View all news

Jeffery says education the key to regional sustainability


Steve Spinks
25 November 2011

Educating consumers to buy fresh, seasonal foods is one of the keys to reducing food miles, according to former restaurant owner, television presenter and acclaimed cookbook author Belinda Jeffery.

Ms Jeffery will be a keynote speaker at the Australasian Regional Food Cultures and Networks Conference on November 29 and 30 at Kingscliff’s Peppers Resort, which is organised by Southern Cross University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management.

She is a passionate advocate of using fresh ingredients in all her recipes, but she says consumers and the hospitality industry should change attitudes towards seasonality of foods.

“I am lucky where I live that there is a wide variety of local produce but there are certain times when things are limited due to the season,” Ms Jeffery said.

“Maybe all the producers have grown the same thing at the same time. Personally, I love that because it pushes you as a cook to think outside the box and to use ingredients differently. But there is an expectation in Australia at the moment that anything is available all year round despite the season.

“When you start seeing snow peas flown in from China when they are out of season in Australia it is ludicrous. Think of the distance they have come including the flight and then the transport by road to the destination. For me that just doesn’t make sense, especially if you wait a little while and can buy it within one day of the farmer picking it.”

Ms Jeffery is practising what she preaches and buys the majority of her food either from farmers markets or directly from the farm gate. She has also been involved in the Northern Rivers Foodlinks project which aims to make a sustainable food future for the region.

She is one of a number of prominent keynote speakers at the conference which includes Kate Carnell, the chief executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council; Robin Shaw, of the Winemakers Federation of Australia; Professor Elspeth Probyn, a Professor in Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney; Robert Heazlewood, the executive director of Brand Tasmania Council and Joanna Savill, a director with The Crave Sydney International Food Festival.

The conference will focus on how food moves from the paddock to the plate. Some of the themes addressed will include how food is produced and by whom, its impact on our lives and environment, and the impact on our culture as well as food security.

The conference is unique in that it brings academics and industry together across a number of areas including food production, distribution, marketing, tourism and hospitality to explore the key issues and opportunities for regional food.

There is a pre-conference tour on Monday November 28 exploring the region’s dairy industry and a post-conference session on Thursday December 1 on culinary tourism and agritourism.

Photo: Belinda Jeffery