Huon Producers’ Network – Local Food for Local People
‘Local food for local people’ is the guiding philosophy of the Huon Producers’ Network. But it’s about more than food, it’s about building a resilient community in an age of uncertainty.
The Huon Valley has always been a farming community. We have a mild temperate climate and reasonable rainfall most years. The Valley is renowned for its quality apples, pears, stone fruits and berries, as well as vegetables, meat and more.
But as world trade conditions have changed it has become harder for farmers and orchardists to remain viable without continually increasing production and rationalising costs. This often leads to a high debt burden and reliance on industrialised farming methods. For a few this has been possible; the success of the cherry industry is a good example, but many family orchards and farms have not been able to compete with an ever-expanding agribusiness model.
Abundance of Local Produce
The Huon Valley remains at heart a hardworking rural community and many people with a bit of land, even a small bit, are growing and processing some of the world’s finest produce. Home-based businesses are springing up to offer a great variety of products, and even backyard gardeners have a bit extra at times.
The Huon Producers’ Network aims to connect local people with the products being produced in backyards and small holdings all over the Huon Valley.
Keeping it local is the key. Huon Producers’ Network Coordinator, Linda Cockburn, says that every dollar spent in a community will multiply to eight dollars in circulation.
Back in August 2013 Huon Valley Councillor Liz Smith and Linda Cockburn organised a public meeting at the Lady Franklin to discuss the issues that faced local producers with an idea that those who turned up might consider it a good idea group and try overcome those challenges together.
Liz Smith has long been a tireless advocate for sustainable community development in the Huon Valley and was one of the founders of the Cygnet Community Garden. Linda Cockburn is passionate about minimising destructive human impacts on the environment and the necessity of developing strategies to survive and thrive in an global uncertain future. Her successful book Living the Good Life tells the story of how she, her partner Trevor Wittmer and son Caleb lived without money for six months by developing and relying on their own resources.
After the success of that original meeting The Huon Producers’ Network was formed and immediately began looking for way to connect producers and consumers. The Network now has around 200 properties signed up. They range from large farms, to families making a living from half an acre. The focus is on mutual support not competition, sharing knowledge and working together.
Huon Farmers’ Market
In November 2015 the Network launched The Huon Farmers’ Market, held every Sunday between the very civilised hours of 10am-2pm opposite the Huonville Esplanade. The Market offers an ever-changing seasonal range of produce, including fruit and vegetable, preserves, jams, hot food, coffee, plants, herbs and more. Local musicians entertain and there is plenty of space to stop and relax for a while.
E-Market – Order online for Local Delivery
While the community has been supportive of the Farmers Market, the organisers realised that to service the whole Huon Valley a more flexible approach was needed. With the help of an $80,000 grant from the Heart Foundation’s Healthy Food Access Tasmania program the Network launched the Huon Valley E-Market.
Every week between 11am Tuesday and 8pm Thursday customers can browse the offerings and place their orders online for delivery to towns and centres throughout the valley on Sunday afternoon. Deliveries are made to Cradoc, Cygnet, Glen Huon, Franklin, Geeveston & Dover.
Small Animals Abattoir
Another initiative of the Huon Producers’ Network is a feasilibity study into a small animals abattoir. Rabbits, ducks, turkeys and geese are highly suited to small farming but in the Huon Valley there are no facilities for ethical and legal processing.
Local veterinarian Emma Watkins is bringing her wealth of experience in food security and animal welfare and to developing the abattoir project. It may be that a mobile processing unit would suffice, or premises might need to be secured. There are complex issues that need to be worked through, such as regulatory frameworks and training protocols. If such a project could be realised it would be a significant boost to the economic viability of small holders.
Collaboration not Competition
The Huon Producers’ Network emphasise mutual support and skills development. They focus on fostering skills in market gardening and small farming with field days and training, as well as advice about packaging and marketing. Members share resources and tools and there’s always plenty of friendly advice, particularly for those thinking of starting out. Another benefit of membership is cooperative-style bulk buying for seeds, fertilisers and materials to reduce input costs and create value.
Towards a Sustainable and Well-Fed Future
Huon Producers’ Network are nurturing a long-term vision for the Huon Valley. Through hard work and persistence they are creating options and opportunities and making a great contribution to our way of life now and into the future. For more information go to their website or turn up at the Farmers’ Market after 10am and have a chat.