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The Fair Food Almanac
March 2012


The Real Dirt on CERES

What's the worst thing that can happen to an environment park that educates kids and grows food? A contamination scare that breaks in the city's most trusted paper.  

Appearing on page three of The Sunday Age, March 5th edition, just the week before CERES Organic Farm was given the all clear by Moreland Council and the EPA, a feature article reported, "produce grown at CERES banned from sale"  because of lead contamination.  The timing of Steve Holland's article could not have been worse or more mischievous.

If The Sunday Age had bothered to check their story, the real but far less newsworthy story would have revealed that Moreland Council and EPA testing had found five privately leased community garden plots with lead levels slightly over ANZFSC  limits and that produce from CERES Organic Farm had never been contaminated or banned from sale. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story they say. 

When I read the article, including a quote from CERES chairperson, Robert Larocca, which seemed to back up the story, my first thoughts were, "That's not right and why would Robert confirm it?" 

And then I found out how some journalists work and it all became clear. At the time of the interview in January the final Moreland Council test results hadn't come out but Steve Holland obtained a leaked version of the preliminary results. The document had the test results but not the locations of the tests. Wrongly assuming the results referred to the CERES Organic Farm instead of the community garden plots, Holland used the report to ask Robert Larocca what he would say to people who could have eaten contaminated CERES produce? Larocca's reply was, "It is unfortunate it has happened and we are sorry for that. A very small number of people will have purchased that [contaminated food], including myself.'' It was an honest answer to a hypothetical question but Holland used the quote make it seem like CERES had actually been selling contaminated produce without ever checking his story was correct. 

Two months passed before the article was finally published. It would have only taken a simple phone call to discover that Council and EPA test results had cleared produce sold at CERES and isolated the problem to five 4x4m community garden plots not accessible to the general public.  But no phone call was made, the story went to print and all hell broke loose. 

I've been feeling sick about this for the last fortnight. I used to trust The Age. I read it every day, but now I feel like CERES' good name has been destroyed by sloppy journalism and a paper eager for a controversial story.  Two weeks later and it's all old news; Moreland Council and the EPA  came out with their test results clearing CERES Organic Farm, new articles have been written with the facts but fear is a powerful motivator and people are turning away from CERES.  The damage has been done.

The outcome has been immediate for CERES; Fair Food orders are down, the Market is quiet. We are reducing what we buy from the 50 plus Victorian farmers and processors who depend on us for their income. Our packers and drivers are losing shifts and CERES will need to take money away from environmental education programs to cover the financial losses of Fair Food and Market. So much damage caused by a few careless words.

We can't beat this alone.  CERES has always lived and died on the support of our community, so we're asking you to tell your friends the real story, to share it through your networks.  We're asking you to stand by our farmers and our packers & drivers by placing your Fair Food orders and by shopping at CERES Market.  We're asking you to stand up for CERES.

Chris Ennis
CERES Fair Food and Organic Farm

If you would like to read more information, go to CERES Safe Food Info

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News From Our Farmers

The Busch's are back and they've got broccoli, beans, beetroot and more...

After a break for winter Kane and the rest of the Busch family have begun delivering broccoli, beans, beetroot as  well as corn, carrots, eggplants and cabbage.  Kane is the 3rd generation of Busch's on his family's Hillside farm and works with his dad, uncle and grandfather (see Kane's farm video).  Last year after struggling to make the farm profitable, Kane and his family decided to market their produce directly to customers and retailers. With such great produce Fair Food was more than happy to help out.  Now each Thursday morning through summer and autumn Kane's uncle Peter drops a load of freshly picked veggies just in time to go into boxes.

If you are an organic or biodynamic grower interested in growing for CERES Fair Food email   

Farmer Katherin takes on CERES Aquaponics

CERES market garden's favourite super sub, Katherin Stoilkovich - who has been filling in at CERES' market gardens for the past 2 years - is taking over the aquaponics farm located just beside the Fair Food warehouse. After a year and a half of getting everything right, our international aquaponics pioneer Dr Wilson Lennard and CERES Greentech Manager, Steve Mushin (see video), have handed the keys over to Katherin, who is studying for her Diploma in Horticulture at NMIT. Katherin is now growing some beautiful basil and coriander which you would have seen in your boxes lately and has also got dill and cos lettuce on the way. As the trout and silver perch grow bigger and create more nutrients, Katherin has been able to plant out more seedlings and it won't be long before the system is producing 400-500 bunches of herbs and lettuces every week. Katherin's tip to aquaponic basil and coriander eaters is - put your bunch in a glass of water as soon as you get it home and it'll stay fresh for a week at least.

Peter and Helen Kamvissis are back in business

We've been getting some very tasty sultana grapes and some spectacular watermelon from Peter & Helen Kamavissis who's farm is in Merbein near Mildura. It's been a pretty dry start to the year; only 29.4mm of rain for Melbourne in January compared to last year’s sodden January with 90mm.  This time last year Peter and Helen had whole fields of submerged watermelons and honey dews as the rain just kept falling. The painfully slow-moving flood engulfed the Sunraysia district and sat there for weeks turning grapes mouldy and melons into mush.

