Fair food a presence at Fair Community food systems at Randwick Ecoliving fair 2015

IF THEIR PRESENCE at Randwick Ecoliving Fair 2015 is any indication, community food systems already are an alternative means of buying food in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs.

Those present were not the total number operating along the coastal strip but they were representative.

Seed saving was a presence at the Randwick Ecoliving Fair 2015. Popular among home and community gardeners, saving the seeds of our food species is a do-it-yourself means of preserving our agricultural biodiversity through use.

A GROWING SYSTEM

The community food systems present at the Ecoliving Fair, an annual Randwick City Council event, were mostly community organisations and social enterprise set up to provide good food including what some describe as 'affordable organics'.

To achieve their social goals the social enterprises operate as small, not-for-profit businesses. This enables them to become financially self-supproting and to offer part and fulltime employment in the community food sector. Rather than distributing any surplus income to business owners or shareholders as with conventional, for-profit businesses, social enterprises reinvest it in the enterprise.

Rhubarb Food Co-operative is a member-owned buyers' group supplying affordable organic food. Rhubarb is one of several food co-ops in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs.

It is the social characteristics of the Sydney Eastern Suburbs region that make the community food systems economically viable:

  • Sydney's Eastern Suburbs are exceeded in population density only by the Potts Point area closer to the city
  • over 55 percent of the population occupy medium density dwellings, mostly apartments
  • affluence ranges from high at the northern, harbourside end of the strip to low at the southern end, with around six percent of the population occupying social housing
  • most of the population are middle class people and a large portion have a tertiary education.

It is this demographic that is demanding — not just demanding, but creating — this new, alternative food system.

The Rhubarb Food Co-op crew like their organics tasty, fresh and affordable.
With all those fresh veges it is no wonder the Rhubarb crew are smiling.

AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE INDUSTRIAL SHOPPING EXPERIENCE OF THE SUPERMARKETS

For those participating in it, the community food system offers an alternative to walking the long aisles of the supermarkets with their silly, incessant jingles and their outgassing of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) along the bathroom and laundry porducts aisles. Such is the industrial shopping experience in these dolled-up warehouses.

Where available — and coverage remains patchy — the community food system with its voluntary community organisations and its social enterprise offer a way of avoiding the supermarkets as much as possible.

Their recent fining for misconduct and bullying suppliers, their misrepresenting of products to customers and their attempt to slash the income of staff, something aided and abetted by the staff trade union, have put Australia's supermarket duopoly on the nose. Yet, for many, the supermarket is the only reasonably accessible food option.

Now, those why would rather shop with more ethical organisations are moving to the community food systems.

Fresh juice drink seller, Randwick Ecoliving Fair.

A GROWING BUNCH OF ENTERPRISES

The presence of community food systems in the Eastern Suburbs signifies how this new sector has rapidly developed over the past 15 years. It had a scattered presence in Sydney before that, with member-owned food co-operatives dating back to the 1980s, the decade when community food gardens, the DIY component of community food systems, made a start in NSW.

Systems in the region range from the grow-your-own organic food community gardens to a variety of food purchasing options such as food co-operatives, community-supported agriculture schemes that link city eaters with market gardeners and orchardists in the greater Sydney region, and organic food buying groups.

In addition to these there are the traditional greengrocers — small, for-profit businesses — that although they might not have a policy to do so, distribute much Australian produce as well as imported. Many people prefer to deal with them because of the more personalised service and the accessible scale of the shops.

A small number of organic product retailers in the region also stock fresh, organically-grown foods.

The Urban Beehive's Doug Purdie discusses honey. Doug produces raw honey from hives throughout Sydney.

NEW FOOD OPTIONS

The development of food purchasing options is important to those seeking a better, healthier diet in a medium density region with limited space for food growing.

While there is greater space for home and community food growing in less-densely populated parts of the city, cooperative buying schemes supplemented by direct farmer-to-eater sales at farmers' markets are a particular urban response to alternative food purchasing that bypasses the supermarket duopoly that in Australia controls 80 percent of the national grocery market.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN GOOD FOOD THE DIY WAY

There are now four community gardens in the Eastern Suburbs, in the Bondi to Coogee part of the strip.

They are supplemented by three food co-operatives plus Bondi Food Collective, Sydney Organic Buyers group and a social housing food box scheme, the former two being affordable organics buyers' groups.

There are three farmers' markets and a small fresh food market in the Bondi Junction mall.

The Urban Beehive's honey is labelled as to its suburb of origin. The honey in the photo was produced in hives in Sydney's central business district.

An alternative food supply

The growth of the community food sector in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs echoes its growth in other parts of the city as well as in other Australian cities.

Today, the sector constitutes an alternative food supply chain reaching from Australian growers and regional farmers, through social enterprise and small, for-profit food distributors to urban eaters.

The Randwick Farmers' Market crew.

Sydney Eastern Suburbs community food systems:

  • Bondi Farmers' Market http://www.bondimarkets.com.au/farmers/
  • Randwick Farmers' Market, Randwick Public School. http://randwickfarmersmarket.com.au/
  • EQ Village Markets http://www.eqmoorepark.com.au/eq-village-markets
  • Bondi Junction Village Markets http://www.marketsnsw.com.au/bondi-junction-organic-food-farmers-market.htm
  • Ooooby (a community- supported agriculture scheme serving the metropolitan area including the Eastern Suburbs) https://www.ooooby.org/sydney
  • Doorstop Organics (serves metropolitan area including Eastern Suburbs) https://www.doorsteporganics.com.au
  • Randwick Organic Buyers Group http://www.organicbuyersgroup.org/Home/branches/randwick
  • Thoughtful Foods Co-operative http://www.thoughtfulfoods.org.au/
  • Rhubarb Food Co-operative http://rhubarbfood.org.au/
  • Bondi Food Collective http://www.bondifoodcollective.org/

Community gardens:

  • Coogee Community Garden https://coogeegarden.wordpress.com/
  • Randwick Community Organic Garden http://www.rcog.org.au/
  • 241 Bondi Road Community Garden http://transitionbondi.org/bondi-farm/
  • Waverley Community Garden http://waverleyparkcommunalgarden.org/
The author of a new food book and seed saving and horticultural educator, Emma Daniell (right) at the Ecoliving Fair. 
Inner West Seedsaver's Jon Kingston offered workshops in saving vegetable and herb seeds for later planting.
There were plenty of goods ideas on offer at the Ecoliving Fair.
Non-hybrid, traditional seeds and the manual about how to save them.
Vicky works with Doug Purdie at The Urban Beehive.
Permaculture food preserver with jam made from the native raspberry.
Native raspberries ready to turn into sweet, tasty jam.
Seed saving trainer and horticulturist, Jon Kingston, is an educator at James Street Reserve Community Garden.
Thoughtful Foods is a food co-op based at the University of NSW in Randwick and is open to the general public. Like other food co-ops Thoughtful Food is a member-owned social enterprise.

Story and photos: © Russ Grayson

Created By
Russ Grayson
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Photos & text © Russ Grayson — http://pacific-edge.info

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