What can Canberra learn from Tasmania’s local food communities?

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As a passionate local food advocate my recent visit to Hobart, Bruny Island and the Huon Valley was always going to have an agenda of talking, seeing and tasting local food. I know I know, ‘hard work but somebody has to do it”. What an unforgettable week of bushwalking, eating and drinking. Highlights included:

  • delicious and generous servings of locally sourced pub food on Bruny Island (like Huon Valley chicken breasts with Bruny Island cheese),
  • cheeses from Bruny Island Cheese and Wicked Cheese with depth of flavor far beyond comparison with the large commercial cheeses (Bruny Island’s Saint is probably the nicest soft cheese I have ever had).
  • Delicious salads and great company in a vibrant community atmosphere at The Lotus Eaters Café in Cygnet
  • The spirit lifting wonders of Hobart’s Farmgate Market such as
    • Amazing barbecued octopus from the Tasman Peninsula with an ouzo shot,
    • the best sour-dough donuts ever courtesy of Lady Hester (the dark chocolate and sticky rhubarb were amazing),
    • warming bone broth from Mountain Pepper Pizza
    • Toulouse sausages bought from Ross O’Meara of Bruny Island Food
  • Catching up with the dynamic Hannah and Anton from Hobart’s Good Life Permaculture and Hobart City Farm; and last but not least
  • Enjoying the generosity and fabulous cooking of my sister and brother in law.

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As you can see I wasn’t disappointed by the food on offer, and I learnt a lot about the local food scene. Here are my observations of key elements to this vibrant local food community and economy.

  1. Cafes, food stalls and restaurants make a habit of purchasing locally grown food. This ensures the viability of small farmers and producers and provides a confidence and culture for fostering new farming and food start-ups
  2. …and they say so publicly, and in doing so have established “local” as a distinguishing feature valued by residents and visitors alike.
  3. Degrees of separation between grower and producer are reduced through telling the story of where the food comes from. I reckon those stories also increase the enjoyment of the food.
  4. Farm gate sales are widespread throughout the region ranging from small honesty boxes to beautifully presented farm located shopfronts – a win-win situation for producers and consumers alike.
  5. A very diverse range of foods are grown or produced locally and valued, including by households and community groups for their own use – creating interest and providing a wide range of opportunities for entrepreneurial growers and producers.

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Can these lessons be applied to the Canberra region?

In a word, ‘yes’!

Okay, this area of Tasmania has a much different climate, and geology, but the strength of truly local / regional food systems is they are expressions of their location rather than homogenous copies of a dominant culture and market.

Australia’s capital region already has a great range of producers from our local dry, cold climate producers to the wonderful seafood and dairy products of the south coast. We also have a strong group of community based organisations and producer networks championing our regional food products.

Together we are building a local food community that can stand proudly next to the fine example set by Tasmania’s food regions yet is unique to our region. So get out there and support your local farmers and food producers, grow and share your own food and proudly tell the story.

eat local

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