the nature strip

Doing mighty things: the youth of today
July 29, 2013, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Eco, Food, Garden, General thoughts

Jo Baker, founder of Youth Food Movement

Meet Jo Baker. She is the co-founder of the Youth Food Movement (YFM) and is passionate about food security, Australian produce and giving farmers a fair go. Jo recently returned from a four month trip overseas where she met and learnt from those who are really challenging the status quo around food production in their communities. We asked Jo a bit more about YFM and what it means for us all.

What are some scary facts about food production in Australia?
Many things scare me about the insecurity of our food system such as the amount we waste, the amount of obesity and growing chronic disease prevalence (particularly that which is coming to fruition amongst the younger generations), the development and mining of our precious agricultural land and the short-sightedness of our government and their policies.

But I think the scariest fact about food production in Australia is that the average age of the Australian farmer is 54 years old; because young people are simply not choosing farming as a career anymore. If we don’t do something to entice young people into agriculture and/or lower the barriers to entering farming as a profession, who is going to feed us in the next 10 or 20 years?

Country Valley Dairy

What is the Youth Food Movement?
YFM is building a new generation of young Australians who have the capacity and motivation to support and demand a healthy and secure food system by being more considered with food choices and sharing the stories behind food via unique, engaging and thought provoking events, campaigns and experiences.

We have received a huge response from young people across Australia – we now have almost 6,000 in our community and we are just about to grow across the country to become a national movement.

Food for Change - YFM

Tell us more about YFM’s unique sustainable food events.
Some of our events to spread the word have included: Reel Food Night, a pedal powered pop up cinema in a food warehouse in inner Sydney; the Ride-On Lunch, a moveable feast to connect young people to local food champions; The Guerilla Dinner to bring together young people and decision makers surrounding issues and potential solutions to issues within the current food system (watch the YFM Crew mushroom foraging for the Guerrilla Dinner here); and Passata Day  where, this year we turned over 600kg of end of season tomatoes into 600 litres of passata to be enjoyed for the year ahead.

Passata Day

On our horizon is the Deliciously Imperfect Soup Disco (we have just received a sizable grant from the Love Food Hate Waste program) where will be raising important awareness about the ridiculousness of our obsessions with perfect looking produce and the flow on effects to farmers (and the waste generated) amongst young people. The online campaign will encourage young people to find their craziest looking fruit and vegies and then to share their photos and experiences in cooking/eating it. The event will then culminate in a Soup Disco which will see us turn 100s (if not 1000s) of kilos of farm waste into delicious soup for all to enjoy (whilst having a big party!)

What are three simple things that we can do for sustainable food production and consumption? 

  1. Get to know your food better and what/who your food choices are supporting. YFM is becoming a growing place where you can find out more (both online and at our events).
  2. Buy Australian produce whenever you can so that we are all supporting our amazing Aussie farmers, who produce some of the best food in the world. And where you can, get to know your local farmer. If you are in Sydney, there are a number (albeit a dwindling number) of farmers in the local Sydney Basin who are keen to sell their produce directly to us ‘eaters’ via farm gate sales, farmers markets and community food co-ops.
  3. Ask your parents or grandparents to teach you some of the food/cooking/preserving skills they grew up with. It is the generations before us who can teach us these very important skills, and it would be my guess that many of them would be keen to share if you asked!

Mulloon Creek

What excites you most about what you are doing?
In order to create a food system that is healthy and secure there needs to be a complete paradigm shift in the motivations which underpin the ways in which food is grown, produced and distributed. We currently operate under a system that is driven primarily by the motivations of cost and convenience. Imagine what the system would like if the well-being of the community, our environment and our producers was at the heart of all decisions we made surrounding the development of our food system! It would look very different… and what excites me most, is that I see that young people are going to be the ones to foster this shift amongst our generation and beyond.


