April 30–May 2 saw the occurrence of the GrAiNZ 2023 event, the first time the event has fully taken place since the world closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, the event took in Victoria, with sessions taking place at Ket Baker, a popular Belgian artisan bakery, and The Gordon Institute of TAFE in Geelong. Miek Paulus from Ket Baker and Michael and Pippa James were this year’s organisers and put together a fantastic program of events and workshops that were fully sold out throughout the three days of the event.
“It was incredibly heartening to have everyone together again after COVID. There were lots of people attending for the first time after the explosion of COVID bakers, and wonderful to see them embracing and being embraced by the GrAiNZ community,” says Pippa.
This year’s GrAiNZ was especially touching, because it was the first since one of the founding members, John Reid, lost his battle with cancer in 2021.
“John Reid’s advocacy transformed the way people thing about grains, from growing to eating. He worked to bring farmers, millers, bakers, and eaters, and to share knowledge and inspire a resurgence of Australian native grains.
“It was very healing to be together and commemorate his life and work in such a positive and joyful way,” says Pippa.
This year’s GrAiNZ event commemorated John in another way as well, with the announcement of the John Reid Fellowship at the close of the event. The Fellowship was put together by GrAiNZ and the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance after his death to keep his memory and legacy alive.
“The John Reid Fellowship will provide funding for young and emerging leaders in the local grains movement to undertake a project that connects them with people in the local grain economy.
“The John Reid Fellowship aims to continue John’s legacy to galvanise the local grains movement, connect communities through real food, and empower growers, millers, and bakers to thrive in local economies,” says Pippa.
The rest of GrAiNZ, Pippa says, was excellent and without a dull moment.
“There really were no low-lights. A particular focus for me was having lots of powerful and innovative women in the program offering things that we hadn’t had before. Jessica White made waffle cones with freshly milled Adagio and French Red wheats from Tuerong Farm, which were so delicious. Maaryasha Werdiger from Zelda Bakery did a babka demo and talked about food as an expression of culture and place.
“The panel discussion celebrating diversity within our community, with women from different fields working with grain and food systems, was a highlight as well. Dani Valent moderated the discussion with Emily Salkeld, Courtney Young, Miin Chan, Gab Moore, and Maaryasha Werdiger all sharing their experiences and the work they do to engender diversity in our human and living systems,” says Pippa.
She continues, “It was great to hear from the farmers about how they’re approaching the challenges of caring for land in a changing climate. Matthew Evans’ opening keynote address was wonderful too. He schooled us all about the power and diversity in healthy soil, and why caring for our soil is essential to our continued life on this planet. He’s such an engaging speaker and makes complex topics approachable.”
There is good news too for all those who couldn’t make it to this year’s event, Pippa says.
“All the talks were filmed and will be available to view in perpetuity.”
As for what’s next for the GrAiNZ team, Pippa, Michael, and Miek will be focusing their efforts on the applications for the John Reid Fellowship. More information (the application process and criteria) about the Fellowship will be posted to the AFSA website in the coming weeks.
“I’m excited to see what that will bring, and then we’ll get to planning the next event.”