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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Cost of Free Food

Last week in the previous post I was telling you about our special guest from the 
who came to talk with us at "Living Better". The following is taken from their site,

The idea 
Urban farming Tasmania is a free Tasmanian collective supporting new friendships and stronger communities through sharing fruit and vegetables, art & music. The idea came from seeing a lot of wasted fruit and vegetables and we thought this problem could be solved through a collective which could grow and share fruit and vegetables,  art, music and performance.

The main manifestation of this idea has been a weekly swap market of fresh produce and made product, the idea being that as a community we come together and share the excess and make up short falls in each others resources. No monetary exchange. Seasonally a volunteer force also collects/forages produce and turns that into preserved produce.

Just days before Bridgette came to speak with us about the project, the local paper had done an article on page 5 about the project. There was general excitement about how positive the community felt and the growth of this tiny little idea.
this article brought this project to the attention of the council.
(insert dastardly dangerous spooky music)

Immediate changes needed to be met in order to comply within the definition of a council regulation free market. 
1.Food may NOT be swapped or bartered (even though there is no monetary exchange) but must be donated or gifted.
This brings up some interesting discussion issues I think and I would like you to ponder this first point. Is there a lot of difference between either method? (shoulder shrug *meh!) To me it is a bit hair splitting. I do have a small concern though that if food doesn't have a perceived value will we treat this event differently. Will people still come and support week after week and "donate" food in order to gain the "gift" of some food. How does the committee make this work? One idea was that all the food is put on a large trestle and then people take what they need. Very altruistic but does this successfully ensure that someone who brought apples isn't stuck with, well, apples!

2. Fruit and vegetables need to be whole, labelled and registered.
Hmmm, because we wouldn't want someone to get carrots and not know what they were! What about pumpkin? Does that mean you can't cut and share a pumpkin? And registered! Really? We need to create some red tape and fill out forms and create paper waste in order to gift food.
OK whatever, world gone mad but some things we have to just suck up....

3. No baked or cooked foods till further notice, there being issues of sourcing commercial kitchens and food handling standards.
Well I kind of expected this one. We have over-regulated ourselves to the point now that "it just isn't safe to trust food prep to just anyone" and all the regs ensures that things are done properly with a minimising of danger and should something go wrong then somebody is certainly accountable on some form or registration somewhere. Even poor old fresh eggs are subjected to a long list of regs.

Does this all seem just a little obstructionist? Do you think people can really be bothered in the face of all this negative nervous Nelliness. I am sure the energy of this group will soldier on, life is full of small setbacks. 

The last point from the council was a doozy though and it had everyone scurrying for points of law and here it is......
4. Foraging for food on public land may be an illegal activity and was to cease till further notice and the public food map had to be temporarily removed until advice was sort. 


Interesting notion isn't it.
Food should be left to drop and not eaten. It is preferable that food wasted and littered than someone should RISK safety by eating it. I believe that this is ultimately what food producers and manufacturers would love to happen. There has been a concerted fear of food safety campaign being waged since the second world war. 
Lets think about this for a moment.
Eating an apple from a tree on the side of the road could be illegal food foraging from public land but fishing from a stream is fine???

All of this happened within a week and to council's credit and the Urban Farming Groups' compliance, the market is still scheduled to proceed each Monday as planned with the changes.
The other good news is that council have now issued a statement about foraging food and I quote,

'We encourage sustainability practices within the Northern Tasmanian community and has no objection to members of the public taking fruit or other produce from street trees or trees within the Council's public reserves. However, the taking of fruit or other produce should only be done in locations where it is safe to do so, using methods which are also safe. Fruit and other produce should not be collected from roads or from trees by climbing or using ladders. The Council does not spray these trees with insecticides or pesticides, so care should be taken to ensure any fruit or produce collected is free from insects'.

So the good news is that the public food map is back!

Do be careful of those organic non-sprayed unsafe fruits though!!!
In case you are not capable to discern for yourself they have also spelled out the common sense rules too. Please, we have to stop this cotton wool wrapping and let people use their own common sense before we breed it out of the next generation otherwise what hope will we have then.

Your thoughts/comments? 
Do you have a group similar in your area?
Have council regulations made you give up?
Do you think food foraging is unsafe?


  1. Make that public food map as big as it can get, bombard it !

    In Canberra the council planted fruit trees in public spaces for the express purpose of the benefit to the community that was more than 50 years ago. Current urban forestry as it is now known as, also address' the benefits of this practice.

    And maybe THEY need to post warnings and MSDS' on the roadsides so we know what we are dealing with when they are controlling the bitumen from spreading. It exhibits the limited definition of what they consider forage species when they state they do not use pesticides on edible plants.

    Nothing like the smell of regulation in the morning to go with your coffee :)

  2. It does show the council is a little bit mad. Seriously, there are so many issues out there we WANT the council to address... and they choose this battle to fight...
    And what's with the baked goods? My children's schools have bake sales all the time without the council shutting them down. Cakes made in our own unsanitary kitchens. AND they are for sale!
    Maybe it was lack of money changing hands at the produce swap that was deemed too subversive?

  3. the Nanny state is out of control, how to be a hippy in modern society. Food foraging can be unsafe, we ate sprayed blackberries that hadn't had a spraying sign put up last year. Pretty awful. Why would you spray fruit when fully ripe in a busy street and in a spot that many children walk past on their way to school. We still love foraging though, they are never going to be able to police all that wild free food.

  4. It's happened here, too. A world gone mad because we have become litigious society.

  5. No money changing hands means no GST or other taxes paid was my other halves reaction to this :)

  6. oh my goodness what has happened to the world Tania... i go away and the Tasmania has drifted into some sort of Golden Triangle of Regulations and Rules al la council ....would love to catch up with you soon ...can you send me the next meeting date so i don't
    book anything on that night XXXXXX

  7. Did they give an explanation as to why food couldn't be swapped or bartered?
    If it's to be donated and then given to someone else, what is the difference? Apart from maybe not getting back what you would really like.

    The warning about the council not using sprays made me laugh!

  8. I have read this blog with great interest... Amazing how our world is changing..

  9. So great that the group and council were able to work together to get this sorted. In response to other comments, in all fairness to the council, they have rules and regs they have to work within, and it *sounds* from your description, like they were keen to find ways to make this work - hence "sharing" rather than "bartering" so that it's not governed by the rules that apply to monetary exchange.

    However, I agree with you that it is sad that we have so much fear in our culture now around natural food production. :(

  10. What a load of utter codswallop from the council! Are they serious or just playing power games to get themselves a little publicity? I only said to my husband the other day as we drove home from a friends place in the next town (in Victoria) that I was tempted to go and prune all the apple trees along the roadside so next years crop would be more prolific and I could go and pick to my hearts content.
    As for not spraying and taking due care regarding insects? Of what are they afraid? Being sued for someone finding half a caterpillar?
    BTW, GREAT idea. Simply love it!


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