- Our vision
- Why I started Food Connect : a message from Julian Lee, Food Connect Sydney’s Enterprise Coordinator
Food Connect Sydney wants to challenge conventional, profit-driven food supply systems!
We plan to become the thought leaders in the fresh food market, providing consumers with food with integrity.
We will challenge people to:
- Think about where their food comes from,
- Find out what food quality means to them and
- Consider the impacts of chemical farming on their health and that of the farmers and the natural environment.
We want consumers to re-evaluate the way they go about purchasing their fresh food, where their fresh food has come from and what the increasing distance between farmer and consumer does to their health, community and environment.
We want to excite Sydney society with opportunities to take positive action that will help improve social outcomes for our urbanised and rural communities.
Not only that, but we want to do it in the best work place anybody has ever experienced!
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I got involved with Food Connect because I believe the Food Connect model offers farmers a fair deal while giving consumers an opportunity to learn more about who grows their food and how it is grown. I believe these are two fundamental aspects in creating a fair, healthy and sustainable food system.
Seven years ago, I began working with commercial market gardeners in the Sydney Basin to promote sustainable agriculture. Of the 2000 farms at the time, there was at most five organic farmers. Almost all the other farmers I spoke to believed that organics were either a lie or impossible to achieve in Sydney.
I also saw the extremely difficult market conditions under which the farmers had to operate. Unlike other industries, the farmers often got the rough end of the stick; farmers received very small returns for their hard work and prices were set by external agents.
I then moved to my bush block in the Hunter in late 2005 and started a small biodynamic commercial market garden supplying to Singleton residents. Over the next three years, I discovered firsthand the joys and challenges of being a primary producer and continued to talk to many farmers about how to make organic farming viable.
It became clear to me that most small- to medium-sized farms are not viable and are unlikely to become viable. One of the reasons for this is the fact that the current market situation ensures that farmers see as little as five cents for every dollar spent on their produce in the supermarket.
In addition to poor returns, the isolation that many farmers face and disconnection with the people who should value their produce is a major contributor to an appalling suicide rate and the significant number of farmers that are simply walking off their farms.
In 2008, I had the opportunity to attend “Terra Madre”, the International Slow Food conference in Italy. Speaking with other small producers and slow food advocates at the conference confirmed for me that the situation small farmers face in Australia is not unique. I came home, stopped operating my market garden on a commercial basis and started looking for other ways I could help make sustainable agriculture viable in the Sydney region.
It was soon after this that I was inspired by Robert Pekin and his passionate team at Food Connect Brisbane and decided to make a similar venture happen in Sydney with the help of a bunch of other inspiring foodies. We opened our doors on 15 February 2010 in Arndell Park, NSW. We currently share a warehouse with likeminded partners in Rozelle, NSW.
I hope you believe in this as much as I do and can support our local farmers by buying their produce.
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