Locavore rankings for 2017 reveal added benefits of local food

The US organisation Strolling of the Heifers has released it’s annual ‘Locavore Index’ which ranks the 50 USA states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia in order of their commitment to¬†local food.¬†


The index, which has been calculated for six years running, scores each state according to various criteria, such as the number of farmers markets per capita and how many schools are participating in the Farms to Schools program. It aims to highlight food trends and encourage people to think about and work towards sourcing more food locally.

Strolling of the Heifers point out ten reasons to consume more local food, including boosting the local economy, attracting tourism for events such as farmers markets, less waste, fresher food and the diversification of local agriculture, which has benefits for the soil and gene pool. They also point out that buying locally increases social capital in communities as consumers get to know producers, and each other, through farmers markets and consumer supported agriculture schemes.

2017 saw many US hospitals make a commitment to sourcing more food locally through the Healthy Food in Health Care program run by the organisation Health Care Without Harm. This enabled the inclusion of ‘number of hospitals serving local food’ as a ranking on the Locavore Index.



This initiative¬†demonstrates so many of the reasons why local food is better for communities: a relationship with a big buyer means more security for food producers and has even sparked the startup of new enterprises; patients’ appetites improve, which speeds up recovery time; overall health of the community improves and the hospital receives less visitors; and families who engage with the program learn to cook and have access to affordable healthy food, making the social benefits of cooking together and enjoying a family meal more likely.


Re-post ~ How Locavore is your state? Strolling of the Heifers 2017 Locavore Index ranks states on local food commitment

Online art store bridges the gap between Aboriginal artists and art buyers

A pair of entrepreneurial brothers have opened up their Australian online art-selling platform to remote outback art centres, allowing hundreds of previously isolated indigenous artists direct access to art buyers around the world.

Edward and George Hartley founded Bluethumb to address two major issues they saw within the art industry: a way for normal people to buy art, and assisting emerging artists to find a market. Their online platform solves both of these problems in one fell swoop by giving artists a forum to display their work directly to art enthusiasts, no matter how far removed the two may be geographically. This has clear benefits for the many Aboriginal artists living in remote areas.

By working in partnership with some of the 90 or so art centres in regional Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, the brothers have opened up and simplified the sales process for some of the 13,000 Aboriginal artists represented by these organisations. They currently have 3% Aboriginal artists on their books, a figure which is in line with the percentage of Aboriginal people in Australian society, and they are firmly committed to encouraging more to join.


Aboriginal artist Angilyiya Mitchell at Papulankutja Artists art centre, WA ~ one of the first art centres to collaborate with Bluethumb.

The results so far have been promising with all eight arts centres making sales in the first fortnight. Mel Henderson, the interim art centre manager of Papulankutja Artists in Blackstone community (800km from Alice Springs in the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands) is pleased with the relationship.


‚ÄúBluethumb is fast becoming a strong advocate promoting not only the work of artists yet also the work remote arts centres do.‚ÄĚ


Bluethumb employs a simple business model appears to be making a genuine effort to recruit Aboriginal artists. This makes for an unprecedented opportunity for them to get their work out to appreciative audiences worldwide.

Re-post ~ Ethical art: how online entrepreneurs are selling Indigenous artists to the world by Paul Daley in the Guardian

See more ~ Bluethumb online Aboriginal art gallery

The Top 100 Solutions To Climate Change. (You’ll Never Guess What’s Number One)

Drawdown ~ a new project and book spearheaded by Paul Hawken, represents the first comprehensive attempt to rank solutions to climate change and measure their relative effectiveness. Researchers studied existing data on solutions which are already in use and proven to reduce global warming, in order to help normal people understand what they can do to combat climate change and how much effect it might have.

Hawken and his team were surprised by some of the results and pleased to be able to highlight such a diverse array of solutions. In addition to the oft-touted wind and solar solutions the team discovered that factors such as educating girls (#6) and reducing food waste (#3) were high up on the list.

And number one? Refrigerant management! When was the last time you heard about that on the news?


Together, educating girls and family planning constitute the most impactful intervention towards carbon drawdown.


