It’s been a worrisome few weeks for Victorian small-scale livestock farmers with the proposal of changes to planning provisions in regional Victoria. The changes, generally proposed to reduce red tape across the animal production industry would inadvertently increase the costs for many in the farmers market and local supply networks by redefining them as intensive farmers, increase their costs significantly and reduce the viability for staying in business.

The Old Farm Happy Valley- Free Range Hens in Flowerdale

Thanks to the initiative of Amanda McLaren; Mayor of Strathbogie Shire, an important motion was put to the Municipal Association of Victoria’s State Council meeting on October 19. Almost unanimous support resulted in an extension of the deadline for submissions, and distribution of the Regulatory Impact Statement which would have formed the context for the proposal.

Thank you Amanda and the Strathbogie Shire, plus Mansfield, Campaspe and all the other municipalities who supported this. So many community food organisations have mobilized over this issue and, as is often the case, it is a galvanizing process. The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) and Victorian Farmers Market Association, Youth Food Movement and Slow Food Melbourne have brought many together but it is voice of the very producers themselves that speaks the loudest, so we hope you’ll get out and find them to hear their story direct.

State Government initiatives such as Food Source Victoria, Agriculture Innovation Grants, Regional Development Victoria Farmers Market Program, Put Victoria on Your Table and the Agribusiness network have enabled many small-scale producers and collaborations to flourish. It’s not just producers’ livelihood chefs, butchers, farmers markets, the media and indeed, the general public, who have benefited.

Melbourne Farmers Markets have been working with producers and these cohorts to put forward the positive impact that the Andrews government, and previous Labor state governments, have invested in and championed over many years. They have provided many programs to genuinely support small producers and make it more possible for us all to live that buzz expression ‘we all want to know where our food comes from’.

Yapunyah Meadow Grazed Chickens in Central Victoria

At Melbourne Farmers Markets alone, 33 producers currently attend our markets with genuinely free-range meat and eggs directly from their farms – that’s around 10% of our stallholder numbers. They are proud of the stocking density of animals on their farms. They genuinely care for their animals well-being; as individual lives and not numbers, maintaining all care and commitment possible through to their slaughter. The dedication continues in the quality and pride of the produce, in the strong relationships and engagement with their customers at our markets week in week out.

Vue Du Volcan Farm- Free Range Ducks in Central Victoria

The impact of Victorian small-scale meat and egg producers is immensely powerful and positive throughout the restaurant, hospitality, food media and regional tourism industries. The flow on effect to regional communities that benefit from all the opportunities is significant  because small-scale producers and the allied industries are employers and supporters of the local economy. The establishment, growth and diversification of their businesses through a local food system is a win for all.

We are encouraged that Minister Wynne and Minister Pulford are welcoming more conversation, and to meet with our sector of the local food system. The regional Victoria communities who supply our food deserve our support and gratitude. There is much to celebrate about a local, resilient food system and Melbourne Farmers Markets is dedicated to a robust and transparent information exchange, providing a positive outlook and the means for Victorian food producers to flourish.

If your food supply is important to your household, we ask you to inform yourself talking to producers, downloading the factsheets below, check out AFSA and join their Call To Action, contact your local reps, keep an eye on our Facebook and e-news for updates, and make sure we don’t look towards a future where we wonder where our food comes from.

 

Coltish Pork- Free Range Berkshire Pigs in Nambrok, Gippsland