She’ll be apples, mate – Right?

As is my habit during the course of a Saturday morning I did our weekly food shop at the local Eveleigh Farmers’ Market. When I returned home I made a cup of tea, and settled in with the lunch I bought: gluten-free mushroom, kale and leek tart made from, the friendly stall-holder informed me, market ingredients. At the computer I arbitrarily clicked on ABC News. The first headline I saw was

Federal Government scraps food grants program

“The Federal Government has scrapped the $1.5 million Community Food Grants program.

The funding was announced last May by the former Labor government as a key initiative of the National Food Plan.

It would have seen money invested in projects such as farmers markets, food co-operatives and hubs, community gardens, and city farms across the country.

But applicants have now been advised by letter that the program has been reviewed and a decision made that it won’t be continued due to the ‘tight fiscal environment’…

…The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance is also disappointed. The alliance’s national co-ordinator, Nick Rose, says it was the first time that work by the community food sector had been recognised at a federal level…

…A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture says the Australian Government remains strongly committed to a vibrant, innovative and competitive agriculture sector…

This is why the government is developing a White Paper Agricultural Competitiveness, which will drive long-term agricultural policies and ensure Australia’s agriculture sector remains a significant contributor to the national economy and local communities.

The White Paper will take into account the analysis done for the National Food Plan, in the context of the government’s agriculture and food related policies.

A priority of the White Paper will be to generate jobs, boost farm gate returns, investment and economic growth in the agriculture sector…”

So, the Federal Government is ditching a scheme where 364 applicants have gone to the trouble of placing submissions for grants. Instead of fulfilling it even to some extent, simply by virtue of a change of government more time and money will be diverted to a White Paper to reinvent the wheel. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water could they not reassess the submissions and at least make some grants?

If the government insists on the White Paper, I suggest a field trip to Eveleigh Farmers’ Market, both to buy great fresh produce and to talk to the stall-holders/producers.'ll_be_apples
she’ll be apples, mate…

Maybe they could interview Mr Apples, who I’ve had enough conversations with to know a little about. He’s been a farmer his whole life. At one stage he expanded operations buying neighbouring properties. His adult kids have jobs elsewhere. One of the first chats I had with him he said it wouldn’t make sense for his kids to be farmers. Too much work. Too little income. He makes more money now since he downsized his orchards and sells at farmers markets rather than to the supermarket chains. His farm at Batlow is 4 and a half  hours drive from Sydney. He & his wife leave on Saturday mornings to be in Sydney in time for the market’s 8am start. Sometimes his wife does the Sydney markets and he goes to other markets on Saturdays, and they go to markets on Sundays also.

Last year I was paying $5 per kilo for his fruit. This year it’s $6.  I spent $4 on 8 white peaches and apples but the shopper after me bought 1 apple. As an exercise I think a good but possibly unlikely case scenario, if 200 people bought a kilo of his fruit over the course of a weekend – 200 kg is lot of apples, it would gross $1200 cash. Out of that we have to assume costs – fuel, accommodation, farm costs, tax…

How many kilos of fruit would Mr Apples need to sell to earn the equivalent of our incomes?

Mr Apples has one advantage. He’s established. Instead of getting out of the industry completely he made a change to his business. Many farmers walk away. If they all walk away, if no new producers are encouraged, where will the food come from?

Eveleigh Farmers’ Market is a hugely popular market in the middle of Sydney. We are incredibly fortunate to have these producers spend time and money bringing their produce to us.

Conversely, when the G.O. and I spend time in the country at Taylors Arm, despite it being an agricultural region, we don’t have access to weekly farmers’ markets, and those markets that exist need more support. I see few enough shoppers at the local markets to believe the stall-holders show up out of principle rather than profit. Already the monthly Medlow School Markets and the weekly Nambucca Valley Farmers Markets’ which started during the last 5 years in the Nambucca Valley no longer operate. It’s not like the producers don’t make the effort; I see Ausbuff from local Eungai, 5 hours drive from Sydney, at Eveleigh Farmers Market every week.

I enjoyed the cup of tea and the tart but not the article. The politics left a bad taste in my mouth.


37 thoughts on “She’ll be apples, mate – Right?

  1. 1.5 million dollars? Out of a total budget in the billions? This is beyond even penny pinching. It seems that all the initiatives deemed worthy of Liberal government investment are those associated with big, powerful lobby groups. It seems the government wants small, family farms to go the way of small, family farms in the US – out. Perhaps they’ll think the agriculture sector has a future once all farming is done by giant conglomerates. I think they call that economies of ‘scale’. We call it monoculture.

    I’ve gone beyond angry with this government.