Drawdown top ten


Each potential solution was modeled on three scenarios: The Plausible Scenario, where these solutions continue to be adopted at a realistic rate based on current trends; The Drawdown Scenario, where the implementation of solutions is accelerated achieve drawdown by 2050; and The Optimum Scenario, where all currently available solutions achieve their maximum potential and fully replace conventional technologies.


“Drawdown is that point in time when the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere begins to decline on a year-to-year basis.” ~ Paul Hawken


This project serves a two-fold purpose of keeping humanity hopeful with evidence that drawdown is possible and providing clear, science-based information for ordinary people about where our climate change efforts should be focused.

The even better news is that even the ‘Optimum Scenario’ only takes into account technologies and approaches which have already been developed and proven. There is a whole world of emerging technologies which will likely have huge impacts on the problem of global warming. These ‘coming attractions’ and are likely to make drawdown an even more achievable goal.


Read more ~

Drawdown website

A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change: the results are surprising by David Roberts in Vox Magazine

Paul Hawken’s classic book Natural Capitalism (written with Amory Lovens and L. Hunter Lovins) is available for free download here.

Ancient perennial grain experiments seek to revive culture and revolutionise agriculture

A group of Aboriginal people on the south coast of NSW are reviving some of the traditional crops and farming practices which would have characterised the pre-colonial Australian landscape.

The Gurandgi Munjie Food Company (from Yuin country) have had great success cultivating native fruits and vegetables as well as harvesting tubers from yam daisies over the last five years. They have also begun harvesting crops of Kangaroo Grass and Panicum Decompositum, both perrenial grains. They began as volunteers and have recently had success with two crowdfunding campaigns to expand their operations into a commercial enterprise.

“[We seek] to provide permanent employment and training for young Aboriginal people and to supply healthy products to Australia from plants adapted to Australian conditions”


Kangaroo Grass, a native Australian perennial grain.

Kangaroo Grass, one of the native Australian perennial grains which Gurandgi Munjie hopes to harvest and turn into a commercial product.


These plants were staple crops which fed the large populations of Aboriginal Australians who cultivated them and which are inherently well-suited to local conditions. This is in stark contrast to the food crops brought over from Europe which currently dominate our agriculture and supermarket shelves and require significant irrigation and often artificial fertilisers and pesticides to maintain on Australian soils.

Perrenial grains have very large root structures which help them survive in poor soil with little water. They also eliminate the need for the land to be ploughed so soil doesn’t become compacted and less diesel and labour is needed. They also sequester carbon year on year and prevent soil erosion and salination.

Author Bruce Pascoe, who has Bunurong, Tasmanian and Yuin Indigenous heritage, helped to start the project and would like to see it growing enough Kangaroo Grass and Panicum Decompositum to grind into grain and sell as bread flour. He also points out that Aboriginal Australians were probably the first people to bake bread, as evidenced by grindstones at Cuddie Springs in northern New South Wales that have been dated as being around 30,000 years old.

Pascoe’s book Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident has sparked a wave of interest in traditional Australian crops and a new understanding of the complexity of pre-colonial Australian society.

As Max Allen pointed out in his profile of the project for Gourmet Traveller Magazine, these are not novelty bush foods but, “everyday foods that were once widely grown and eaten in those parts of the country where most Australians now live.


Read more:

~ Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? by Bruce Pascoe

~ Gurandgi Munjie Facebook Page

~ Indigenous Agriculture: Australia’s Hidden Past by Belinda Evans in The Plant Hunter

Arts festival cements community in regional town

In April this¬†year, the Cementa Arts Festival once again brought vibrancy and innovation to the the small town of Kandos in NSW. ¬†There could have been a post-industrial void caused by the closure of the town’s major industry, the cement works. However the art festival and its spin-offs have brought thousands of visitors to the town and created links with artists whose¬†fresh perspectives the locals are slowly warming to.


At nearby Ganguddy/Dunn’s Swam local groups Powerhouse Youth Theatre and Dauntless Movement Crew presented Pagoda Parkour as part of the Cementa festival.


Kandos used to be home to the largest cement works in the Southern Hemisphere and was even originally named for its links with the cement and mining industry. When the plant closed down in 2012 many jobs were lost and it was feared that the town would die.

Ann Finegan, an academic and contemporary arts worker, had a bigger vision however. She saw the closure of the cement factory as an ‘opportunity for transformation’.


