By Phil Jarratt
Councilor Tom Wegener’s dream of a Noosa agro-hub promoting and facilitating home-grown food is not only fast becoming a reality, but he is going on the road to sell the concept this week.
Agri-hub Community Meetings will be held at Cooroy Community Hall on Sunday March 27 from 4-6pm, Black Ant Café, Kin Kin on Monday March 28 from 6-8pm and Sunshine Beach Surf Club on Tuesday March 29 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 agricultural economy envisioned by the plan. 2019 rural business, but put on hold during Covid.
Now Cr Wegener, who is Chairman of Permaculture Noosa and Board Representative and Board Member of the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation, is leading the charge with his personal vision of a 10-year plan to make Noosa the right bowl food of the country, if not the world, just in time for the Brisbane/SEQ Olympics.
He even renamed the Cooroy Community Garden the Olympic Garden (with a plaque to prove it) to prove he’s just dinkum.
In December, when he first presented the vision for the agro-hub to Noosa Today, Tom said: “Basically the past mantra was to get big or get out of farming. Monoculture, mechanization and chemical fertilizers were the agricultural norm. In Noosa, small farms could not compete with the modern model, and since then much farmland, including hobby farms, has become unused and degraded. But now things have started to change. Farming practices are increasingly focused on intensive micro-farming where crops and animals work in harmony to produce abundance and regenerate the land. Residents of Noosa seek out locally grown food knowing it is organic, healthy and supports the local community.
“The foundations are now laid for a renaissance of local agriculture. But there are significant obstacles. The first is that small local agriculture, with the current organizations, is not financially viable. Noosa land is very expensive and with the costs of machinery, labour, fertilizer and advice, it is not profitable. On top of that, the land in many cases has been degraded and climate change poses greater uncertainty.
As Cr Wegener’s ideas about creating a local farming renaissance were bubbling, Noosa Council was in the final stages of debating its climate change response plan. He paid particular attention to “Theme 6: Sustainable agriculture and food systems”, which defines as priorities, “Supporting agribusinesses and landowners to create a sustainable and regenerative food system that includes consideration and preparedness for risks related to climate change… Promote sustainable development, locally produced foods and improve access to local foods for farmers, residents, visitors and vulnerable people.
Cr Wegener saw that the justification 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 pieces together, from scratch.
Now, after a summer of planning exactly how it might work, Cr Wegener and agencies supporting Agri-hub, including Noosa Biosphere, Noosa and District Landcare and Country Noosa, are ready to sell it to the community.
According to the advisor, the terrain can be broken down into four basic areas:
Education – explaining what can grow sustainably in our climate and soil and how regenerative agriculture can improve land values.
Bringing people to the land – creating a model farm agreement that would make it easier for returning and new farmers to increase the value of currently unused land.
Getting green waste out of landfills and bringing it to farms where it can be used for biochar and compost.
Create an efficient supply chain for the distribution of products.
Proving that actions speak louder than words, Cr Wegener has already lobbied local restaurants in Cooroy, and the owner of Fika Café now provides him with a canister of green waste a day, all going to the Cooroy Olympic Garden Community Garden.