ECOSS SEMINAR SERIES
Organic Farmers Seminar, Post Event Page
At our Open Day
Tuesday 22nd July, 9am to 1pm
At Yarra Valley ECOSS, 711 Old Warburton Road, Wesburn
Inspiring Speakers On Topical Organic Farming Issues
Tours of the organic edible plants and native plants nurseries led by ECOSS Nursery Managers
Compost Demonstration: Local inventor Mike Morrison will provided a demonstration of his Bio fuel Cell Composter
Mobilizing Community Networks – the New Paradigm of Farming
The Yarra Ranges are notable for their networks of small innovative skilled family farms that are successfully using community engagement to build their businesses. A key theme of the ECOSS Seminar was how this community approach can be deepened and broadened via social networks, co-operative venture and mentoring to enable more small farmers to benefit from the economies of working together and connecting with supportive networks and communities. As Ian Cumming summarised at the end – this is the ‘new paradigm of farming’ that will enable a broader transition to sustainable forms of agriculture.
A great crowd braved chilly temperatures and found their seats on hay bales in our Community Hub
(otherwise known as one of ‘the old chook sheds’) and provided an attentive audience to our inspiring speakers. With hot fires to stand around and tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cakes and muffin provided by Chelsea and volunteers at the back, and the aromas of sausages, veggieburgers and hot vegetable soup (with vegetables from Little Feet Farm) served up by the kids of Upper Yarra Secondary College
, we had a great atmosphere.
The event was facilitated by David St Maur Sheil who welcomed everyone on behalf of ECOSS and thanked our supporters. Local Councillor Jim Childs stressed the value of the partnership between the Council and ECOSS and noted the potential for putting ECOSS on the tourist map with links to the proposed Mountain Biking trail.
Shaun Bayly, Community Enterprise Manager, ECOSS on Farm Fodder Strips:
Shaun talked briefly about the value to farmers, in particular live-stock farmers – of adopting farm-fodder strips on their land and encouraged any local farmers interested to contact us to help with establishing such strips. He noted in particular the benefits to the land and soil, the benefits to livestock nutrition and health and also the potential of gaining carbon credits though such planting.
The first panel focused on Organic farming techniques and approaches:
Chris Brock, Yarra Valley Seedsavers.
Chris is an environmental scientist, and the convener of Yarra Valley Seedsavers as well as a member of Seed Savers Network, founded by Jude and Michel Fanton. He used a dried sunflower head and a glass jar as props to explain that saving seeds is both easy and yet needs attention to certain steps. He also talked about the networks of seed saving groups around the country. ECOSS will certainly look forward to getting some seeds from Chris in the future.
Piers Parmenta of Neutrog Organic Fertilisers
– formed in 1988 near Adelaide Neutrog has grown to become one of the largest manufactures of organic fertiliser in the Country. Piers provided practical insights into organic fertilizer and the pros and cons of using fertilizer in liquid or pellet form.
Ian Cumings, Beenak Farm.
After getting everyone to hop about and warm up, Ian explained how he had farmed using biodynamic principles for more than twenty years and currently grows kiwi-fruit at his farm. He provided a brief introduction to biodynamic and emphasised the biodynamic focus on seeing each farm as a self-sufficient microcosm in terms of building up the fertility and health of the soil and the farm.
Ellise Rickard, The Gawler Foundation.
Ellise Rickard manages the organic farm at the Gawler Foundation. Since 1983 over 75,000 people from around the world have turned to The Gawler Foundation for health retreats, programs and cancer support services. Ellise explained how she and her colleagues drew on a wide range of techniques from organic, permaculture and biodynamic sources to find out what worked practically at the farm. It was also inspiring how many groups and organisations, particularly corporate groups, had come to the farm and gained benefit from the participatory and healing activities there.
The Second Panel – Growing the Organic Market.
We moved the Second Panel out to a patch of sun at the entrance to the Community Hub, where four inspirational ladies provided insight on how they engaged with local and wider communities to build their businesses through the power of supportive networks. As noted by David a good theme for the panel was ‘No Farmer stands alone’ and furthermore that the Yarra Valley is notable for the number of community oriented farming initiatives that have been developing here.
