28 August 2023

***For immediate release***

GrAiNZ and the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) are thrilled to announce Jacob Birch and Shingi Nybonda (Food Next Door Co-op) as the inaugural recipients of the John Reid Fellowship 2023.

After raising $8,000 in funding for the Fellowship at GrAiNZ Gathering earlier this year, two inspiring projects rose to the top, leading to the decision to split funding between both projects.

Jacob Birch will receive $6,000 in funding for his project to activate the native grain industry for First Peoples. As a Gamilaraay man who has built his academic career on exploring the promise of native grain, Jacob’s project will aim to engage with the Gamilaraay community to co-design a strategy to use the development of the native grain industry as a nation building tool.

Jacob Birch

“Our intention is that our model can be replicated by any community across Australia and used as a template to be implemented within their own community, tailored to their own food, agricultural, or land-based opportunity,” says Jacob. 

Jacob believes that self-determination is synonymous with nation-building, and the development of native grain enterprise should be led by Gamilaraay people.

“The Gamilaraay people once operated extensive native grain systems; it is on Gamilaraay Country where the first commercially viable crops, in a modern context, have been re-established; it is on Gamilaraay Country where significant research is happening; and it is the Gamilaraay people who are beginning to activate around this opportunity. Therefore, it must be the Gamilaraay community who asserts independent governance of the native grain industry, with Gamilaraay Country,” Jacob adds.

Shingi Nyabonda (Food Next Door Co-Op)

The remaining $2,000 in funding will be given to Shingi Nyabonda, Executive Officer at Food Next Door Co-Op, an initiative with the goal of relieving the suffering or distress suffered by newly arrived migrants and refugee groups. Funding will be used to activate a small-scale milling facility, to allow the Co-op to fully capture the maize supply chain from production to distribution firstly within Mildura, Victoria and then to other communities of Melbourne and Adelaide.

“By developing a small-scale, food-safe milling and packing point in Mildura, we can allow our cooperative members to mill the grain they grow and fully localise the supply chain from paddock to plate.  Having a milling facility in the co-op reduces the cost of milling and improves the ease of access to flour for members and an income stream for the co-op’s sustainability,” says Shingi.

The John Reid Fellowship was established by GrAiNZ and AFSA with the aim of continuing the late John Reid’s legacy in activating the local grain movement, connecting communities through real food and empowering young and emerging leaders in the food sovereignty space.

John co-founded the iconic RedBeard Bakery in Trentham, Victoria, and was a much loved leader in the GrAiNZ community. John’s advocacy transformed the way people think about grains, from growing to eating. He worked to bring together farmers, millers, bakers and eaters, to share knowledge and inspire a resurgence of Australian native grains.

“When we met with both Jacob and Shingi, we were inspired by their project’s ambition to activate their community’s connection to the food system through grain, and were touched by how much these projects would have excited our late friend John,” says GrAiNZ organiser Pippa James.

“We’re looking forward to seeing these projects evolve over the next 12 months, and sharing their progress at GrAiNZ in 2024”, Pippa adds. 

In addition to funding, recipients will receive the support of GrAiNZ and AFSA in connecting with others in the space, as well as mentorship and guidance throughout the project. Recipients will be asked to present on their projects at the next GrAiNZ gathering.


For further information and questions about the John Reid Fellowship please contact:

Jessie Power, AFSA General Coordinator

e: coordinator@afsa.org.au

m: 0403 795 670

Published On: 28 August, 2023Categories: NewsTags: , , , ,