Food for thought at Rylington Park

“People are like plants, they grow and they change everyday!” – Sabrina Hahn.

It seemed the women attending last week’s Storm in a Teacup at Rylington Park had been waiting all year. The working property south of Boyup Brook is normally a place of agricultural research, training and education. But, last week was a bit different.

Hard Yakka shirts were replaced with a vividness rarely seen on a farm, as the women arrived for ‘their’ field day. The dresses, hats and shoes were more reminiscent of a race day than a shearing shed. The distant sheep bleats were quickly drowned out by chatter, laughter and music. It was nine o’clock in the morning, and it was party time!

The 200 guests had come to socialise and be entertained by guest speakers from ABC radio, the irreverent gardener Sabrina Hahn and pizza king Theo Kalogeracos. And they weren’t disappointed.

Inside the prettiest shearing shed in the state, Sabrina Hahn opened the event by emphasising the importance of farm gardens as a place where women, inspired by the farm vista, can be creative and homely, and grow with their plants.

To Sabrina, a farm garden is as much about health and well-being as it is about producing food and flowers. She encouraged women to foster life over death in the garden, to promote soil life and stay away from hard chemicals, adopt integrated pest management, where pests are identified and selective insecticides or biological services are used.

Sabrina reminded us that we live in one of 35 global biodiversity hotspots and we need to care for it. For those branching into tourism, biodiversity is an important part of the farm. But Sabrina also pointed out the potential of tapping into agri-tourism. The interest that city-dwellers have in farm life is growing, spurning trials in the eastern states and action in the Southern Forests.

Talk of the city consumer led to a discussion about the quality of our food. Enter Theo Kalogeracos, otherwise known as the Golden Greek.

Theo was practically raised in his Grandmother’s garden and kitchen where he not only learnt to cook but also value food. He is a champion for food health and educating kids about food quality and avoiding waste. He advocates eating local, in-season produce that hasn’t travelled long distances (food miles) or sat in storage where it can lose its nutritional value.

He thinks the rural population has an opportunity to grow quality food with best practices that can be sold in farmers markets to local restaurants, attracting city people to the country. It was certainly food for thought.

Not only did the event help rural women and their families, it also raised almost $1,000 for Tiny Sparks WA, a charity for babies born sick or prematurely. It’s no wonder tickets sold out four weeks before the event!

The event was a credit to organisers, led by Erlanda Dees and supported by a range of local and regional businesses, including the South West Catchment Council’s Regional Landcare Facilitator Program through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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