Monday, August 12, 2013

a short story about this network

I'm often asked about this wonderful network, why it's here & how did it come about?  So, I thought I'd tell you a little story about the Moreland Food Gardens Network (MFGN)... and take this opportunity to reflect on what inspires me. 

Photo by Rasha Tayeh; Mulberry Gardens
The network was established through work I do in health promotion at Merri Community Health.  MFGN emerged in early 2011 through a former group that focused on food security issues in Moreland.  There was a notable increase in local food projects, not just through the organisation’s work in food security, but more generally in the community... there's been a groundswell of grass root initiatives focusing on food.  So MFGN was an attempt to respond to community needs to improve urban agriculture and food security in Moreland, by connecting people and creating opportunities to advocate and collaborate around important food issues.  By inviting community members to join this group, it meant that it could act as a peer-support network for local residents & grass root initiatives as well as provide a platform to honor & facilitate local knowledge.

Photo by Rasha Tayeh
Mulberry Gardens (our cutest members)

The group is fairly young and to an extent still finding its feet.  But the level of commitment & energy of its members is truly inspiring.  It’s a reflection of the local food movement in Melbourne’s inner north.  Like any group there are ebbs and flows, but I suppose the network maintains its structure through health promotion principles, the unique relationships and passion that exist with its members.  There’s a terms of reference, an online website, facebook, twitter, a members' google-group, bimonthly gatherings and a healthy dose of flexibility that allows everyone to participate within their own capacity.  There’s a great diversity in our membership base, ranging from local residents, gardeners, food activists, not-for-profit organizations, local food projects, schools, community health workers, local government officers, academics and social entrepreneurs.  

As a founding member, I learnt on the job that it’s a balance of clear structure & process with enough fluidity for creativity to flourish and new ideas to arise.  It’s collective thinking and action driven by a common vision for a local, fair & sustainable food system that allows this network to work.  From my experience, both personally and professionally, I found that networks & community groups are each very interesting, dynamic & unique in their own way.  There always tends to be a core group of ‘main-action-people’ and other members who come & go.  But ultimately it’s the fact that members continue being part of it, keeps it relevant and alive.

Photo by Rasha Tayeh
Growing Diversity - Community cooking project
(so many delicious recipes were shared!)

I'm constantly amazed by the wonderful work our community is doing to relocalise and strengthen our food system.  Projects keep growing in numbers and new opportunities for collaboration are constantly on the horizon.  There are always stories to be shared over locally grown food and many delicious cups of tea - it's a certain magic that's hard to explain when people come together to share food and build community.  

If you're around in a couple of weeks, please pop into the Coburg Farmers Market on Saturday 24th Aug and say hello, we'll have a stall there.  Our fair food feast booked out quickly, but do drop in to another fair food week event and make a toast to the local food movement in our beautiful city.   

With love, 

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