It is important that younger generations are empowered and motivated to take ownership of our food future. One day our parents and peers will ask us to feed the country responsibly, and to do this we need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge, and we need to be included right now in conversations, activities and choices being made about food, so we have the best shot at providing our communities with what they need in the future.

How can we get involved?
There are many ways to get involved – join the YFM mailing list to know more about YFM and our upcoming events. YFM sprouts are soon to be popping up all over Oz too, so hopefully there will be one in your community soon… or if you want to start one, be sure to get in touch!

Jo is a mover and a shaker with an irrepressible energy and passion for YFM, a movement that is a crucial one. Find out more at


Toe nibbling in the city
April 8, 2013, 12:10 pm
Filed under: Eco, Garden

We all get caught up in our own little bubble but I get so excited when I go exploring and find little green nooks in this big, sprawling city.

fagan park

I recently ventured to Fagan Park for a reunion with members of my extended family that I hadn’t seen for over 20 years. What I didn’t expect on this day was to have my feet nibbled by fish.

Fagan Park is a delight – it has an eco community garden which is abundant with native fruits and other edible greens. It also has a scarecrow. I like scarecrows. They always seem to have a cheery smile and an unappreciated scrawniness that makes me want to tell them they are doing a good job.

scarecrow - fagan park

eco garden pomegranite

The garden offers workshops on sustainable gardening practices and is a big promoter of reducing waste through composting.

nature strip - eco garden - composting

Among this flourishing oasis of a garden, there are pockets with different themes according to the country – a windmill and canal in the Dutch section, a hut and tribal prints in the African section, and fish that like to nibble toes in the Portuguese section.

fagan_park_eco_garden (1)

I managed to convince my 72-year-old father to remove his shoes and socks to experience the sensation of little slimy mouths tickling and nibbling his toes like a vacuum cleaner. It was a nice moment.

fagan park eco garden - feet cleaners

fagan park eco garden

Veggie garden
December 19, 2012, 10:19 am
Filed under: Garden


I’m not overly ambitious when it comes to growing my own vegetables. I stick to greens as I am able to keep them alive and they are easy to maintain.

You know when you are given a plant as a present – I’m the one whose plant always dies. I of course don’t do it intentionally, it just sadly happens.

But as the years go by, my touch seems to have improved as the garden is currently thriving with kale, basil, parsley, thyme, sage and rocket. Growing your own herbs really does spruce up a salad or stew – I add mint to add freshness to a salad, aromatic basil to stir fries, and rosemary to roast vegetables.


What veggies are you growing at the moment?

Native bees
November 5, 2012, 7:30 pm
Filed under: Garden

Native bees

Our garden is buzzing with more than 6,000 stingless native bees of Sydney called Trigona Carbonaria – reminds me of the pasta dish of a similar name but these bees are anything but.

I don’t give these little guys enough credit – they look like flies so they don’t make me want to give them a cuddle but I am in awe of how they keep this earth ticking along through pollination.

When travelling they can fly up to a radius of 500m. When at home, they live in a wooden box within an outer poly-box nestled between our broccoli and basil. I’ve been told that inside the hive sits an egg mass protected by a membrane. The hive is built from resins as well as wax secreted from the bees themselves.

According to Peter Clarke, local bee expert, the Trigona are like “air conditioning engineers”. In cool weather they cluster around the egg mass to keep it warm, and in hot weather they fan the air and open holes within the egg mass. Clever little things.

The temperature range they are working hard for is 26 – 28.5 degrees. Sounds nice and toasty to me.

Spring has sprung
September 26, 2012, 7:56 am
Filed under: Garden

One thing in life to brighten the mood that doesn’t cost a thing is some colour. Some spring colour I’m talking about. My garden is dancing with different hues from purples to oranges to pinks.

The wisteria especially is in its prime, draping the entry door like a curtain.

Oh and the shapes – the petals are creating all sorts of wonderful symmetry – it makes me want to get out my sketch book living in the third drawer down. It’s been there for a while.