Report on Australian Farmers gathering in Tasmania
Australian small-scale farmers have been gathered in a little town named Cygnet in Australia's only island state of Tasmania. The Deep Winter Agrarian Gathering was for three days from 8th June to 10th June 2018. The first day was for the farm visit and the weekend was for the conference.
More than 100 people attended the gathering mostly small-scale farmers, activists and academics. Australian ally of La Via Campesina, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) was the main organiser of the whole program whereas AFSA President Tammi Jonas was one of the founders of the Deep Winter Agrarian Gathering. AFSA team projected La Via Campesina and it's Food Sovereignty idea and campaign very well for the Australian farming communities during the program.
In the first day of the agrarian gathering, the crowd was divided into two groups and visited different farms in the Tasmanian farming hub Huon Valley. I was attended one of the group and visited three farms including Longley permaculture farm which is operated by local community and growing certified organic food. One of the permaculture farmers demonstrated their different process of farming to us and also showed the tactics and tools they use in the permaculture farming. We also visited a famous Tasmanian organic farm named Fat Pig Farm. We visited their cattle's and vegetable growing areas. Fat Pig Farm has own restaurant in the farm and they are providing meal and most of the food ingredients coming from own farm, from vegetable to meat almost everything. And the Fat Pig Farm owner himself a chef in the restaurant was saying that because he is growing food in own farm, cooking and selling in his own restaurant it is a profitable business.
All the farmers we met during the farm visit, were attended the conference and shared their stories about their life and farming. I felt very good when met them again at the conference.
The conference held in the Cygnet Town Hall. In the inaugural address, a representative from Tasmanian aboriginal community welcomed the farmers and tolled the human history of Tasmania. Then one organiser did the amazing thing, just change the position and disclose the information about us, I will remember that for a long time. She requested people to divide into two groups, one side farmers and other side farmer's friends. We saw that most of the people at the conference are farmers. She requested to the farmers to make a north-south queue to show where you came from. We saw most of the farmers came from mainland Australia and many from South Australia and Queensland. Then the organiser said to farmers to change the position to show what you are growing. We saw that the farmers are growing lots of different things, meat, milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains. She said reshovel the position and make a line to show how much farming experience you have. We saw that few farmers have very long farming experience; one farmer said that he is a farmer for last 40 years and the other end of the line the farmer said that she just finished her first-year harvest. After the welcome session, it was clear, who was representing the agrarian gathering.
There were lots of workshops on different interesting topics. There were parallel sessions as well and one time I noticed that five workshops were at the same time. I attended workshops as many as I can and there were few very interesting workshops as well. Queer farming, Seeds, Soil, agro marketing were the interesting workshop for me. There were very important discussion and sharing in the workshops. Tammi Jonas from AFSA had a workshop on 'Grow your ethics'. She emphasised on food sovereignty idea of La Via Campesina in her workshop.
Australian small farmers are facing lots of challenges, especially in the marketing area. Agro marketing is under control of big companies here. Seeds, farming tools as well as farmers products businesses are mostly owned by the corporations. There were lots of discussions in the workshops that how to bring back dominance of small farmers in the agro-businesses.
In the conclusion, Tammi Jonas echoed the LVC slogan.... Via Campesina.... everyone chanted ....Viva....
Pathak Lal Golder