Food Connect with Emma-Kate Rose

by | September 09, 2020 | Permaculture Podcast | 0 comments

Tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Youtube or any of your preferred podcast platforms.

My guest this week on Sense-Making in a Changing World is my amazing friend and fellow community food advocate and [pr]activist, Emma-Kate Rose. Emma-Kate has always been such an inspiration to me, and when you hear the projects she’s involved with, I think you’ll understand why.

She leads the ground-breaking community food enterprise, Food Connect,  and is co-founder, with her partner Robert Pekin, of the Food Connection Foundation and the Food Connect Shed.

The Food Connect Shed is a local space for the creative local food economy to shift towards healthier, fair and regenerative food system. This was an amazing achievement – bringing 500 community farmers and supporters to raise $2 million dollars in an equity crowdfunding campaign to purchase the warehouse they’d rented for 12 years. I am super proud to be one of the Food Connect Shed Careholders (not shareholders).

Emma-Kate is also the Chair of the Queensland Social Enterprise Council, a fellow at the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Program Director at  The Next Economy.  Emma-Kate turns business on its head, well actually, puts heart, ethics and care right at the centre. Actually way back in 2006 she started Brisbane’s first Car Share enterprise.

I hope you enjoy this conversation with Emma-Kate, and also hear how she has woven permaculture into thinking about their business and the future of food in the Brisbane region!




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I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which I live and work – the Gubbi Gubbi people. And I pay my respects to their elders past present and emerging.

Read the full transcript here:

Morag Gamble: Welcome to the sense-making in a changing world podcast, where we explore the kind of thinking we need to navigate a positive way forward. I’m your host Morag Gamble.. Permaculture Educator, and Global Ambassador, Filmmaker, Eco villager, Food Forester, Mother, Practivist and all around lover of thinking, communicating and acting regeneratively. For a long time it’s been clear to me that to shift trajectory to a thriving one planet way of life we first need to shift our thinking, the way we perceive ourselves in relation to nature, self, and community is the core. So this is true now more than ever. And even the way change is changing, is changing. Unprecedented changes are happening all around us at a rapid pace. So how do we make sense of this? To know which way to turn, to know what action to focus on? So our efforts are worthwile and nourishing and are working towards resilience, regeneration, and reconnection. What better way to make sense than to join together with others in open generative conversation.

Morag Gamble: In this podcast, I’ll share conversations with my friends and colleagues, people who inspire and challenge me in their ways of thinking, connecting and acting. These wonderful people thinkers, doers, activists, scholars, writers, leaders, farmers, educators, people whose work informs permaculture and spark the imagination of what a post-COVID, climate-resilient, socially just future could look like. Their ideas and projects help us to make sense in this changing world to compost and digest the ideas and to nurture the fertile ground for new ideas, connections and actions. Together we’ll open up conversations in the world of permaculture design, regenerative thinking community action, earth, repair, eco-literacy, and much more. I can’t wait to share these conversations with you.

Morag Gamble: Over the last three decades of personally making sense of the multiple crises we face I always returned to the practical and positive world of permaculture with its ethics of earth care, people care and fair share. I’ve seen firsthand how adaptable and responsive it can be in all contexts from urban to rural, from refugee camps to suburbs. It helps people make sense of what’s happening around them and to learn accessible design tools, to shape their habitat positively and to contribute to cultural and ecological regeneration. This is why I’ve created the Permaculture Educators Program to help thousands of people to become permaculture teachers everywhere through an interactive online dual certificate of permaculture design and teaching. We sponsor global Permayouth programs, women’s self help groups in the global South and teens in refugee camps. So anyway, this podcast is sponsored by the Permaculture Education Institute and our Permaculture Educators Program. If you’d like to find more about permaculture, I’ve created a four-part permaculture video series to explain what permaculture is and also how you can make it your livelihood as well as your way of life. We’d love to invite you to join our wonderfully inspiring, friendly and supportive global learning community. So I welcome you to share each of these conversations, and I’d also like to suggest you create a local conversation circle to explore the ideas shared in each show and discuss together how this makes sense in your local community and environment. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I meet and speak with you today.. The Gubbi Gubbi people and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

Morag Gamble: I’d like to welcome Emma-Kate Rose to the show. Emma-Kate is someone who I have long admired and been inspired by. I’m just going to read some of it.. I mean, apart from being the most amazing mother and climate activist and speaker and social advocate, Emma Kate is also, she leads Food Connect. Um, and I’ll let you maybe tell us a bit more about Food Connect soon, because that’s an amazing part of this whole concept about changing our food system and thinking differently about the future of food and resilience and community and economy. Kate is also the executive director of the Food Connect foundation. And is the chair of the Queensland Social Enterprise Council, project manager with the Next Economy, all about transitioning communities, um, from, uh, into like into a post fossil fuel economy, really, I think is where you’re going with that. Um, I know I’ve missed something. Oh, also a fellow of The Yunus Centre at Griffith University and something else that’s really remarkable, um, that I think has just opened up a huge new conversation is what you did recently with equity crowdfunding. And, um, you know, do you, you’re not only doing food differently, uh, you’re doing business completely differently. And I think what this, why I really wanted to, to have this conversation apart from the fact that I love talking with you every time I talk to you, I feel so uplifted, but there’s so much about what you do and how you do it. That I think is what we need to hear right now. Like, as, as you know, right now, as we’re speaking, we’re in, in the COVID-19 lockdown and, and there’s some really, uh, important lessons that you’ve experienced over the last 14 years in Food Connect that can help, um, in their, in their recovery thinking differently about how we move forward from this point. Um, but beyond COVID it’s also, I think a really important thing to think about as we’re recovering well, not as we’re recovering as we address climate change, you know, the type of business that you’re doing is more resilient and adaptable and flexible and caring and supporting local enterprise and local farmers. So maybe we could just start at the beginning possibly just tell us a little bit about what Food Connect is about, because I think this as a foundation of what you do is just an extraordinary project.