– Little Feet Farm.
Luna and her partner Stu set up Little Feet Farm in 2006 with the driving ambition to grow food in a natural way with minimal impact on the environment, free of chemicals and high in nutrition that promotes good health. They adopted a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model with members and regular box scheme. They also find a market through the Little Yarra Steiner School Community. Luna emphasised how the CSA model provided the support for them to grow according to their own organic principles and also provide some support and connect with refugees and third-world farming communities, thereby living by their deeply held principles.
Caroline Suggate – Eat Local, Eat Wild
. Caroline and her husband raise locally grown, chemical free chicken,beef and lamb in the North East, and Yarra Valley and provide direct to their members and the local community and Caroline has been very progressive at developing the community network to support her farm. Caroline shared several practical suggestions on how they had met challenges such as building a community based distribution system. She noted that, due to the high nutritional quality of their meat, many of her customers had gradually reduced the overall amount of meat they ate. She also talked about the challenges of ethical slaughtering of livestock whilst keeping in line with the strict slaughtering regulations in the State
Anne Roberts, Yarra Valley Bee Group.
Anne has been one of the movers and shakers behind the YV Bee Group. The YV Bee Group is a very successful local community enterprise which has also provided a great deal of education and advice on bees and the value of bees to our natural environment and to farming, and also raised awareness on the great present danger to bee populations from such as conventional farming and chemical spraying. Anne shared on how they had built their group as a successful community enterprise and she emphasised very strongly the importance of using social media to build and support farmers.
, Executive Director, Organic Empire. Angela has set up Organic Empire as the heart of a good food movement, in order to change the way that we all think, approach, treat and eat food and in a way that enriches our heritage, culture and enjoyment of food. She talked about how Organic Empire had built relationships with several local farmers and suppliers, which includes Ian Cummings at Beenak Farm, and she emphasised again the importance of building skills and gaining confidence in social media and engagement and communications with the community in order to build a successful business.
Again, there was a very active discussion session following the presentations with great interest in how local farmers can transition from a lifestyle approach to farming to a commercial basis, and what resources, from shared facilities to mentoring, are available in the community or can be developed by the farmers themselves, bearing in mind the limited resources of a typical smaller scale farmer.
There was great feedback after the event and thanks again to all who helped, volunteered, spoke and attended.
-David St Maur Shiel
Business Development Manager
Yarra Valley ECOSS.
There was active discussion and Q&A afterwards, with questions to all the panellists.
Food and Drink: Stalls providing snacks and lunch hosted by the students of Upper Yarra Secondary School, Coffee, tea, Chai was also available
Schedule was as follows:
Program as follows:
o 9am – ECOSS opens
o 9.30 – Seminar Welcome David St Maur Sheil, Business Development Manager, ECOSS Cr. Jim Child, Councillor O’Shannassy Ward
o 9.40 – Panel, Organic Growing and Techniques Shaun Bayly, Community Enterprise Manager, ECOSS – Farm Fodder Tree Strips on your Land Chris Brock, Seed Savers Network, Piers Parmenta Neutrog Organic Fertilisers Ian Cumings, Beenak Farm Biodynamic Fruit Farming Panel Discussion
o 11.00 – Compost Demonstration Local inventor Mike Morrison will provide a demonstration of his Biofuel Cell Composter
o 11.20 – Panel, Growing the Organic Market Luna and Stu White Ryder, Little Feet Farm – Community Supported Agriculture Caroline Stuggate, Eat Local, Eat Well – Ethical Meat Farming and Supplying the Community Anne Roberts, Yarra Valley Bee Group, Gawler Foundation.
To – 12.45 Lunch
Afternoon – Nursery Tours
More photos from the day can be seen Here
Tel: 03 5967 2416 Tues-Thurs 9.30 – 3pm
Address: 711 Old Warburton Road, Wesburn, VIC 3797