    1. Head in the sand-like I haven’t been paying too much attention but the ‘liar, liar… broken promises’ sound bites have resonated. I assumed they were referring to election promises but I’ve always considered it ridiculous how incoming governments scrap previous initiatives seemingly just because they’re not their own.
      I did see an advertisement for the ABARES Outlook conference the other day…, sponsors of which are various government departments, ANZ, NAB, Rabobank, Coles, the Australian Egg Corporation, Australian Pork TM, Australian Wool Innovation Limited…


      1. Meh…the usual suspects. 😦 I know all governments have a knee-jerk reaction to powerful lobby groups, but I still can’t quite get my head around /why/? Do they just scream louder than everybody else? Or do they provide massive bribes and sweetheart deals to individual MPs? Or something else entirely?

        I wish there was a class-action lobby group for private citizens. 😦


  2. It’s sad, the plight of the farmers worldwide. I lived in upstate New York from 2007 to 2010 and during that time I watched the milk market tank, the feed prices go up and a whole lot of dairy farmers selling off their cows. We’re seeing the global corporatization of agriculture now and it’s scary thinking where it’s ultimately headed.


    1. I fear Australian Big Business and Government will ride on the coat tails of US Agricultural Policy and corporatization… along the road to hell paved with dollar notes and mapped by shareholder profit.


  3. I can’t imagine what their wasteful thinking is but it sounds typical of this government to drop support for the little people and go all out to support big business who have not interest in sustainability or quality of life … profit is the only measure they use…. thanks for the post, I will pass it onto Mr Farmers Market here in Moruya 🙂


    1. Reading the Business and Federal Politics headlines of the SMH online gives enough of an overview of the political state of play… I can’t read any further as I refuse to part with cash to be a subscriber.
      So I get my news from the [currently] free ABC, but the article was via ABC Local Mid-North Coast, under ABC Rural… like it’s of no interest to city dwellers.


    1. So true, and thank goodness some of them still have a passion for it and/or haven’t given up. I’m not overly keen on ‘government benefit schemes’ but I think some tangible support for areas of agribusiness not attracting big bucks wouldn’t go astray.


  4. Ella. It is very disheartening, even to think about it. Every time I walk around Woolworths and don’t see familiar brands any more, my heart sinks thinking about the factory that has closed down. Woolworths don’t employ butchers anymore; all their meat is ‘brought in’. The dough they make their bread from comes from half way around the world. It is all horrible. All the little businesses have gone. All the farms that used to be around Bridgetown are now Tasmanian Blue plantations. I don’t even feel better knowing I didn’t vote for them. I think Labor was as bad.


    1. Oh yes… last time I went to the shopping centre and Woolies, with the G.O., we both came back feeling like such a bad vibe had attached itself to us, and I just couldn’t find what I really wanted to buy despite it all looking so very nice. It didn’t feel right.
      But I go to the markets and it is just right. Beyond that I find myself more at the local convenience stores/deli which carry ’boutique’ ie brands with integrity and it’s a little more expensive but I get what I want rather than what Woolies have decided to stock… Woolies are ok for the eco brands of washing powder, TP etc which I shop for online.
      I didn’t vote for either of the major parties and have yet to find anyone one says they voted for this government. But, it’s no consolation.


  5. I suspect the politicians couldn’t see a way they could get an easy kickback from all the potential producers. They are selfish idiots over here – I look forward to the day we can do without them.


  6. Having worked in the government many moons ago I understand this rubbish. These people don’t live in the real world. When I moved from the farm in QLD to the city (ACT) I worked in an office where one of the ‘managers’ (and I use the term loosely) was planning a trip to QLD to talk to farmers. When I asked her if she understood the farming community she said ‘ all I know is I have to practice how to talk ‘real slow’.’

    The sooner we get rid of these morons in govt who don’t understand the real world we live in, the better our lives will be.


    1. I do get such schemes may not fit neatly into the current government’s budget and it’s a bad show to appear to be conforming with the previous government’s policies but that simple bureaucracy can nullify the efforts of [at least] 364 people via a Dear John letter is disappointing, regardless of the context.
      I would like to think enforced KPI’s, accountability, professional standards and fixed contracts would make waves in the safe habour of status quo and cronyism.


  7. They are doing their best to make it almost impossible for small farmers to keep going aren’t they, and for what? The supermarkets sell inferior quality produce and even that is becoming even more generic. Each time I go into Safeway their own branded products have spread on to more shelves, pushing out other varieties. Every new one I see reminds me that somewhere a supplier has been pushed out and everyone down the supply chain is getting less money for the same thing.

    1.5 million is a drop in the ocean of the yearly spend and helps so many people, I wonder how much money the unsuccessful winter Olympians had for sponsorship over the last twelve months? 😦


    1. Last time I was in Coles their own brands proliferated, and I agree, I see less variety at Woolies then ever, not only in brands but in types of foods. There is a new Woolies nearby at Tempe, which has the biggest frozen food section I’ve ever seen.

      I’ve heard the cost of Sochi discussed on the radio, and the figures have been described as ‘snowy’ but from this article – -“The AOC has funded the current Australian Olympic Team to the tune of $10 million. It also provides $1 million a year to the winter institute, while the Australian Sports Commission and the Australian Institute of Sport are providing another $2 million a year.