Emma-Kate Rose: Yeah. Oh thank you so Morag. It’s really lovely to, to be, um, on this interview. I feel very honored to be asked actually, because I’ve admired of your work and I’m actually have convinced my daughter to start participating in some of, some of your programs for youth. And she was devastated the other day when she missed the five o’clock call.

Morag Gamble: She could join next week! It’s going to be 50 people from a refugee camp in Kenya waiting to join in to. So..yeah, yeah.

Emma-Kate Rose: She’d love that. Um, yeah. So, you know, kudos to you as well. I think, you know, in your own way, you’re making huge changes in the world and the ripple effect of what you do can be felt way beyond your, um, you know, beautiful location at Crystal Waters. Um, yeah, so Food Connect, um, uh, for those who don’t know, um, a lot of people in Brisbane, Southeast Queensland has heard of Food Connect. Um, but I suppose there are areas that haven’t, it was started by my partner, Rob Pekin, who was an ex-dairy farmer. He lost his farm, um, back in the late 90s due to drought, and overbearing banks and ended up losing his fourth generation farm. And through that process actually… He didn’t even know the people who drank his milk. Like he was, he, he was part of an industrialized food system that was so disconnected from, you know, between the grower and the consumer or the HR as we like to call vehicle, um, that he just thought there’s got to be a better way. And so, um, he came across the concept of community supported agriculture, which actually recently I just found out was always known to originate from versions of it from Japan and Switzerland, but it was actually started in the sixties by black farmers in Alabama as an, as a mutual, um, you know, uh, wave for ADAS and growers to support each other particularly through hard times. So, um, so community supported agriculture is basically a concept where a whole bunch of community members pay up front a subscription for a season’s worth of healthy fruit and veg with a focus on organic and natural farming methods and regenerative farm methods. Um, and it sort of taken off as a concept and was always traditionally just one farmer in a bunch of community. Um, and when Rob that system for a number of years, he landed in Brisbane and he realized that actually it wasn’t really that relevant for Brisbane because we’ve all got access to anything we want whenever we want here. Um, so how can we build local food system that has the principles of community supported agriculture as the foundation, but just operationally includes a lot more than just one farmer and a lot more Asians.

Emma-Kate Rose: Um, so we now have, um, been going for 14, 15 years, um, as a bit of an experiment and we’re still here. Um, but we always knew that we didn’t want to be a, not for profit or a charity model of food enterprise. We really wanted it to be a business and for it to stand on its own two feet economically because we knew that that would be the most resilient way of hanging around for the long term. Um, being able to engage, um, now 80 farmers and 40 food makers who are all locally sourced. So we sort of drew a circle around Brisbane at no more than sort of, you know, 400 Ks depending on what season it is. So we’re very lucky here in Southeast Queensland, we have lots of microclimates the beautiful stone fruit growing areas up at Stanford. We’ve got, um, you know, amazing Mediterranean veggies, um, coming up from Gimpy in Bundaberg and the Mary Valley that we’ve got some, you know, all the lovely, um, you know, fresh greens and whatever much closer to the city. Um, and so, um, so we’ve been able to operate a local food system now for that long, and we’ve, withstood the JFC we’ve withstood the Brisbane 2011 floods, um, which we actually thought the local food system would fail during that time because all of Southeast Queensland was affected by those floods. But because of the small nature of our farm, um, their operations, um, didn’t require a big infrastructure or massive machinery to harvest. They could get out into their fields really quickly. They, they knew the back roads, um, when the highways were cut off so that they could get the produce to us. And I think throughout that whole period of the floods, we only lost one day of productivity. And then at the same time managed to kind of galvanize the community to go and feed while they were cleaning up Brisbane as well. So..

Morag Gamble: I also remember something about that time too, when, um, I remember Rob talking about how, you know, we were a few days away in Brisbane from actually running out of food in the industrial food system, however, in the local food system, it really highlighted the resilience studies when embraced the local food system. I have a sense too, that you’re feeling that now that there’s much greater resilience in this local food system. And maybe you could talk a little bit about how it’s responding right now because it’s quite an extraordinary time.

