Event Recap: Regenerative Agriculture Forum

Our speakers Mark Taylor, Bonnie Jupp and Blythe Calnan.

Pictured above: Our speakers Mark Taylor, Bonnie Jupp and Blythe Calnan.

Our City Farm Forum focused on regenerative agriculture was a big hit in July, with a sold-out crowd of 100 joining us to learn about this fascinating sector. We had been frightened people wouldn’t come out on a winters night but the topic was a real drawcard- a show of hands indicated this was the first City Farm Forum for half the crowd, who had come because they are hungry to learn more about ‘regen ag.’ An idea who’s time has come!

Our three speakers shared information from their different positions in the sector. Bonnie Jupp from Regen WA started us off, attempting to define regenerative agriculture (noting there is no single definition) and giving us a sense of who’s doing what in WA. Bonnie said “any practice that helps restore natural capital, which our food systems depend on is regenerative, including improving soil health, increasing the water holding capacity of the landscape, storing carbon and increasing biodiversity.” Photos of a few different farms and the visible improvements in soil health were very interesting to see. Apparently the sector is doing really well in WA with Regen WA connecting farmers and providing education opportunities, and a local business Dirty Clean Food exclusively selling regeneratively farmed food, something other states do not have.

Blythe Calnan was up next, telling us about her farm Runnymede in the South West that has been transformed using regen practises into a diversified property producing eggs and beef. Blythe used pictures of some of her land to demonstrate there is no replicable ‘recipe’ for regenerative property management, rather it is an ongoing experiment with many variables. A favourite part was her speaking about the importance of consumer education and that farmers can change how they manage their paddocks, but what will it take for consumers to change “the paddocks between their ears?”

There were a lot of fans in the house to hear baker Mark Taylor from Miller + Baker share some of his secrets. Mark talked about the importance of using fresh flour, which he mills in house every day at their North Perth bakery. Mark wants the best possible grain going into his mill, so has developed a supportive relationship with WA farmers Di and Ian Haggarty who grow wheat using regenerative practices. It was inspiring to hear how these practices are turning degraded and marginal farmland into viable farms for the Haggarty’s, and that Mark is trying to locate some native grain varieties to experiment with. Hopefully we’ll see some of that on the menu soon.

A sold out crowd of 100 gathered in the barn, pictured hear listening to Blythe Calnan.
A sold out crowd of 100 gathered in the barn, pictured hear listening to Blythe Calnan.

Outside of the talks the crowd enjoyed mulled wine and curry around the firepits, carefully tended by long time volunteer Thom Scott. A real highlight though were the food samples- hot damper made with freshly milled Miller + Baker flour, and oat milk chai made with Dirty Clean Food’s oat milk. Thanks to volunteers Tess and Julie for whipping them up.

We’ve had some great feedback after the event with many people saying they intend to change their purchasing habits to support regen farmers. We asked attendees what they most enjoyed about the event and were delighted to hear things including “the energy and positivity that we can still turn climate change around,” “it was all really excellent! Brilliant speakers, very well run, delicious everything’” and “the speakers were really engaging, and the damper, chai and mulled wine were delicious!”

A big thank you to the City of Perth for sponsoring this event, our speakers Mark, Bonnie and Blythe, and the fourteen volunteers who made it happen: Kinsey, Alf, Amelia, Bev, Iga, Kate, Zach, Julie, Laura, Bryan, Thom, Tess, Tim and Kathleen.

We run City Farm Forum’s through the year, focusing on a different topic related to sustainability each time.  The next forum is scheduled for early November and will focus on urban biodiversity- how we can all support healthy biodiversity in Perth and the cool creatures we might be lucky enough to find in our backyards. Sign up to our mailing list to access early bird tickets as soon as they are live.