The inaugural ‘Friends of the Farmers’ Regenerative Agriculture Convergence in Koah

After many months of hard work, and an awesome Bush-dance fundraiser, the Friends of the Farmers Regenerative Agriculture Convergence was finally under way at the Koah Hall, with the Introductory Day offering ten minute ‘pecha-kucha’ style talks to introduce the presenters’ workshop topics. The day was full, with an abundance of both interesting and inspiring information, and also of a wonderful selection of local produce, gathered and prepared for all to partake of. This aesthetically and tastefully beautiful bounty was accompanied by local farmers, Brandimarte’s freshly squeezed lovely orange juice, and watermelon juice, including locally value-added produce such as ‘Spicez’ Sri Lankan dips, and Cairns MicroGreen fresh sprouts from Koah. Nina and Jef brought a wonderful bounty of tropical fruit delights from the Daintree to mix in and highlight the rich variety of local fare. Intergenerational farmers and pastoralists as well as permaculture practitioners, market gardeners and food-forest growers attended, assisted by a wonderful family of ‘friends of the farmers’ who helped the day, and the workshop days flow as easily as they could…

Although the dates had been previously checked on local calendars, along the way it became evident that both Kuranda Day and the Tablelands Folk Festival had both appeared on the same weekend. Between all the local celebrations, a healthy food-growing group made their way to the event. The dates for the Convergence had been carefully planned to fit into a theoretical ‘quiet moment’ on the host farmers, Brandimarte’s, busy seasonal schedule, between the locally renowned juicy citrus harvest, and a booming biofert pumpkin crop. That quiet moment was short indeed, and the workshop attendees on the following days got to experience a ‘working farm’ atmosphere as the pumpkins came in their many hundreds, while they learned all about Regenerative Agriculture methods and practices. It was educational for many to be on a farm of this scale to see a little of the operation in action.

Local producers, Zana and Ken Wright initiated the Convergence with their important topics of local growing, producing and value adding and also protecting our precious pollinators, while celebrating all the bounty of their offerings. Gudju Gudju and Jenny from Abriculture shared their knowledge and wisdom of true long-term sustainability from a cultural perspective, also outlining solutions into the future, honouring the ways of the past, while offering strong interconnecting possibilities in the present. Local chemical-free advocates, Bluehand Steam Weedsteamers, gave a demonstration of how to eradicate weeds safely, using an Australian invention of cutting-edge saturated steam patented thermal shock technology, rather than harmful toxic chemicals. With the soil and water chemical lode becoming more evident as more community-initiated testing is done, which would we prefer our legacy to be for coming generations? This theme was repeated often over the four days, as Geoff Thomas produced BioChar on-site from excess fallen timber, and local GreenBelt BioFert (which naturally rejuvenates soils, by building up natural beneficial biology composted locally) and Organic Foliar spray were discussed and applied by Steve Zeiger.

From RegenAg, Kym Kruse talked of the many benefits of on-farm produced biofertiliser methods that have been developed by organic farmers over time across the globe, sharing skills and knowledge to set up localised systems on your own farm/property for ongoing increasing soil vitality with no or little outside inputs. Neil Hawes spoke about Community Abundance Transfers, a wonderful way of contributing to your local food-growing community, while learning and getting fit and having fun with a great group of people. Chris Gloor shared the 100% local Realfood Network Community Supported Agriculture enterprise experience, and Michael Alba, an organic farmer for over 30 years, shared his personal journey of creating health and vitality in his body, his family and the land by building ‘Farm Self-Sufficiency’. He also graced us with a spontaneous and beautiful acapella rendition of ‘Perhaps Love’ which both delighted and moved the audience, and illustrated his and Lindy’s life’s work.

Local Permaculture team Organic Motion Abundant Edible Landscapes’ Tonielle Christiansen presented a talk highlighting ways of water sufficiency for every farm and land, setting up innovative functional designs which create soil-fertility, productivity and self-sufficiency into the future. Adam Collins, renowned local biodynamic farmer spoke of the personal responsibility of our legacy on the land, what we are putting in, and the way we communicate around farming (and life) on the more subtle levels. Is our land just ‘producing’ or are we providing what it needs holistically so that we can work with all the energies to naturally co-create abundance and resilience. Potato farmer Kenneth Keogh told of his journey of transitioning from a chemical farming background to using biodynamic methods, mentored by Adam, to grow extremely delicious and nutritious in-transition potatoes.

Leanne Kruss inspired everyone with her personal journey and her passionate support, representation and inter-linking for farmers in the region. Daryl Killen spoke of capturing carbon through growing beautiful mixed-species native conifers, and Lisa talked of the long-term importance of seed and food sovereignty through saving and growing heritage seeds, rather than being trapped into patented seed/chemical company contracts which are heavy on the pocket and harmful to human and animal health and the environment. The genetic modification and patenting of seeds, that have been hand-selected over many hundreds of generations to produce the plentiful magnitude of food varieties in the world, amounts to bio-piracy, and control of the world’s major food-crops, and the loss of many varieties of food and seed and natural biodiversity systems which have been displaced by land-grabs and multi-national corporation monocropping. Thankfully, local convergencess like this are assisting to bring awareness and resurgence of the value of intrinsically integral regenerative food-growing methods.

A spontaneous tour of the MicroGreens venture at Koah was a great educational and inspirational fill-in for a presenter who didn’t arrive, with Steve Grist showing us around their local innovative cottage industry.

Convergence host farmers, the Brandimarte’s gave an introductory talk on their farm life over the years, the trials and tribulations, and their transitioning to regenerative agriculture practices as they go along. Bruno’s full-flavoured biofert pumpkins were a hit on the menu, as were the juicy watermelons, oranges, and Lina’s bountiful organic garden produce, delectable tomatoes, and luscious greens and herbs. Lina spoke of her extraordinary life and also, somehow, found the time to produce wonderful continental delights from her kitchen to share with the participants. Carlo and Bruno made time in between a hectic farm schedule to attend the workshops wherever possible and meet, greet and share stories with the presenters and attendees. Michelle and the rest of the family all made us feel very welcome and made a wonderful space for the workshops in amidst the busy production of one of our local farming success stories. An important farm connection for many locals over the years, Brandimarte’s are, step-by-step, implementing regenerative agriculture methods, while they continually put their commendable time and efforts into producing reliably good food and generously supporting their community. Brandimarte’s are one of the Realfood Network farm providers, and also distributed through many shops in the region by agents who do not necessarily have the hard-work of the farmers at heart, and as with most farmers, prices are squeezed down, even though it is the farmers and efforts, their land and water which provide the food. Prices are hiked through the agents and ‘supermarkets’ and do not reflect what the farmer receives on the land. Buying locally grown food is a way of supporting your local farmers, while also encouraging long-term community resilience, which was also one of the recurring themes of the ‘Friends of the Farmers’ Regenerative Agriculture Convergence.

Friends of the Farmers’ would like to thank the many members of the community who came together in so many ways, co-creating the convergence by assisting with i.t., promotions and marketing, the Bush-dance fundraiser, setting up, technology, video support, food provision and preparation, presentations and other support at the Introductory Day at the Koah Hall, and the workshops and presentations, providers and hosts at Brandimarte’s family Farm. Stay posted for more updates and feedback, and for steps toward our next local ‘Friends of the Farmers’ convergence.

the ‘friends of the farmers’ video project is on-going,
with some ‘friends of the farmers’ video’s up on line already,
and being regularly updated…
see our video section…

‘farmer meets a foodie’ joined in the activities at the ‘friends of the farmers’ fun-d-raising bush-dance at the koah hall (pic below)