Emma-Kate Rose: Yeah. Interesting. Um, so it’s, it’s funny because we’ve been able to prove the model, um, through these crisis points. And, um, and then it’s funny, people, um, they drop off, they go away, they enter into, back into the business as usual food system, and we just hold our heads above water, you know, always waiting for the next crisis. We always knew that, you know, we would be ready.. And that we’ve designed a system, um, not just by community supported agriculture principles, but also by permaculture principles where you know, that there was enough diversity in our group of farmers, um, where if there was a crisis in one geographical area, we could rely on another in our local area, um, that if, you know, um, someone had issues with growing something that’s another farmer could help them out. You know, we tried to encourage as much mutual cooperation as possible amongst our suppliers, particularly in an industry that’s traditionally, you know, very competitive and they often don’t share information. But, um, yeah, the, the COVID pandemic has really brought a new light into the situation where we haven’t really had a climate crisis. Although you could argue that that COVID is a climate crisis in terms of its macro context, but, um, with our local food supply, what we’ve seen is that, um, when we had food disappearing off the shelves of supermarkets, um, that, you know, our sales quadrupled and we were able to meet the supply without any issues at all. In fact, like looking back now with a month sort of lockdown in hindsight, we were actually underperforming before. So we had enough fat in the system to meet the challenge and, um, and rise to the occasion, um, and had to employ more staff. And we employed those staff basically from community. So there are enough people around the food connection here in Brisbane who knew us, who were sacked pretty much straightaway. As soon as lockdown came in, came knocking on the door and said, I’ve got a van I can help with deliveries. Um, you know, sign me up. It’s all that sort of that, what we call social capital, like really kicks in in times of crisis. And that’s what we’ve found in terms of not just our food supply, but also the way we operate the business.

Morag Gamble: So beyond the food connect model of the linking between farmers, how you do the bigger picture as well, that I think is, is fantastic. You know, like your, your model you offer is open source. If other people wanted to do this as, as well that you went out and paid it for to help other people set up systems. So that itself is a mind shift in how you operate business. And then the other one too, about, you know, your, your ownership models. So the way that you bought the building that you’re in, and that’s a completely different model in itself of how you, how you own, or, or collectively share own this space that you’re in. Could you maybe talk, that’s two big questions there, but maybe pick one. I think it’s a, it’s a really, it’s the context makes what you’re doing even more incredibly amazing. So many different models that you are, like you say, you’re experimenting with and finding that actually really work and help to create that resilience that can, that can keep things most stable. Security isn’t having a massive, great wealth or massive insurance security is like you just said, the community capital, social capital, and so much more to it. And I think it’s a fascinating experiment, you know, is actually a thing too.

Emma-Kate Rose: Very real. It’s very real. Um, yeah. Look, I’ll, um, talk a little bit about the open source stuff. So we always knew, you know, we don’t own this information. We’ve borrowed all these ideas from things that resonate with us, um, and the reading that we do and the people that we’ve met and spoken to all over the world. Um, and, um, and so we just, we just designed in what we really liked, you know, what the sort of future that we wanted to see. And so, um, not all of it, worst of course, like some of it felt terribly. Um, and that’s one of the things that we’re, I guess most proud of is that initially when Food Connect started, there was no software around really meet the business rules in terms of, um, the amount of farmers that we’re supplying and they, um, the way we deliver out and engage our customers in terms of, you know, having an online subscription and regular, a regular payment, um, you could choose from like a six weeks, six months, three months, you know, a whole, you could even subscribe for a whole year up front with your food, which was kind of nifty in terms of our cash flow, um, but also helps families budget, um, with their food budget as well. So if you’ve got that locked in, you don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the, um, and so, um, so we had to find, so one of our customers, long story short designed some software for us that we used for quite a number of years. And as groups from around Australia came and visited food connect to find out how we did things. Um, we also gave them the software to take with them because we knew that it wouldn’t work if they had to build something themselves, you know, as we all know, software is incredibly expensive to develop. Um, so that eventually transformed a, um, uh, uh, a not for profit. We ended up giving it away cause we had to make a decision as a business. Do we want to become a software company? Would you be want to become, just Food Connect and be with our community and to share the ideas. Um, and the second thing appealed to us the most. So, um, so we gave the software away, um, to, and not-for-profit called the open food network. Um, and that not for profit has now spread globally. And I was just on the phone to [inaudible] and last week, she’s based in Victoria and she leads the organization with her partner Serenity Hill. And, um, they used to get around 10 inquiries a month, um, the new farmers and, um, food hubs, um, to use the software. And they’re now getting 10 a day.

Morag Gamble: Um, so, so what shift are you seeing globally, or even globally as a result of what’s happening? Like, are you seeing data?

Emma-Kate Rose: We’re seeing a lot of, um, small communities, um, going, okay, how can we do our food better in this circumstance? And a lot of farmers, you know, they’ve lost markets in this pandemic, the whole tourism and hospitality sectors have literally shut down. So they’ve had to find alternative markets as well. Um, and so they have turned to open food network in order to sell direct to their local community, um, and, you know, start developing those skills of, you know, um, marketing and talking to customers and, um, engaging with community. So that’s been, that’s been quite amazing. Um, and yeah, it’s, uh, it’s something that we’re very excited by because what it does is, um, the software allows the farmer to transparently engage with their eater, um, every step along the value and supply chain. Um, so, you know, the customers know exactly what they’re paying for that the food system is basically democratized. Um, it’s all trans.. Made transparent. Um, when it traditionally has relied on being very opaque and mysterious in terms of how the food gets from the farm, you know, to the supermarket shelf..