      He said the AOC had provided an extra $900,000 to Australian Winter athletes in the form of international competition grants and $215,000 in medal incentive funding.”

      Perhaps the explanation for the necessary fiscal constraints…

      I’m not at all sure I wouldn’t prefer government spending to be constrained to hospitals, schools, roads, etc with no funding to private interests. That seems to be where it gets ‘complicated’.

      I would like to see support of small agribusiness, and believe it’s consumers who will probably drive it but from my understanding in this case there was an offer made, and honouring that should take priority.


      1. I agree that government funds shouldn’t be restricted only to hospitals and roads etc, but when a single person is getting millions to play sport it seems completely ridiculous to me. Surely there is a point where the money being spend on a single endeavor (like building cars, just ask Ford or Holden!) outweighs the benefits of doing so. Small businesses being encouraged to succeed benefits more people, with the positive aspects of its success flowing through the community.
        Chumpy’s success (or lack of) only benefits his sponsors.

        If the offers was made there is no reason why it shouldn’t be kept to. 1.5 million spread throughout 364 businesses is hardly wasteful spending is it? I think we will need more and more of these small businesses to be encouraged to succeed, look at what has happened in Victoria in the last few months. Ford, Holden, Alcoa etc…. Large businesses saying we can’t compete in Australia and moving back overseas or to another offshore factory. If we can’t compete on a world stage we need to be able to look after ourselves at home. (Leading on to the news of our fuel stores being ridiculously low even though we have so much natural gas, do we process it ourselves and deal with the associated pollution, or keep sending it away and buying it back…?)


        1. My thoughts are expressed a little ambiguously… part of me would like a level playing field with no private sector funding at all, only government-taxpayer funds to government infrastructure – sounds simple but with various forms and levels of Government Owned Corporations (GOC’s etc) it’s complicated. Plus other countries offer various forms of financial incentives to private sector business.
          But seeing as cash is being offered around via schemes-funding, it seems unfair to pick and choose, offer and rescind…


  8. Yes – this is absolutely sickening and as someone said above, farmer has become about quantity, not quality, in the modern era. Oh, and of course, the cheaper the better, eh? Here’s a relevant statistic – 90% of the food in the UAE where I live is imported. Of course, it’s a desert country, so impossible to grow everything consumers demand, but farms do exist here and I buy local whenever I can. My point is, in relation to your post, Australia is by far one of the biggest providers of fruit, vegetables, and meat here and no doubt, that is true throughout the Gulf Region. I’m quite sure your government’s policies are dictated by the huge export potential of Australian agricultural produce. How mean of them to penny pinch in this way with regard to the small, quality, producers.


    1. “Penny pinching” describes it perfectly 🙂 Not the ‘old-timey’ making the pennies stretch but cutting nose off despite face undignified scrounging.
      And you make a very good point, economically Australia seems far more focused on exports than what its residents are eating.


  9. What can I say, EllaDee, that hasn’t already been said and far better than I ever could? This stinks!
    In our “modern” economies, there’s less and less room for the little farms, shops, and factories. And there’s no turning back the clock. Once they’re gone, they’re gone for good.


  10. This is a great post and you ask vitally important questions. Once all small traditional farmers are driven out of business, where will our food come from? At whose mercy shall we live?

    Those of us who have chosen this life are just trying to make a living, not a killing. No matter how simply we live and how self-reliant we become, we still have to pay our taxes to keep our land.

    Here grocery stores sell industrial food for far less than our cost to produce quality food. We just can’t compete with those prices.

    Today our society spends, on average, less than 10% of its income on food. 30 years ago we spent 17% and in 1950 we spent 30%. If more people would choose to spend a little more on food and would buy from sustainable local farms, rather than the chemical-based industrial food complex, they would not only get better-tasting more nutritious food, but they’d also help assure the survival of diversified family farms and good wholesome food.


    1. Thank you. I agree it’s our own dollars we should be backing farmers with, and I’d prefer it if all involved, large or small, corporate or non, politically connected or not, received pro-rata support, or none.
      I don’t usually comment on media articles… the latest in this vein is the Australian vegetable body Ausveg believes community gardens are a biosecurity risk.. but that the funding was a casualty of policing annoys me.



  11. It seems bizarre to cut the funding when in the grand scheme of things it’s not much and if we end up driving all the farmers out of business WHAT WILL WE EAT???

    I have started buying more fruit and veg from a local market. It’s not much but a start!


    1. I agree, and not fulfilling the grants was not about the cash, as you say a small amount relatively, and I feel sorry for those people that invested in the effort and the hope it would make a difference.
      Sadly, the answer to what we will eat is already wilting on the supermarket shelves.


    1. I’m a skeptic about how much our welfare is a consideration. I’m not overly sure They want to save us medical costs. Big Pharma And medical insurance shareholders’ profits would take a dive if we were all fit and healthy.
      Yes, we need to look after our farmers 🙂


  12. Instead of doing something, it’s so much better to research doing something. Ugh. I hate that mentality.


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