a story on our own heritage market garden on the banks of the Merri in Coburg. Joe Garita, our garden mentor, now 87, told the story of how he and his family took over the garden in 1945 from Chinese market gardeners and farmed it until 2006 when he handed the lease to CERES Organic Farm. Once upon a time, gardens and farms dotted the banks of Merri Creek and fed a significant local population. If you missed the episode, here's the link where you can download the story
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Fair Food Meetups
Ever done a Meetup? Meetups are groups of people who want to connect with others who share an interest or passion. Fair Food have a Meetup page check it out and sign up here. This Saturday the 5th of May at 6pm we're heading to Slowdown Cafe in the deep south to St Kilda for our first Meetup.
Find out more and RSVP here.
CERES Short Courses
Many of you would be familiar with our Complete Urban Farmer Course. This fourteen week course attracts great numbers of individuals wanting to get hands-on training in everything from beekeeping to building healthy soils to mushroom growing. CERES Training also run a number of other gardening and cooking related eight week short courses and are introducing 'Cooking for Blokes' and 'Cooking on a Budget' for the first time. Each course is run by qualified trainers and are designed to re-skill adults with hands-on training in a real environment. All of the attached courses attract funding from Adult Community Further Education (ACFE) and really low tuition fees apply to those who have not completed studies beyond Year 12. 'The Cooking for Life' and 'Gardening for All Abilities' courses are designed for those with disabilities who have left the school system. These courses are appropriately paced and provide a safe environment to engage in valuable learning. Click here for more info.
We were very excited at CERES Organic Farm to host international guest farmer, Michael Ableman in April. Michael who was a big inpiration in the development of CERES Organic Farm is a leader in sustainable organic agriculture. He is the founder of The Centre for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, a non-profit organisation based on one of the oldest and most diverse organic farms in Southern California. Michael did a workshop at CERES and also appeared at the inspiring Growers and Eaters Forum in Bendigo.
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News from Our Food Hosts
Food Hosts gather for Work... no wait, Funshops!
As part of a new community engagement plan for CERES Fair Food, all through May we are organising workshops for Food Hosts to meet, share and learn practical ways of engaging with members, community media and local events. We believe these events are an important way to foster a collaborative spirit in making Fair Food ever more successful in fulfilling its social and environmental objectives.
If you're a Food Host and you haven't RSVP'd for one yet, please book a session here. The first one is THIS WEDNESDAY onsite at the CERES Van Raay Centre, from 6:30-7:30pm.
Food Hosts Come On Down
Last month Food Hosts, Lauren, Owen and Gus, visited us at the Fair Food warehouse and gave us a hand packing boxes. Thanks for the help guys. We love hosting people and sharing what happens behind the scenes in our food system. If you have a Food Host enquiry or want to come see what's going down at Fair Food, please contact Jesse Hull, our Food Host Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Save Your Box & Save the World!
Well not really but every little bit helps. So make sure you flatten your box and leave it at your Food Host and we'll reuse it if it's clean and strong. Or, if it's ready to go to the other side, we'll recycle it.
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'Outside the Box' 3rd Edition
Jesse Hull works at Fair Food managing the packing line, deliveries and Food Hosts. He is also a Food Host himself and a great cook. Jesse's blog is called Outside The Box and it documents his continuing journey with the contents of his weekly Fair Food fruit & veggie box. Read about Jesse's exciting, inspiring and sometimes even controversial use of produce. In previous blogs he triumphed over a childhood aversion to onions, explored the virtues of roasting grapes and this week he tackles an Attack of the Killer (a.k.a awesome) pumpkins.
Did you know we're also on Facebook and Twitter? Become our friend, share tweets and connect with other Fair Food people.
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Sustainable Table and The Locavore Edition
Want a couple of great ethical food resources then check out Sustainable Table and The Locavore Edition. Full of stories and links to local producers, local events, farmers market listings, blogs, projects and information galore about local food. The Locavore Edition is also home of the comprehensive Field Guide to Victorian Produce, a guide to over 300 local growers, producers and providers.
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