Morag Gamble: This um, system, are you finding much support from, I guess, government or other organizations to support your… oh your laugh kind of answers that question because you know, we’re looking at, you know, is it recovery seeing what you’re saying? You know, the impact for farmers impact the community local businesses, and that it makes sense that any restrictions that there are, that kind of make it difficult for this level of the food system to happen, uh, need to be lifted and that they actually be shifting subsidies from industrial farming to these localized farming systems. And are you seeing any shift in that yet? Or is there, you know, what voice are you hearing actually helping to promote that as something that could happen? Or is it not something that you want, would you rather just be an underground mycelium network of independent non non-controlled?

Emma-Kate Rose: Yeah. Well, there’s always a danger isn’t there when you start putting things in the hands of the higher powers, I guess. And so there, isn’t an element of like, no, let’s keep this underground, but then what it’s not doing is reaching the most vulnerable, um, that needed it the most. And so that’s where I feel like the government can play a role or philanthropy. So, um, we haven’t been very good today in being able to speak or walk the talk to investors, philanthropists, and governments. So we’re starting to learn to do that. Um, and I do feel like there is a role for that, um, for those systems and that knowledge to come into play, to help those marginalized communities, especially, um, and also, but not, not do it in a way that’s sort of top down really to do it in a way where government gets out of the way and their role is to really facilitate, um, you know, local communities doing it for themselves. And that’s where technology can play a really positive role.

Morag Gamble: So, um, the, um, you know, idea of working with, with, um, people who, who need greater access to food and, and doing that to where you are and as being a platform for being seen as well, because you’re in a hub and you have a lot of other enterprises That exists within the hub that you’ve created. And one of those is also about the redistribution of food. It feels to me like the way that you’re creating this sort of mutual network, your visibility and power to ripple out changing the food system is every day getting more and more because it’s saying that the success of it that have worked, that it works. It’s not about the farmer.. not just about the consumer, or it’s not just about food aid. It is all of those things altogether in a response to climate, in a response to, you know, our current situation, you know, response to, to drought in a response to the decimation of small farms in Australia. Response to all of those things simultaneously and many, many more. So, um, you know, just maybe if you could speak a little bit about that, the food hub.

Emma-Kate Rose: So one of the things that, um, a lot of people probably, um, forget about the food system is that it’s so complex. Um, you know, and, but that’s also the beauty of it as well. I mean, there’s so, so many roles for different people to clay, um, particularly in a positive response to COVID, um, the pandemic, as well as climate change in the food system. Um, we were talking to one of our farmers, um, this week, actually he does custard apples, um, on the North Coast of New South Wales, but he’s also a CSI statistician, and he’s written reports over the years that haven’t really even seen the light of day, which basically confirm that, you know, the CO2 emissions that’s attributed to the globalized food system, um, is more likely 50% of global emissions than the sort of 30% that’s often, um, you know, put out there in terms of the stats. So when you have a look at the food system from stage right through to the person’s height and everything in between, particularly the transport and distribution, we sort of connect decided to focus on the distribution side of things, because if you localize distribution and supply, um, then you’re building a lot more transparency and equity, um, and relationships. Um, you know, it’s a relationship based food system, um, when it’s a localized food system, rather than just a transactional one, um, when you’re looking at long, long supply chains in the globalized system, um, so recognizing how complex the food system is, we wanted to invite people into the hub, the food connect hub, we call it the food connection. Um, so we only take up through connect County, takes up a third of the space for our own operations. And so that, that allows other people to come in, um, to experiment, do their own experiments, um, but also to run their own enterprises and not for profits out of the, um, by being co located. And that way we can have mutual, um, conversations. And, and I mean, there’s not a lot of time to do projects together because we’re so focused on our own operations, but just those, um, incidental conversations that happen in the hallways on your way to the toilet or the staff kitchen or whatever, um, suddenly ideas get turned around and, and, um, and things happen, um, out of those. So, um, so we’ve got Oz harvest there who do food rescue, um, and they also acknowledged that, you know, food rescue is just addressing the symptoms of the lack of failure of the larger food system. Um, and they’re always looking at ways that they can introduce programs like food literacy and, um, you know, developing cooking skills and those sorts of things into their programs for marginalized communities, which is really exciting. Um, we’ve got a commercial kitchen that’s set up, which is a community shared kitchen and we rent it out by half a day to small food entrepreneurs who want to test out their products and sell them into the market. Um, and they, you know, we, we do have a policy that they try and source as locally as possible, their raw products, um, in the processing of their food. And we also allowed some space for education and events. Um, so when the pandemic lifts, um, we’ll be able to start, you know, sharing, um, uh, our event space again with the local community, because what we’ve found is that, um, we’ve, we’ve spent 14 years shoving messages down people’s throats about, we really need to move to a local food system, and you can do that till the cows come home, but unless people have an experience, um, that’s positive, uh, then the pennies won’t drop. So that’s why, you know, over the years we’ve taken a lot of our customers out to farms on farm tours to meet our farmers and have that experience of, of what it’s like to be a farmer. And they get to, you know, look them in the eye and ask them all the questions and it’s, then that we get the feedback from people saying that’s when the penny really dropped for me. Um, and then with the event space, similarly, we invite people in and it could just be a wedding or a 40th, or, um, you know. Um, and they, they’re in this industrial space in the middle of nowhere in Brisbane. And I, and I go, what’s this space all about, um, and that’s when the curiosity leads to, well, this is about a local food system. And that, that invitation to find out more is a, um, is a journey for that person. Like it’s an individual journey, um, to realize for themselves that there is another way of doing things that’s, um, safe, nutritious, healthy, um, and fun.

