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More’s better.

One of my father’s favourite sayings. Usually applied to a liberal sprinkling of pepper on almost everything he ate, The Moroccan feast he was cooking, or his serve of ice cream (thankfully, without pepper). He had a mindset of abundance and generosity that defined his life.

Generous collaboration

The same spirit was at the heart of GrAiNZ Gathering at Red Beard Bakery in Trentham last October. The food was abundant, real, and oh so good. The speakers were extraordinary and the organisers had gone above and beyond to make the event a success. I remember sitting in the Bakernomics Session on the second afternoon, thinking ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before’. A panel of experienced bakery owners sat on the stage answering questions from the audience about how to run a successful bakery business. Their answers were honest, detailed and revealing because they genuinely wanted to help others succeed in running their own bakeries. They didn’t see newcomers to the industry as competitors. They saw them as an opportunity to grow the whole industry, to bring the joy of wholegrain baking to a wider audience and to enlist their help in growing the market for the farmers and millers in the tent.

In the year since then, we’ve had a fundamental shift in our world. COVID-19 has brought into sharp relief the fragility, inequity and cruelty of our current, dominant food system. It’s unsustainable and we need to do better. The pandemic has also been an opportunity to get rid of unnecessary busy-ness in our lives. Happily, in the quieter stillness, it’s reinforced the importance of (re)creating our local food economy. We’re particularly blessed in Harcourt. Our region is filled with incredible growers, makers and producers, with more small businesses emerging each week.

After years of working with communities in Australian country towns, I was frustrated and dismayed by the competitive approach we saw again and again from small business owners. The conversations always started well, but it didn’t take long before the newsagent refused to give up a single carpark outside their shop to create a boulevard of shade trees, the motel owner was at war with the hotel owner, and the owner of the bakery wouldn’t supply focaccias to the café, so they ordered them from a city-based food distributor. Not surprisingly, visitors didn’t find much to interest them. Plenty of parking, but no shade. Bloody ordinary food and an abundance of slightly rundown three-and-a-half-star accommodation.

Point is, we’re so much better when we work together. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. The pandemic is a frightening reminder of why we need to create a strong local food system. In doing so, we also have an incredible opportunity to build something unique to our part of the world. Food which celebrates our own terroir, products which combine the skills and resources of our local businesses and an experience of place based on sharing and collaboration.

This win-win thinking makes me really excited to live here. Sonia Anthony posted on Facebook recently ‘Spring Creek Organics grows the beetroot for Pink Muesli who supply Indulge Fine Belgian Chocolates the muesli for their delicious caramelised white chocolate blocks’. I love that.

I haven’t even met them yet, but apparently Ivan and Julie Larcher, who are both expert cheesemakers from France, recently relocated to Harcourt. They must be good people, because according to the Spring Newsletter from one of my favourite places in the world, The Mill in Castlemaine – ‘They join a group of Australian artisan dairy friends and colleagues… (and together) they hope to produce a range of delectable cheeses and other artisan dairy products under the Long Paddock Cheese label, as well as offer training, connection and camaraderie to other Australian artisan cheesemakers and cheesemongers.’ That sounds like the sort of nurturing of others that we all need.

Out of disruption comes opportunity, and it’s this spirit of collaboration and support for each other that I hope creates a new world order. Back to things that really matter, like real food, love and community connection.

We’re already working with Henry of Harcourt on ‘Cakes for Grown-ups’ using their beautiful fortified wines. We’re stoked to have Burrum Biodynamics and Powlett Hill grain to mill. Our walnuts are from Husk and Harvest. Here’s hoping there’ll be many more Goodness Flour collaborations. Dad was right, more really is better.

We’re open for business and if you’re interested in working together on a collaborative project, please get in touch. Love to hear from you.

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