Growing the community

Eurobodalla Shire Council invests in local, sustainable food production

L-R: Andrew Greenway from Council’s Business Development Unit, SAGE Farmers Market Chairman Stuart Whitelaw and Eurobodalla Mayor Lindsay Brown at the market last Tuesday.

At its meeting on Tuesday 12 April, Eurobodalla councillors voted in favour of a proposal put before them that will see thousands of dollars of funding returned to SAGE every year. The funding will be based on market fees paid to Council, generated by the award-winning SAGE Farmers Market at Riverside Park.

“For some time now, we’ve been putting our case to Council that the fee structure for markets to occupy Riverside Park was not appropriate for a farmers market,” explained the market’s chairman Stuart Whitelaw. “For a stall holder to join our market, they must be located within a 160km radius of Moruya. This kind of explicitly local emphasis limits the number of stalls at the market and inhibits the rate of growth, making it impossible to achieve the kind of critical mass needed to make the market profitable or even financially viable in the long term.”

As part of Council’s recent Expression of Interest process for markets to operate at Riverside Park, applicants were required to indicate how profits would be returned to the community. SAGE took the opportunity to illustrate how the original intention for the market to direct profits towards programs that support and develop sustainable food production were yet to be realised, due to the proportion of stall holder fees income that was passed on to Council.

Our plea was heard and SAGE was invited to argue the case. After considering our arguments, which we were able to support with evidence from our recently completed Economic Impact Study, the Business Development Unit at Council proposed a funding model that will see an amount equivalent to 40% of fees paid to Council returned to SAGE. Funds will be directed towards activities identified in the SAGE Strategic Plan, which is currently under revision by the SAGE Committee and membership.

The timing couldn’t be better for this review process. Planning can now be more specific, knowing that funds will be available. While SAGE has achieved an astonishing amount since it began in 2009, our work to increase local, sustainable food production and encourage more people to grow at home will now reach far more ambitious targets.

Eurobodalla Mayor Lindsay Brown expressed his support for this innovative approach to supporting local agriculture. “The recently published Rural Lands Strategy identified the work that SAGE is doing to renew our local food economy and recommended that Council and SAGE work together to develop this important business sector,” he said. “SAGE is a volunteer organisation, so I’m very pleased that Council is able to support their contribution to the community this way.”

The funding model is an excellent example of keeping money local. Shopping at the farmers market not only supports local farming families, now it will also fund the further development of local and sustainable food production, generating more local employment and better outcomes for human health and the environment.

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