Morag Gamble: So how the message actually does reach people at different levels and at what point, and that like through celebration and through fun and through opening up, but still being within that context of, of the food system, I think is really important. Its reminds me too about how we learn best just, I’m very mindful of it, the moment, you know, how our schooling is happening, learning is happening we’re in different contexts. And, you know, it happens for us as adults too, But I want to back to what you said about taking people out to farms. So you’re talking about the impact that that had on the consumers, but what are you seeing that that’s having an impact on the farmers themselves?

Emma-Kate Rose: Yeah. So one of the things that we always thought was the most important thing about setting up a local food system was this, um, price for farmers, because we know that the industrialized food system often pays farmers below the cost of production. And there’s this mantra of get big or get out, you know, um, that small farmers just can’t cut it today in today’s market. It’s just not possible. Um, we wanted to prove that theory wrong by keeping everything laying in the middle as much as possible we’re able to return a farm prospect to farmers that’s four times the industrial average. So, um, so yeah, we have a business rule that we return 40 to 50 cents in the retail dollar back to our farmers.

Morag Gamble: Are you saying that it’s typically only 10 cents or less sometimes.

Emma-Kate Rose: Or less, depending on what they grow. Yeah. So it’s, um, so, so that, that triggers farmers to say, Oh my God, well then it’s all about volume. If I’m only going to get 10 cents in the retail dollar for this, you know, lettuce or whatever, then I’ve got to grow 5,000 more lettuces in order to be competitive in this market.

Morag Gamble: Quantity instead of quality.

Emma-Kate Rose: That’s right. Yeah. And that’s where you find people, you know, compromising on their growing methods, they start using chemicals, they start throwing monocultures. So, you know, forget about biodiversity on your farms. So, um, so, and that’s where you run into the environmental problems that we were seeing in the food system. Um, so, but that, isn’t the only driving factor. Well, money is important. What we’ve found is that just being acknowledged for doing a good job is just, it’s more rewarding than anything. And having a whole bunch of people from the city who knows nothing about how food is grown coming in saying, thank you. Um, really does. Um, it switches a lot for them, for the farmers. And we’ve had so much amazing feedback from them over the years about how they would have given up hadn’t they had, they known that they were feeding those people. You know.

Morag Gamble: It’s not just the monetary value, but the cause. The messaging has always been particularly with even the monetary value that it’s really what you’re doing is really not worth that much. You know, if you, if you’ve got any wits about you’d be going to the city and getting a real job. Have you got the figures on like what’s the average age of farmers days? And is that the kind of farming that you’re doing, you’re seeing that there is a, a new and new farmer that’s emerging or that you work with now too.

Emma-Kate Rose: So the farms we only have about one or two kind of what you would call sort of industrial scale organic farms on our books. And there’s sort of like our backup plan. If our small farmers are having issues, but most small, most of our small farmers are on, um, you know, very small pots. Like it’s, it’s not a lot of land. Um, and a lot of them are mixed. So a lot of them are doing sort of vertical integration with animals, as well as vegetables and keeping it nice and small and diverse.

Morag Gamble: So if people would, you know, have a small farm or even a hobby farm, or even some really intense kind of urban farm and do some kind of, you know, in a way a really diverse permaculture design on it, that they could then connect in with you and start to create a livelihood from their small farm.

Emma-Kate Rose: Yeah. So we’ve, we’ve got that at the moment we have about, um, we have 80, 80 farmers roughly on our books, but in any, any given week, we’re probably directly talking to about 20 or 30, depending on the season. Um, and I would say about a third of those are now urban farmers. So it was a few years ago now where we, we, um, an honor student came to us from UK saying, I want to do a project with you guys. What can I do? And we said, we want you to write the Brisbane food plan. We don’t have time to do it. We’ve got all the ideas, but we don’t have time to write it. So he did that and he looked at Brisbane, okay, where should you get your food from Brisbane? Um, and he looked at it through the, you know, the zones in permaculture. So looking at the house, looking at, you know, um, Brisbane as the zone zero, um, and where we should get, um, you know, our fresh greens function and should really come from our own backyard. So he had a 10 year plan that, you know, by the end of the 10 years we were being… Most of our customers would be growing their own fresh lettuces and herbs. They wouldn’t need to go to food connect to buy them. Um, and then zone one is sort of like the sort of harder things to grow harder, vegetables and fruits to grow and, and so on and so forth and, you know, the grains and the meat and whatever further out. Um, and so it’s not true to the permaculture zoning, but it’s a, it’s more of a guide to think, to get people to think about appropriate scale and, and uses for, for, um, for the city context. Um, but we also use some other other lenses through which we viewed food in Brisbane. So we looked at a social justice lens. We looked at the environmental impact. We looked at, um, the economic lens, like who gets paid for doing what, um, how do we keep the money circulating locally? Because, um, over the years, we’ve, um, some of the research that we’ve done, the reading that we’ve done shows that if you can keep money circulating locally, you’re actually creating a 3 to four times multiplier effect compared to when you’re just putting your money into a supermarket and off into some invisible shareholders. So you’re actually doing more for your local economy and your local community by keeping your dollars local. Um, and we also looked at the food system, prison food from a health, um, through a preventative health lens. Um, and we got some students from Griffith Uni nutrition students to analyze the average food connect customer and their intake of fruit and veg compared to, you know, conventional Australian citizens and what they normally do, the average diet. Um, and they found that, you know, just from a preventative health point of view, that food connect customers consume 75% more fruit and veg than your average Australian.

