Communities in the South East were served a feast rich in ideas with the release of a Discussion Paper on the future of local food recently as part of the South East Food project initiated by Sustaining Our Towns and SCPA-South East Producers.
The Discussion Paper, titled 'South East Food: Growing the regional food economy in South East NSW' was launched in Queanbeyan at ‘Closing the Food Loop - through locally grown food!’, a forum organised by Geoff Pryor of South East Region of Councils (SEROC).
The forum was attended by more than 40 participants in the local food industry including producers, restauranteurs and representatives of government agencies.
The paper is based on the ideas and experiences of more than 200 people engaged in the local South East food industry in the area from Bairnsdale to the Shoalhaven, and west to Yass, Tumut and Tumbarumba who were interviewed or completed an online survey.
“The main barrier to increasing local food production is that there are not enough food producers resulting in lack of consistent supply” said Carolyn Wells, the main author of the South East Food Discussion Paper.
“Whilst there is frustration with regulations, there is also not enough processing facilities, affordable land and general support for producers during start up.”
Other critical issues presented in the paper include a need for outlets for local food, co-ordination of supply and demand, and for an integrated and co-ordinated transport and logistics system. Other respondents also commented on the dominance of supermarkets and the importance of developing a stronger local food culture.
South East Food also believes that the rise of the kitchen gardener culture will lead to more commercial production and this growth will come from within our communities. The food industry as a locally developed economic project also has the potential to be an even bigger employer in the years ahead.
Much networking and development in the food industry has been achieved by the strong experience and culture of more than two decades of the SCPA-South East Producers group culminating in this paper.
South East Food now will begin looking at Phase 2 of the South East Food Project, which will be negotiating with potential partners as they move from researching the problems to implementing the structures and solutions from within communities to grow the food economy.
The South East Food Plan, setting out the priorities to be implemented, will be issued in March and will include a regional Web App to help connect producers and consumers within the community.
Comments on the paper, which is online, can be made through the South East Food website at www.southeastfood.com.au