Food Wine Produce
29/03/2023
Time for agroecology
by Mornington Peninsula Magazine

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Farmer and agroecology enthusiast Tammi Jonas was one of two main speakers at the launch of Mornington Peninsula Shire’s sustainable food economy plan. Photo: Ryan Eckersley, Mornington Peninsula Shire

Mornington Peninsula Shire mayor Steve Holland, second from left, with Food Economy and Agroecology Strategy authors Declan McDonald, David Rako and Helen Millicer at Barragunda Farm at Cape Schanck for the launch of the document. Photo: Ryan Eckersley, Mornington Peninsula Shire

Local government on the Mornington Peninsula is taking the next big step to protect the region’s agriculture.

In early March, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council launched a six-year Food Economy and Agroecology Strategy, a document almost three years in the making but one that had its genesis years ago when councillors, shire officers and primary producers started to properly promote the Peninsula as a quality, fresh and innovative food region – and place a higher value on the region’s soils and landscape.

Agroecology – a combination of the words ‘agriculture’ and ‘ecology’ – is farming that centres on food production making the best use of nature’s “goods and services” while not damaging these resources. The document states that regenerative agriculture is working with the forces of nature to enhance production, reduce reliance on external inputs, and increase farmer well-being.

But there will be some objections to the shire’s strategy, as “regenerative agriculture” does not mean organic agriculture. Fertilisers, herbicides and other chemicals can be “used strategically and selectively so collateral damage is minimised”.

The strategy was produced by Melbourne consultants Declan McDonald, David Rako and Helen Millicer, and launched at Barragunda Farm at Cape Schanck. Mr McDonald, a soil scientist “dedicated to regenerative soil management”, said the strategy was “ambitious and far-sighted; important and ground-breaking”. Mr Rako is director of an environmental consultancy and Ms Millicer is a sustainability and climate specialist.

The launch included presentations by farmer and agroecologist Tammi Jonas and Cecilia Riebl of Trust for Nature on farmland covenants. Ms Jonas, from Eganstown near Daylesford, and her family raise “happy, tasty, heritage-breed large black pigs on pasture”. She is passionate about agroecology and “focuses on living a life in common with nature, and managing animals for optimum soil health as multiple species are rotated around the farm to grow fertility and diversity on the paddocks”.

Barragunda Farm’s Hayley Morris hosted the event, which included lunch by Barragunda executive chef Simone Watts and Millers Bakery using produce from the Barragunda Collective, young farmers who rent plots in the property’s garden and grow produce for the restaurant and other customers. Mayor Steve Holland and councillors David Gill, Debra Mar and Antonella Celi attended.

Cr Holland said the strategy was “a collective action plan to radically transform the way food is produced on the Peninsula. Our agriculture, food and beverage sector is worth $1.3 billion a year. The strategy charts a course to a thriving and sustainable food economy”.

Key elements of the strategy covering 2022 to 2028 include:

  • Developing programs to support on-farm composting of farm-generated organic waste
  • Training agricultural businesses to measure their carbon emissions and promote practical emission reduction
  • Facilitating development of farmer mentoring programs (The shire is beginning modestly with these first three items, with just 20 farmers or businesses a year taking part in each initiative)
  • Promoting organics recycling to manage food and garden organics and return compost to farms
  • Continuing to advocate for State Government assistance for recycled water schemes on the Peninsula (One such scheme was proposed in 2015 by Peninsula avocado grower Steve Marshall and former Liberal candidate Russell Joseph. Victorian Farmers’ Federation Peninsula branch supported the plan, which proposed tapping into the high-quality Class A water pumped every day from Eastern Treatment Plant near Carrum to Bass Strait at Gunnamatta Beach, pumping it from Dromana uphill to dams along Arthurs Seat Rd using solar energy and making it available for horticulture)
  • Advocating for improved energy security through renewable options, reducing reliance on greenhouse gas-producing energy production.

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