Morag Gamble: That’s significant.

Emma-Kate Rose: Yeah. It has a huge impact on the health system. Um, especially when it’s grown on organic farms with no chemicals. Yeah.

Morag Gamble: Wow. Yeah. I mean, it just. It’s phenomenal really, you know you can’t measure the benefit economically. This really can you, because it is, it’s so inconsistent. And so I think, you know, it’s..

Emma-Kate Rose: End every piece in it Morag is interdependent on the other for it to, for it to all be healthy and functioning. You’ve got to address every complex piece in the system all the time, and that can be really hard. And so that’s why we’ve always been open because we wanted to share everything we can and everything that we know so that people can go, Oh, I cn identify with that piece in the food system, I’m going to take that bit and run with it and create positive change through my talents or passions..

Morag Gamble: And guess, too that, you know, taking an entrepreneurial type approach like you were saying, and building in that adaptability and the flexibility, and like constantly being able to kind of shift and change as you go, but having a, being as a social entrepreneur, how do you say that?

Emma-Kate Rose: Social entrepreneur a generic.. it’s a generic term that’s used a lot these days. Um, and basically, um, anybody who’s putting planet and people before profit, or even on an equal basis to profit, let’s just stop it. Basically. It tends the mindset from an extractive mindset to regenerative mindset. And so most social entrepreneurs out there, uh, doing business for good. That’s basically the, the short kind of version of it, but essentially that they’re wanting to use their entrepreneurial skills in a way that actually benefits other people and the environment, um, and, you know, also provides them with a living. Um, and so it’s basically just how business be my opinion. Like every business should be an ethical business. You should have a social, environmental license to operate no matter what you do, essentially that’s what social enterprise is all about.

Morag Gamble: And work that you’re doing with the, um, the Queensland Social Entrepreneur Entrepreneurship, um,

Emma-Kate Rose: Queensland Social Enterprise council. Yeah.

Morag Gamble: I’ve got to get my language right around this. So your, what do you currently doing with that at the moment? Is it more gathering the information or are you doing education through that?

Emma-Kate Rose: And so one of the main, main things purposes of QSEC is, um, to, uh, it’s always been run by members. So it basically started because I’m a small group of social entrepreneurs in Brisbane decided that, um, that I didn’t have a voice, um, that there were a lot of people in the social impact and innovation space, particularly with intermediaries, financing, social impact, and, um, governments and the like, um, who was speaking on behalf of us, but weren’t really telling the true story. So a bunch of entrepreneurs got together and said, let’s form our own sort of peak bodies, so to speak and sort of like an industry association really. And so basically what we do is we get together whenever we can online these days. Um, and we advocate, um, both to investors, um, and, uh, governments to, um, create socially friendly policies in terms of, um, business and, um, legislation. So recently in Queensland, they’ve implemented a social, um, uh, procurement policy, they call it, um, so they’re trying to educate buyers right across government because governments spend a lot of money with businesses, um, in procuring services and goods. And so the idea is if they have a social procurement policy that, um, when buyers go out seeking, services or goods that they actually can tick the box, that, that, that supplier is a social enterprise, or has some kind of impact social, environmental impact by purchasing with them. And that can be a really powerful way to drive social change is by getting large institutions to spend their money more wisely with the people who can provide services, unfortunately at the moment, because the whole, because the government buy is so huge, a lot of the buyers have been used to just going with one big multinational who can do all the things for them. But what they’re having to do is sort of redesign their contracts so that they can apportion some, some of the money towards the social enterprises that can fulfill those contracts. So that’s one aspect of what we do. We also just are there for each other. So we’ve had a lot of webinars over the last, you know, month in particular, just trying to support each other through all the different programs that are out there in terms of help for businesses during the pandemic, but also, um, recently we’ve, um, we’ve set up a National Alliance of, um, member run, peak bodies like QSEC, and it’s been amazing. Um, we’ve, we’re basically working on a position paper at the moment to present to the federal government. Um, so that we’ve got a, um, a voice in the post recovery postcode recovery, um, because what we need to be really careful of in the recovery phase after the pandemic is that businesses as usual, doesn’t take over again, and we’re already seeing some rhetoric coming out of Canberra saying that, you know, um, particularly Angus Taylor saying that it’s going to be a guest-led recovery. Um, and that’s the last thing we need right now is, um, you know, more damage to the climate in a climate-induced pandemic.

