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Support Community, Shop Organic

By Jaari Heyes

Photos by Regeneration Projects from a recent BBFH working bee

From an early age Lynda Hoare (pictured fourth from left) was attracted to the notion of producing food from the land you live on. This gravitation towards low-scale food systems began on her grandparents farm, where she was familiarised with the diversity of dairy cows, vegetable gardens and orchards all flourishing in one place.

“I’ve had a lifelong fascination with food production. We eventually purchased our own farm and began to produce blueberries, hazelnuts and a range of vegetables that we sold each week at Melbourne farmers markets,” says Lynda.

“We were asked by locals to pack weekly veggie boxes for people in Warragul and the demand grew quickly for them. It was during this time we decided to take a collaborative approach to selling local produce, so we reached out to other farmers.”

Starting in 2013 as a vegetable box scheme, Baw Baw Food Hub was soon established with the intent to create a place for producers to connect with their consumers through their shared valuing of organic local food. Today, the Food Hub offers a full range of groceries and collaborates with over 50 farmers and food producers throughout the changing seasons. This non-for-profit organisation is run by a small group of workers and volunteers, ensuring farmers are paid properly and that the vegetable boxes are affordable.

“Our principles with the food farms are very much about supporting and facilitating a diversity of food production. There are limited diverse systems and few vegetables grown locally in West Gippsland,” says Lynda.

“We’re here to support farmers who want to grow local diverse produce, in ecological farming systems.”

Lynda’s urge to tackle the pressing issues of agriculture in the modern food system does not stop at the Food Hub. Through studies for a Masters of Environment, including learning about food politics, she recognised that there is limited support or training in regenerative farming in Australia.

“My PhD case study is on ecological market gardeners in Australia, and how they devise strategies to pursue their environmental and social goals, whilst working to make a living and stay in business,” says Lynda.

“Agriculture is failing us on many levels. It’s destructive of nature, rural communities, farmers wellbeing and human health. A profound change and transformation needs to happen in agriculture, and it’s places like Baw Baw Food Hub that are significant in a bottom up contribution to this transformation.”

Supporting local farmers has never been more crucial. The dedication from the community to shop in a more conscious way is the key to empowering and motivating farmers throughout the globe. I understand individuals can be driven by the idea of convenience and expenses when shopping for food, but now is the time to look beyond these barriers.

“Create a habit that fulfils your ethical stance and stay committed to that habit,” says Lynda.

“When you shop organic you’re paying for cleaner rivers, reduced climate change impacts, animal welfare benefits and overall health. You’re paying for so much more than just the food.”

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