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Projects for Coexistence

Future of Food

IPCS visits Mildura

In the last week of February, finally, after a year of COVID-delay, Melinda Hinkson and Lauren Rickards travelled to Mildura to kickstart the future of food project. Over the course of six days we met with current and retired fruit and vegetable growers, people experimenting with new agricultural techniques and produce, people working in regional development, the arts, community health and nutrition, corporate investment and distribution, and environmental and water advocates.

Save the Barka/Darling River.

 Among the highlights of our trip were a visit to the Food Next Door Co-op’s Burundian Community Farm. Established in 2016, the project brings together locally resettled refugees and provides access to under-utilised private land where they can grow their preferred crops utilising a mix of customary and regenerative methods. At the time of our visit a substantial maize crop was thriving along with a variety of other diverse vegetables. Through the creation of a community water bank, the farm has secured donations of irrigated water at a stable and affordable price at a time when water trading is a significant pressure for all growers in this region.

The pressing problem of water—its over-extraction, its commodity trading, and the failure of government regulation to protect environmental flows—is the number one issue on the minds of everyone we spoke to. 

Stefano de Pieri, Barka/Darling River.

On Saturday 27 February Melinda travelled with IPCS patron Stefano de Pieri and others to the southern outlet of Lake Cawndilla, out past Menindee in western New South Wales, to participate in the National Gallery of Australia’s Homily to Country procession, which was mounted as part of French artist JR’s Triennial installation. This moving gathering of some fifty people on the dry lake bed under searing sun brought together Aboriginal custodians, graziers, growers, environmental advocates and their supporters in a living artwork that draws attention to the ecological devastation of the Barka/Darling river system. Earlier in the month the NGV hosted a related panel discussion ‘Rivers in Decline’ with three of the community leaders who are subjects of the work, Barkanji Elder Badger Bates and local agriculturalists Rachel Strachan and Alan White. The remarkable coalition of activists who have mobilised on behalf of the imperilled rivers and tributaries of the Murray-Darling Basin and all of the forms of life that these waters support deserve to be heard across the country. 

In weeks and months ahead we will travel to other parts of the state to explore transformations in farming practices, movements for food sovereignty, local co-operative growing and distribution networks, and experiments in regenerative agriculture. We sketched out some of our early thinking around the need for revitalised regional relationships in an essay published in Arena #4 late last year. The research we are conducting is sponsored by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Trust and will feed into a series of public events we are working towards staging later in the year.

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