Morag Gamble: These voices need to come out so strongly and we need to be ready. So it’s fantastic to hear that, that you are talking in that way and, and, you know, ready to speak up because it’s absolutely what we need to be doing. And I’m thinking about, um, you know, how, how, how communities transition, that’s kind of the other part of your work too, that with the next economy that you’re working with communities, um, transitioning well, you know, it started some time ago working, transitioning from, from the fossil fuel economy, but, you know, the current situation on top of all of that gives it even more reason transition to, to a different way. So one of the kinds of, uh, what are the ways that you’re working with communities to help them to transition, and what kinds of things are you working with them, talking about what kind of transition is coming out of those conversations?

Emma-Kate Rose: It’s been really interesting. I’ve only recently joined Amanda Cahill, the next economy. Um, and she’s obviously well known for her amazing work, um, in regional communities. Um, and talking about economic transition. I mean, the initial conversation is around energy. So, um, most of our work has been in coal, um, communities around Queensland and, um, talking to those communities about what kind of future they want to see, um, and what sort of, you know, um, sectors need to be supported, um, you know, in addition to renewable energy and other projects. Um, so there’s so many, um, you know, opportunities that are just lying under the surface for a lot of communities, but because of being dominated by one particular industry itself and at the expense of everything else. Um, and so you’ll often see coal communities, um, you know, vehemently hold on, um, to the call because they know that all the industries that have popped up to support that major industry will also fall over. Um, if you take that away. So how can we build more resilience into our local regional economies, um, by supporting as many diverse, um, sectors as possible. Um, and there’s so many, um, innovative, um, ideas that have come out of our conversations. We’ve got regenerative farmers really starting to step up, um, talking about new food systems. Um, we’ve got a lot of people talking about, you know, incredible opportunities around waste and recycling and upcycling. And, um, there’s also incredible talk and action around, um, small manufacturing. So, um, if the global system suddenly comes to a halt and China locks down and we can no longer import stuff, um, what can we do to produce our own stuff locally? What small industries can we, can we get going to start bringing in more skills and more money into the local regional economy? So, um, it’s only just a, uh, uh, a beginning, um, but we’ve seen some incredibly positive, um, conversations come out of those three regions. Recently, the beauty of it is that the community are coming up with these ideas themselves. So being asked the question, you know, someone stopped and decided to take the time to ask the questions. Um, and there’s so much wisdom in there, you know, and, um, we don’t need a big top down approach. We just need the people in government in big government to say, okay, guys, where do you need the support and let’s work together to do that.

Morag Gamble: And I was just going to say to the, you know, I think because of, because of what’s happening now, because we’re seeing the cracks in the system and have vulnerabilities that these conversations somehow seemed to be acceptable. You know, these conversations are not new, are they, I mean, let’s face it. These are things are we talking about for a long time? And, you know, a lot of us have just been trying to keep it going. And all of a sudden there’s a, there’s a new awareness globally about the importance of these types of conversations happening in communities. So, so that’s something that’s happening in regional communities with the next economy. What are some of the things, just from your experience of doing all the things that you do, that people who were sitting maybe down the street from you and, you know, in an urban environment, what are some other ways you think they can really support this movement of regeneration and resilience and helping to support the recovery after COVID to not just go back to business as usual, but to be something else and to support that?

Emma-Kate Rose: Yeah, it’s a good question. Often wondering to myself. Um, but I think they already know, and they already have the answers themselves because they’ve been forced into isolation. Um, you know, we’ve all realized that, um, you know, there’s, there was a bit of t the start, but you know, this all, we’re all in this together, we’re all in the same boat. And I read something recently where they said, well, we’re not all in the same boat. We’re all in the same ocean. We’re all in the same pandemic ocean, but some of us are in little boats just trying to stay afloat, you know, with a leak, with a hole in the boat and with buckets, you know, trying to, you know, get the water out and just survive and get to land. Um, other others are in big cruise ships and they’re just, they’re fine. And they’re enjoying the downturns. Um, so if anything, the pandemic has really acutely highlighted the inequities in our system. So I think in terms of, um, knowing that it’s not, everyone’s equal in this, some people are loving the home time, loving, spending time with their kids and whatever, and cooking from scratch and enjoying all those things. Other people are just trying to figure out where they’re gonna get their next meal from. Um, particularly I feel for people in the inner city who are in these one bedroom apartment blocks, you know, how are they coping? It must be so isolating for them. Um, so I guess, um, one of the things, um, well, a few things that I would sort of do, I guess, would be, um, well that I’ve noticed people doing actually, um, is, uh, particularly now suburb. We’ve had people out on the driveways every Sunday afternoon having dinner. Um, so that’s been kind of cute. There’s been a few, um, you know, new stories on the news about that. Um, I think there’s just this concept of mutual aid is that, um, you know, if we can find ways to support, um, the elderly, like I think the, the elderly are very vulnerable in these particular, not just physically healthy health wise, but also emotionally vulnerable. And I think, um, you know, the idea of the care army that came out from the state government was a good idea. I’m not sure how it’s worked in on the ground, but, um, but communities already doing that themselves in many ways too, is just to look out for each day for each other, even before you’re doing this, looking out for either side of your neighbor, um, sharing tips like you do at five o’clock every afternoon on Facebook or YouTube, like how to grow stuff, how to cook with things, um, how to use the whole pumpkin, um, including the vines and the leaves and everything. Um, you know, finding, finding ways to be more resilient in your day to day existence is, is really empowering. It’s not good, and it’s not just fun. It’s actually gives you agency. It gives you power. Um, and one of the things that I’ve found in my years at Food Connect is, um, we’ve been able to develop skills, homesteading skills we call them. But what it actually does is it reduces your reliance on the nine to five, Monday to Friday income to support yourself because you’re able to subsidize your income by being self sufficient in the lot of ways.

