By Phil Jarratt
Councilor Tom Wegener’s dream of a Noosa Agri-Hub that promotes and facilitates local food is not only fast becoming a reality – he’s taking to the streets to sell the concept this week.
Agri-Hub community meetings will be held at Cooroy Community Hall on Sunday, March 27 from 4-6pm, Monday, March 28 from 6-8pm at Black Ant Cafe, Kin Kin, and Tuesday , March 29, at the Sunshine Beach Surf Club from 6-8 p.m.
The community meetings are a call to action for farmers, food producers, landowners, business people and interested members of the community to help create a vibrant and productive regenerative agriculture envisioned in the 2019 Rural Enterprise Plan but put on hold during Covid.
Now, Cr Wegener, who is President of Permaculture Noosa and is a Council Representative and Board Member of the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation, is not leading the world from the start, just in time, with his personal vision of a 10-year plan to make Noosa the country’s good food dish for the Olympic Games in Brisbane/SEQ.
He even renamed Cooroy’s community garden the Olympic Garden (with a plaque proving it) to prove he’s fair Dinkum.
Back in December, when he first outlined the Agri-Hub vision to Noosa Today, Tom said: “Basically, the mantra of the past was make it big or get out of farming. Monoculture, mechanization and chemical fertilizers were the agricultural standard. In Noosa, small farms could not compete with the modern model and much arable land, including hobby farms, has since fallen fallow and degraded. But now things have changed. Agricultural practices are increasingly focused on micro-intensive farming, where plants and animals work in harmony to produce abundance and regenerate the land. Noosa residents look to locally grown food because they know it is organic, healthy and supports the local community.
“Now the foundations are being laid for a revitalization of local agriculture. But there are significant obstacles. The first is that small local farming is not financially viable with current organizations. Noosa land is very expensive and combined with the cost of machinery, labour, fertilizer and advice is uneconomical. In addition, in many cases the land has been degraded and climate change brings with it greater insecurity.”
While Cr Wegener’s ideas for creating a local farming renaissance simmered, Noosa Council was in the final stages of debating its plan to respond to climate change. He paid particular attention to “Theme 6: Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems” which outlines as priorities: “Supporting agribusinesses and landowners to create a sustainable and regenerative food system that includes addressing and preparing for climate change risks… promoting sustainable, local produced food and improving access to local food for farmers, residents, visitors and vulnerable people.”
Cr Wegener saw that the rationale and funding would not come from the economic plan but from the CCRP. He got a small grant from the council and started putting the parts in place from scratch.
Now, after a summer of planning exactly how this could work, Cr Wegener and the agencies that support Agri-Hub, including Noosa Biosphere, Noosa and District Landcare and Country Noosa, are ready to sell it to the community.
According to the city council, the playing field can be divided into four basic areas:
Education – explain what can grow sustainably in our climate and soil and how regenerative agriculture can increase the value of land.
Bringing People to the Land – Creating a model for farming agreements that would make it easier for returning and new farmers to add value to currently unused land.
Moving green waste from landfill to farms where it can be used for biochar and compost.
Creation of an effective supply chain for the distribution of the products.
Proving that actions speak louder than words, Cr Wegener has already praised local restaurants in Cooroy and the owner of Fika Café now provides him with a barrel of green waste every day – all going to the Olympic Garden in Cooroy Community Garden.