Over the weekend of the 14th to 16th of July 2023, around 100 farmers and allies met on Gumbaynggirr lands for the annual Deep Winter Agrarian Gathering, the first following a 3-year hiatus. First Peoples have lived, farmed and cared for this land for thousands of years, and sovereignty was never ceded. We were welcomed to this land by Uncle Micklo, who also taught us to speak our happiness to be on this land, in the local indigenous language.
The work we do on a daily basis is nourished by the activities of Deep Winter. The opportunity to see old friends and colleagues, meet new ones, build solidarity and connect with others in the field. This forum is a space for us to collectively discuss our challenges and successes, and share knowledge, experiences, and strategy to deepen our thinking and strengthen our movement.
This year farmers brought a wide range of topics for discussion, however, woven throughout every discussion was one theme, it came up again and again – community and collaboration. Farmers want this, they need it and it appears it may provide the solution to many of the hurdles faced by small scale farmers today. Sharing time, sharing resources, sharing knowledge, sharing burdens and risks and sharing the rewards.
Our conventional farming system isolates and sets farmers against one another through a competition mentality that is ingrained in much of what we do everyday. Small scale farmers are working together to break away from this. They are working together to increase reach, increase diversity, build each other up and shift the dominant mentality from competition to collaboration.
When new farmers are struggling to get started, we can support them through mentoring and examples of successful enterprise. We can help farmers get onto land, when there are financial barriers to access, by developing and sharing models for collectivising. How we develop the agreements that collective efforts are founded upon, need to be a shared resource. Examples from those already treading the path can help to light the way for those just starting out.
The cost and viability of small scale farming can be boosted by collectivising and creating larger grouped entities that maintain the integrity of small scale and local while having increased resilience, diversity and support. We are challenged to change our view point from ingredients to values. To see our products as more than the simple ingredients we are putting on the table to the values behind what we do, and help our communities to do the same.
Small-scale farmers are calling for a multi-pronged approach to land management, the key to which is increasing biological diversity. The problems and challenges of working the land don’t occur in isolation and need a mosaic of solutions. We need to look right back to the beginning of farming in this country and the knowledge of the first peoples of this land, to build solutions for the future. Listening to the land and feeling for the subtle energies being emitted.
‘What gives you hope?’: Being here, held within the beating heart of this community.