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Ballarat Local Food Coalition: A unique opportunity to analyse and future-plan food systems

A unique opportunity to analyse and future-plan food systems in the Wadawurrung/Ballarat, (Central Victoria), region has been fully embraced by a cohort of 20 or so informed stakeholders.

The Ballarat Local Food Coalition was eagerly born when launched on 29th March 2023 at the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council Welcome Centre, to an enthusiastic crowd, keen to learn more and act upon the hurdles and embrace the wins around local food and food production/growing /food sustainability facing the population of Ballarat.

Guest speakers included Mara Ripani Permaculture practitioner and educator/regenerative farmer, Sarah Kittelty caterer/ex-cafe owner/local food advocate/regenerative farmer, and Amanda Collins Ballarat Community Health/Ballarat Backyard Beekeeping/urban food farmer who engaged and informed the crowd about the issues facing each of their own businesses in the LGA.

Many in the room were there to find out more about the impending Coalition, and what it would bring to the township, so it was no surprise to anyone when many the audience attendees ended up on the Coalition itself.

Once launched, the groundbreaking taskforce of Coalition members, went through an EOI process to obtain themselves a space at the table for Year 1 of the Coalition. This first 12 months focussed on in-depth analysis and discussions of the current framework around food systems and identifying gaps, evaluation of what was working effectively, as well as future opportunities.

Participants who came to meet on a semi-regular basis included Ballarat producers, First Nations growers, regenerative ag farmers, young persons, community health professionals, agriculture field workers, food security agencies, community gardeners and more.

Dr Nick Rose, Executive Director of Sustain: The Australian Food Network, set the tone in that very first meeting by declaring this was an amazing opportunity of the members being able to "create your own destiny" to the very keen, newly inducted members.

Having won a faciliatory tender, Sustain lead this groundbreaking taskforce and aspirational project for Year 1 of a 3 - year long project.

Sustain Communications Officer and Ballarat resident, Lou Ridsdale become the Sustain lead on this project, assisting Dr Nick Rose and our Operations & Projects Officer Beth Ciesielski in the delivery.

Being involved in the food security sector for almost a decade via her project Food Is Free Inc., Lou was able to gather a good balance of people for the Coalition as well as assist Caroline Amirtharajah, City of Ballarat’s Health & Wellbeing Planning Officer (our lead partner in this project), with a multitude of organisational tasks for smooth delivery.

As the Coalition gathered throughout the year, the framework we developed has gone to shape up a very nice list of action points which the group will form working parties around to commence execution of over the next few years.

Ballarat Local Food Coalition members Chris Macquet, Terry Emselle, Jasmine Walton, Matt Rowan and Adrik Wright:

Aside from these very prosperous future developments, the group also managed to find their own tribe in so many ways, with some setting up newly-formed external commerce partnerships and new friendships along the way. This is the result of these groups, which we know work so well, in a grassroots setting.

When presented for the very first-time way back in Feb this year, it was not lost on the Ballarat community what it meant when the Ballarat Local Food Coalition was born. Now with a new year on our doorstep, and a year under the belt, we simply cannot wait to see what the Coalition goes on to achieve as we cheer on via the sidelines now our one-year tender has expired.

Who knows what will come next when people get the chance to ‘create their own destiny’ for their industry and town they love. We are thrilled to have been a part of it all.

If you are interested in collaboration with us and you are from local government, contact Nick Rose at [email protected] or (03) 9606 2104.