Morag Gamble: It realeases time and space in your life to do things..

Emma-Kate Rose: To pursue things that really matter to you like the caring, the caring economy comes into, into play. Doesn’t it. We know that that’s never, that’s never been attributed a dollar value, but I always say to Rob, you know, what would happen if, if, um, if all the women, mostly women who are the carers in households around the world, what would happen if we all just went on strike one day? The economy would stop.

Morag Gamble: What if we all started to work from home a lot more? And what if work week was three days a week? And what, what, what if there was the, you know, the universal, basic income, you know, there’s all these different questions that are kind of coming up that are differently. And like you’re saying in different type of sense of community, like the, the ripple effect of that to the, once you start to feel the greatest sense of connectedness to your community and therefore to your place, then you start to behave differently. Don’t you in your place. And the caring then extends beyond into, into your natural environment, to water system to your bioregion and to the, to the farmers that are in your bio region or to the indigenous communities that are, you know, part of, you know, yeah, that’d been there forever. Our relationships change. And once one set of relationships has a kind of a, a reorientation, everything starts to ripple out from there. And so we are in, we are in a process right now of quite, um, quite profound systems change. And while there’s massive suffering, there’s also the, if everything’s up in the air, it feels, and we have a chance to kind of catch things differently as they start to fall and settle back into place and, and have, and have, you know, the word you were saying before the agency, we have the agency to be influencers in that from the community, from our neighborhoods and to speak up and say, actually, you know what, we were on this train of life before following what we thought was the right thing to do, you know, but now we’ve, we’ve kind of all just been bumped off that. And we’ve seen that there is actually a different way of doing things a different way to, we have a different way to have an economic system, different way to feed ourselves different way to relate different way to educate our children. We’ve actually had an experience that we may not lack all of that with it, maybe bits that we like to choose, but as we kind of pack things back together, again, as we move out of these classes, it’s going to be different. And I really encourage people to speak up on what it is that they value and find important and want to embrace as we move forward from now.

Emma-Kate Rose: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. We’ve, um, we’ve as a society, I think we kind of lost sight of what really matters. What COVID has done is really remind us that, you know, at the end of the day, it’s looking after it and whether you, you have a family or whether you’re living on your own and you exist in an apartment complex, that is a community and, and how you relate to your neighbors is, is, is just as valuable as your expertise that you contribute after you’ve, you know, when you’re in there in the real economy as they call it. Um, and I often think that women kind of get this stuff a little bit better at times, because especially women, um, you know, who’ve experienced childbirth or, um, you know, being in a caring role where they’ve had to sort of interrupt their, their own careers, um, to step into a caring role, um, for a close family member or, or family or child, because, um, because you have that, we’ve often experienced that short circuit to our normal life. And often what happens in that process is that you realize that you actually don’t want to go back to that normal life. Again, you actually want to explore, um, a little bit of both. What does a bit of both look like in a healthy, balanced way, um, get off that hamster wheel and start bringing more meaning into your own life, but also pursuing your, you know, your career goals at the same time. It’s not about having it all. It’s about having a little bit, you know, of, of what you want.

Morag Gamble: And just thinking too then about, you know, it’s a redefinition of our relationship with ourselves and what we do in our own lives and in our families, but it’s also, you know, bringing it back to, to say Food Connect, you know, our community is also the members of our food system. And so, you know, by having a close relationship with something like food connect, then you don’t feel isolated in your, in your apartment because you are interconnected.

Emma-Kate Rose: That’s right. You’ve got to get out of your apartment and go and grab your box from your local city council. And you might just have.. Your world has expanded. It’s that sense of belonging. And, um, you know, I don’t know if you get that with Coles and Woolies, um, the have loyalty programs.

Morag Gamble: [laughter] The sense of brand loyalty, but it’s different when it comes to, to actually feeling cared for and nurtured and connected, and you know, relationships. I think we are finding that the richness of our relationships is, is flourishing right now in many, in many ways. So, yeah. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me this morning.

Emma-Kate Rose: You’re welcome Morag.

Morag Gamble: We kind of went all the way from global to local, but that’s kind of point when we’re exploring systems change. You know, the micro is the, of macro. So thank you so much. And I’m talking with you again soon.

Emma-Kate Rose: Thanks Morag. Lovely to spend time with you.

Morag Gamble: So thanks for tuning in to the sense-making in a changing world podcast today, it’s been a real pleasure to have your company. I invite you to subscribe and receive notification of each new weekly episode with more wonderful stories, ideas, inspiration, and common sense for living and working regenerative and core positive permaculture thinking of design interaction in this changing world. I’m including a transcript below and a link also to my four-part permaculture series, really looking at what is permaculture and how to make it your livelihood too. So join me again in the next episode where we talk with another fascinating guest, I look forward to seeing you there.


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