A revolution in food production

Published 5 March 2008

Practical ways that communities can produce food locally to meet our future food requirements will be the focus of a one-day seminar at Southern Cross University next week.

The seminar Feeding our Future, on March 15, has been organised by Southern Cross University, Lismore City Council, the NSW Department of Primary Industries and the Tweed-Richmond Organic Producers Organisation (TROPO). It will draw on international and national research to highlight the possibilities for developing secure, sustainable food production systems in our own backyards.

Dr Leigh Davison, from the Centre for Ecotechnology at Southern Cross University, warned that food supplies have dropped dramatically throughout the world since 2000 due to population growth, the loss of productive land to degradation and urban encroachment, and the fact that increased biofuel production (partly inspired by rising petroleum prices) has led to grain food shortages.

“Add to this the fact that our food production and distribution system is totally dependent on petroleum, an increasingly expensive commodity, and it’s clear that food prices will continue to rise,” Dr Davison said.

“The vulnerability of our food supplies to disruptions in the petroleum supply was graphically demonstrated in September 2000, when a series of strikes and protests at the rising cost of petroleum closed down the United Kingdom oil distribution industry. Within a week supermarket shelves were all but empty.”

Dr Davison said while fuel shortages posed the most obvious and immediate threat to food security, the drop in the number of Australian farmers, fresh water shortages and global warming would also impact dramatically on food supplies.

“Many people now believe that relocalising food production is one of the best ways to address the problem and the 'Feeding our Future' seminar is a strong step toward securing a better quality, local food supply for those of us in the Northern Rivers region.”

Keynote speakers will include urban horticulturist Roberto Perez, who will describe how the people of Cuba have mobilized to address issues of food security, sustainability and community building. Turning empty car parks into market gardens is one way Cubans have revolutionised urban food production and it is now the only nation on Earth living within its ecological footprint. Another speaker will be Russ Grayson from Community Gardens Australia.

Other speakers will discuss the UK response to the recent food crises, food miles and energy costs, organic growing techniques and ways we can localise nutrient cycles and develop local food markets.

The seminar will be held at Southern Cross University on Saturday 15 March from 9am to 3pm and the cost of $22 includes a locally sourced organic morning tea and lunch. Registrations are essential. For more information, contact Jessica Huxley on 6625 0500.

Photo: Horticulturist Roberto Perez will be a guest speaker at the Feeding our Future seminar on March 15.

Media contact: Jessica Huxley Sustainability Project Officer, Lismore City Council, 02 66250574 or 0448 537 422 or Brigid Veale, Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.