“We believe the presence of this industrial heritage in the rural heartland of NSW provides an ideal context for the demonstration of contemporary art‚Äôs capacity to describe, engage, critique and celebrate both the world and our living in it.”



Artists doing residencies in Finnegan’s high-street art space, which was previously a haberdashery, began engaging with the community and the idea for the Cementa festival was born. This¬†focus on community engagement and working with the regional setting has carried through to become a dominant flavour of the biennial festival.


“Artists cannot be in the festival unless they have done a residency in Kandos or have work related to the town in some way,” says Finegan. “We’re really working to deepen regional engagement.”


This year’s Cementa Arts Festival hosted more than 60 artists and is a heartening example of what is possible for small rural towns transitioning from an industrial heritage.


Repost ~ Cementa arts festival: building a cultured environment at Kandos by Katie Milton in The Sydney Morning Herald

Read more ~ Cementa Arts Festival Website

Hemp approval could mean a win-win for productivity and soil health

The Australian and New Zealand food ministers have recently approved hemp seeds as a food source. Farmers in Eastern Victoria are hot on their heels, forming a hemp growing co-operative which aims to generate more income and improve soil quality naturally.

Darren Christie, chief executive of The Australian Hemp Manufacturing Company is pleased with the news that hemp seed has been approved for human consumption and believes that it will have many benefits for the farmers he is recruiting into the co-op.

“It’s another commodity for farmers. The milkers, they can use it as a rotation crop which will be great for them in the future,” Mr Christie said. “No pesticides, better PH levels in their soil, a bit more humus in the ground; that’s why I believe down this way it’ll be perfect for farmers to get on board.”

Hemp already has a history in Gippsland, which has a good soil quality and plenty of rainfall. Around 20 years ago a few hemp crops were successfully grown. However, over time the commercial scope for hemp has widened and now includes clothing, building materials and (in around six months as local food regulations are updated) as a food product.


hemp stalks

Hemp fibres are used in building products such as Hempcrete, ‘batt’ insulation and hemp oil wood finishes.

Mr Christie notes that social media has played a big part in changing public attitudes towards hemp.

“People are starting to understand the differences between the hemp and medical marijuana.”

He intends to set up more hemp growing co-ops and expand a factory in Morwell that produces hemp-based building materials. The Gippsland Hemp Co-operative has currently signed seven farmers and is on the lookout for other who are interested in growing hemp.

Repost ~ Eastern Victorian farmers plan new hemp cooperative as hemp seeds become legal to eat by Isabella Pittaway in ABC News

Read more ~ Industrial Hemp: A Win Win For the Economy and The Environment on Forbes.com and the Hemp Industries Association website.

Australia’s female farmers are the ‘invisible women’ driving innovation in sustainable agriculture

48% of real farm income in Australia is produced by women, yet their work often goes unrecognised. However, this may be changing, as a recent article in The Guardian highlights the up-and-coming female farmers who are emerging as thought-leaders and innovators in sustainable agribusiness.


Anika Molesworth was named Young Farmer of the Year in 2015


When looking for examples of empowered female farmers, you need look no further than Anika Molesworth. She completed her undergraduate degree in agribusiness by correspondence after watching a ten year drought ravage her family’s farm in western NSW. She is now studying for a PhD in agriculture climate science and is experimenting with new technology on the farm.

‚ÄúThe younger generation are so much more aware of what is happening around the world. We do go travelling. We are studying with colleagues from all over the world and we are bringing those ideas to the farming landscape.‚ÄĚ


Many women (50% of women on farms) support farming families through their work off-farm. As well as increasing farm income, this is one way that Molesworth hopes to have a greater impact on farming practices, by combining her farm work with being a consultant and educator in sustainable farming.

There are also those seeking to change how female farmers are viewed and understood at a societal level;¬†Invisible Farmer, a new project funded by the Australian Research Council, aims to remedy the gender inequality which has been endemic in farming for centuries, and continues to be so, partly due to the fact that sons traditionally inherit the farm. The project aims to ‘create new histories of rural Australia [and] reveal the hidden stories of women on the land’. Katrina Sasse, a 29-year-old farmer from Morawa in Western Australia brings the encouraging news that around 10% of daughters are going back to work on family farms, and the number is growing.