The dry weather has been great for the harvest and all the watermelon have been picked. Now there's only a few grapes to be harvested (fingers crossed for Peter and Helen. It's just been raining solidly up there as I write this).

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Gourmet Farmer cooks it up at CERES Harvest Festival

Guess who's coming to dinner? SBS's Gourmet Farmer, Mathew Evans,  is coming to CERES' biggest meal of the year. Come on down to The Merri and enjoy a delicious seasonal organic lunch made by Matthew, who will also talk about his hogchange; creating a sustainable farm and food business; followed by a Q&A.  Held during the Harvest festival at the beautiful Merri Table & Bar, it's surely to be a popular event, so bookings are essential. Call CERES Reception on (03) 9389 0100 to reserve your place.

When: 12:30pm – 2:30pm Saturday March 31st
Where: Merri Table & Bar at CERES
Price: $85 or $75 members/concession
Bookings: (03) 9389 0100

CERES Autumn Harvest Festival

Why: Celebrating & giving thanks to the good earth, our farmers & the cycle of the seasons.
When: 9:00am - 3:00pm Saturday 31st March
Where: CERES, Corner Roberts and Stewart Streets, East Brunswick
Check out the full program here.

For a smorgasbord of other CERES events visit:

CERES 2012 Autumn Workshop Program is Out

Click here to download the brochure. New offerings include Turkish Sweets, Indian Cooking, Spanish Cooking, Vegetarian Cooking, Handmade Paper, Electric Bike Conversion, Biodynamics Explained and the return of Backyard Medicine.

Growers and Eaters Forum 2012
Bringing together farmers, food experts and community practitioners committed to healthy, resilient food systems, 'Growers and Eaters' celebrates innovative projects that are creatively reshaping relations between growers and eaters - valuing the people and communities who produce our food.
Featuring Michael Ableman, US farmer, author and expert on sustainable farming and urban agriculture; Les Cameron (Goulburn Valley Food Cooperative); Carol Vincent (South Australian Farmers Federation); Sarah Robins (Victorian Farmers Market Association) and Kirsten Larsen (Eaterprises).

Conference registration includes a long, slow lunch featuring produce and wine from the Bendigo region.
When: 8.30am-5.00pm Monday 23rd April
Where: 'Gravel Hill' Salvation Army Complex, 65 - 71 Mundy St, Bendigo, Victoria 3552
Bookings/pre-registration essential: click here for bookings

Fair Food at SLF

Fair Food had a stand at the Sustainable Living Festival's 'Greatest Organic Feast.' It was sunny, busy and Costa Geordiadis - the beautifully bearded new host of ABC's Gardening Australia - gave a stirring speech to a packed crowd about a creating fairer food system. Read more about the day and the mystery box event Fair Food supplied the produce for.

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Food Hosts

Food Hosts Come On Down
Food Hosts, Lauren, Owen and Gus, visited us at the Fair Food warehouse and gave us a hand packing boxes last week. Thanks for the help guys. We love hosting people and sharing what happens behind the scenes in our food system. If you have a Food Host enquiry or want to come see what's going down at Fair Food, please contact Jesse Hull our Food Host Coordinator at

Welcome New Food Hosts
Rebecca at Tanti St, Cheltenham: Tuesdays 5-7pm
Liz at Frederick St, Brunswick: Tuesdays 5-8pm
Mike at Collins St, Docklands: Thursdays 3-7pm
Mel at Peterson Ave, Coburg North: Thursdays 4-7pm
Rebecca & JP at Maryville St, Ripponlea: Tuesdays 5-8pm

Save Your Box & Save the World!
Well not really but every little bit helps. So make sure you flatten your box and leave it at your Food Host and we'll reuse it if it's clean and strong. Or, if it's ready to go to the other side, we'll recycle it.

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Check Out Jesse's Blog - 'Outside the Box' is Live Now

Jesse Hull works at Fair Food managing the packing line, deliveries and Food Hosts. He is also a Food Host himself and a great cook. Jesse's blog is called Outside The Box and it documents his continuing journey with the contents of his weekly Fair Food fruit & veggie box. Read about Jesse's exciting, inspiring and sometimes even controversial use of produce. Last week he battled and triumphed over a childhood aversion to onions.  This week he explores the virtues of roasting grapes.

Did you know we're also on Facebook and Twitter? Become our friend, share tweets and connect with other Fair Food people.

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Van With No Name Named!

Welcome to Frank the Fair Food Four-bee
We don't know what the Four-bee part means but our voting panel of Fair Food packers and drivers loved it, and gave Frank the Fair Food Four-bee the thumbs-up in our Name That Van competition. Congratulations to Alissa for the winning entry! A medium mixed fruit & veg box and some goodies from our dry goods pantry are coming your way.

Thanks to everybody who sent in their suggestions. We had over 30 names. Some of the notable entries that caught our eyes were 'Fair Foo,' 'Rina,' 'Promitor' and 'Mavis.' 

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