On Tuesday Feb 21, The Werribee River Association attended Strengthening Farming in Wyndham. The forum was put together by Sustain, a not-for-profit organisation, aiming to explore the challenges and potential solutions to strengthening farming in Wyndham.
The Werribee South Market Gardens are part of Melbourne’s food bowl, producing 85% of the state’s cauliflower, 53% of its broccoli and 34% of its lettuce. They are vital to our food security and their location means they have access to recycled water from the Western Treatment Plant. However, the viability of farming in the area has been in question for some time. Issues around water quality and access, speculative investment and ongoing sustainability are all contributing challenges.
The event was held at the Wyndham Cache and included an introduction from Brian Ahmed, owner of the Cache and L.T’s Egg Farm who spoke about his passion for feeding people, and the toll farming has had on him and his family. He stated that his involvement in the forum was to push for clarity on the future of farming Werribee South, something many farmers in the area were also seeking.
Dr Rachel Carey, food systems lecturer at the University of Melbourne spoke about the findings of her report: roadmap for a resilient and sustainable Melbourne. Again, having some certainty from state government around what the future looked like for Werribee South, was paramount to securing necessary investment in the area, particularity in improving water quality and access. More certainty would also help to curve the speculative investments and land banking.
We also heard from Professor Michael Buxton from RMIT who spoke on his experience with land use planning and Green Wedge zones, and the crisis in growth area planning in Victoria. As market gardens are bordered by an ever-expanding urban growth boundary, this was very relevant and why farming in this area can be so contentious.
When the floor was opened to attendees to voice their questions and concerns farmers were quick to speak up. They queried the ongoing sustainability of small-scale market garden farming, the quality of the soil after cropping four times a year and were very vocal about the poor water quality they are often forced to utilise. It was clear that many felt as if an avenue for advocacy was not within their reach and their concerns were often not listened to.
The Werribee River Association believe that more action from state government is required. In particular, the poor water quality farmers are dealing with is concerning for both the health of our communities and waterways. We advocate for:
- An official statement on the future of Werribee South, including the Werribee South Green Wedge.
- Investment in improving the quality of recycled water from the treatment plant.
- An avenue for advocacy for the local farming community to have their concerns heard at state level.
WRA are currently involved in Save Our Soils, a project that aims to reduce topsoil and sediment run off from the farms into the river. As part of this project, we also advocate for:
- Research into soil quality and it’s sustainability, in light of yea-round cropping; and
- A scoping study into the economic and environmental impacts of regenerative/sustainable farming in the region.
Finally, if government does not see farming as a future prospect for Werribee South, agreed and known policy to avoid over-development and stress on the local community and environment will be vital.