‚ÄúThere are a lot of stories where women feel discontented because they feel ignored or they have been pushed away and they don‚Äôt have any influence in the decision-making on the future of the family farm.‚ÄĚ


Sasse’s research looks at ways to get daughters more involved in family farms by examining what their strengths are, what they can bring to the business and how they can be included in the succession plan.


Read More ~ Women: the silent partners of agriculture by M. Alston of Charles Sturt University

Re-post ~ ‘Invisible farmers’: the young women injecting new ideas into agriculture by Fiona Smith in The Guardian

Let’s acknowledge Aboriginal success stories

Aboriginal writer and Indigenous Affairs editor for ABC News, Stan Grant, questions¬†the ‘received wisdom’ that Aboriginal Australians are downtrodden in a recent article.¬†


Whilst acknowledging the history of ‘injustice and segregation’¬†and the accompanying disadvantage that Aboriginal Australians face on their way to success, Grant points out that ‘identity framed around misery¬†can become a self-fulfilling prophecy’.

Instead, Grant encourages us all to wake up to the reality of the swathes of successful indigenous Australians who populate all aspects of Australian life.

Grant’s experience at the recent conference organised by Supply Nation highlighted this, as he found himself in a room full of highly successful Aboriginal people such as Kyle Vander Kuyp¬†and Mark Ella, many of whom are millionaires and each of whom has earned their success through hard work and determination.

Grant would have us take notice of and celebrate the success of the vast number of Aboriginal people who have engaged with white Australia on their own terms, in order that we move away from the dominant stereotype of Aboriginal people as ‘demoralised, disadvantaged people’.


Aboriginal people are creating success in all areas of Australian life: Jim Wooding runs a thriving cabinet-making business on the Gold Coast (Karen & Jim Wooding – Directors)


“The Indigenous middle class is growing. Indigenous people are on our television screens, on our stages and our sporting fields.

We don’t tell this story often enough. We don’t even yet have a language for Aboriginal success.”







Aboriginal¬†lawyer Noel Pearson speaks of the double-edged sword of ‘soft racism’ from the white population, in the form of low expectations, and potential hostility from Aboriginal peers in the face of success. He counters this with examples of Aboriginal people who don’t pay attention to either narrative.

Grant also points out the importance of acknowledging the ‘alternate history’ of Aboriginals who engaged with white colonists, not as victims, but with dignity and success. He highlights¬†the economic boom after World War II and the wave of ‘Aboriginal economic migrants’ who fought to find work and housing and schooling for their children, and their grandchildren, who are now graduating university in droves.

Re-post ~Don’t call them disadvantaged: Successful Australians redefining what it is to be Indigenous¬†by Stan Grant for ABC News

Read more ~ Aboriginal success stories

Doughnut Economics: Finding the sweet spot between social justice and environmental sustainability

In her new book Doughnut Economics economist Kate Raworth presents an alternative economic model which takes into account both environmental sustainability and social justice.

Raworth’s theory describes a doughnut in which the outer ring represents the planetary boundary (the limits of the earth’s natural resources) and the inner ring delineates the social boundary (the basic needs of a human population).

She points out that these are two factors which have been left out of traditional economic models, which she believes have been massively oversimplified.

The space in between, the substance of the doughnut as it were, is the ‘safe and just space for humanity’, the sweet spot of a regenerative and distributive economy.

For a more detailed explanation of the doughnut model, see Raworth’s TEDx Talk below:

The doughnut¬†has been welcomed by many commentators as a basis for further debate and development of¬†a new economic model which is more suited to the realities in which we live. Others have used it as an aid to consider the environmental and social impact of their lives or organisations; asking the question, for example, ‘Is our brand¬†a doughnut?’

Co-founder of Yes! magazine, David Korten, is very impressed with the doughnut. He considers it ‘both the nail in the coffin of conventional economics and the real-world-based intellectual structure from which an authentic real-world economics for the 21st century can grow’ and he leaves his readers with this advice:


“For anyone contemplating signing up for a standard economics course or degree to help them solve real-world problems, I highly recommend buying and reading Doughnut Economics instead. You will save time and money and avoid the risk of serious brain damage.”


Read more: