Young Farmers Connect is a national not for profit organisation committed to cultivating networks, resources and community for young farmers state and nation wide. As the Director and Principal Coordinator Joel helps with the provision of educational platforms that encourage Australia’s young agrarians to farm for the future. Regenerative, holistic & sustainable agricultural practices create a bright and prosperous future for our next generation farmers.
Aside from a lovely head of hair, what are you growing at the moment?
Hi James – at the moment I’m involved in a number of ‘growing’ projects! I recently launched a micro-urban mushroom farm : Swap and Grow Mushrooms – which is a business to help bring the magic of gourmet mushroom growing into peoples homes.
We have created a hyper-local, waste free, circular economy mushroom grow kit in upcycled post-consumer 20L pails.
We wanted to explore the idea of creating income through farming from an urban environment and support people to diversify their home grown nutrition.”
Why do you consider farming to be worthy of your life’s passion? And what does sustainable farming mean to you?
Farmers provide a really important conduit and connection to the earth and are deeply embedded in their landscape and ecology. By building strong relationships with farmers we can all move our awareness to the impact of our choices through the things we eat. Ecological Farming is also a form of activism. It is about developing community resilience and is strongly aligned with the need to protect our environment from destructive practices, soil degradation and chemical use.
Farming for me is all about re-connecting to the land and for many people the greatest way that we can connect to our life giving earth is through food!”
You seem just as interested in growing community as you are in growing food. What have you learned from one that has helped you in the other?
I am most passionate about local and community centric food systems. We know that long and complex food chains are really resource intensive, highly wasteful and exploitative. Supporting communities to have agency over their local food supply has so many benefits to ensure we have food security and more nutritious fresh food. Local food systems support and create jobs and benefits the local economy.
What advice do you have for young aspiring farmers? What are you optimistic & pessimistic about?
We are now recognising the incredible potential and impact that practices such as regenerative farming can have on improving and protecting biodiversity, locking atmospheric carbon into our soils, improving fertility and mitigating against climate change. We are also realising that local food economies are essential in buffering against disruptions of the globalised industrial corporate food systems that we have all seen recently with empty supermarket shelves during covid. We are already seeing longer droughts, more environmental disasters such as bushfires, floods and cyclones and we know that as the climate changes it will be increasingly difficult for farmers to grow our food. But farming is an exciting, creative and dynamic career that provides opportunities for far more than an outdoors lifestyle. Farmers are rising to the challenge with creative ways of growing food in urban spaces as cities sprawl, repairing degraded land and providing ecological services, improving peoples nutrition and feeding us all.
We need bright and innovative minds in the industry and people from a wide range of skill sets. Farming is not only becoming more digital and technology focussed, farmers have to be savvy in business, soil, ecologies, marketing, mechanics and more.“
You can find out more about Joel and Young Farmers Connect right here
What advice do you have for consumers who would like to contribute in their purchasing choices?
#knowyourfarmer – have a direct relationship with the people who grow your food. Share their story and share their risks.”
What policy initiatives should we start or stop and why?
We must advocate for more robust, effective and supported local food systems that includes production and distribution capacity that enables local farmers to get their goods efficiently and quickly to consumers in their region.
Large scale industrial farms, corporate agribusiness companies and processed foods are damaging our health and the environment and these companies hold a lot of power over the choices that are available to us. Cooperatives and local collectives for farmers support growers to make more informed choices, plan better and reduce their risks. This means that food is much less carbon intensive, requires less fossil fuels and is more nutritions. It is less wasteful and is typically associated with much less chemical use, better land management practices and less toxic chemical and synthetic fertilisers being put into our environments.
What question didn’t I ask that you think is one of the most pressing questions of our time? Why are young farmers important?
The average age of an Australian farmer is now nearly 60 ! We need young farmers now more than ever.