Friday, July 24, 2009

Michael Shuman and the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance.

Michael Shuman is the author of The Small-Mart Revolution which is all about how local businesses are taking on and beating the global competition. He contends that locally owned businesses are more reliable generators of good jobs, economic growth and social stability and by being innovative and creative they can take on BIG business and local communities can thrive.

I was fortunate to be able to hear him speak on 'The local food revolution: Why it is happening and how Sydney can accelerate it' at a forum organised by the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance.
To be honest until a friend alerted me to this event I had heard of neither the SFFA or Michael Shuman so the afternoon was something of a revelation.

The SFFA was formed in 2005 and aims 'to coordinate the efforts of rural producers, health professionals, community workers and community based advocates active in developing a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable food system in the Sydney region'. The forum I attended was one of several being held to provide the opportunity for interested parties to identify issues and actions that could be considered at the SFFA Food Summit which will be held on 22nd and 23rd October. The forums discussed issues under four broad headings

  • access to healthy food
  • planning for healthy food supplies
  • sustainable agriculture
  • food safety and health
In my capacity as a professional shopper and eater I felt a bit out of my depth given that most of the other attendees were rather more professionally involved in some way with local government, urban planning, community gardens, etc. etc. None the less it wasn't too hard to work out what was going on and to be able to recognise some of the important steps that need to be taken to ensure a sustainable food supply for the city.

What impressed me most was that so much of what Michael Shuman was advocating is already happening here in one way or another - the popularity of local growers markets for example is surely testament to the fact that consumers are aware of and unhappy with the stranglehold that Coles and Woolworths have on our food supply. Our gravest concern should be the fate of these suppliers who farm on the urban fringe. The farmers of the Sydney Basin (the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment on the edge of Sydney's western suburbs) provide 90 per cent of Sydney's perishable vegetables and almost 100 per cent of the state's Asian vegetables. Agriculture in the Sydney Basin is the largest industry in Western Sydney, employing around 12,000 people. We should all be doing anything and everything we can to ensure that this industry remains viable - our future depends upon it!

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