What’s your café?

In all communities, large and small, we choose ways to define ourselves – where do we “belong”, who are “our type of people”? There are many ways to do this. In the many small towns of my youthful wandering around the country, people were usually a “top pub” or a “bottom pub” person. And like all ways we define ourselves in the sub groups of our communities, these decisions become self-reinforcing as your type of person would be found there and so friendships networks are formed and familiarity grows, making us feel like we belong.

As towns change and new people arrive, preferences adapt. When I lived in Kuranda in Far North Queensland in the 1970’s, the bottom pub was where the hippies and blackfellas drank and the top pub was referred to as the place where “the locals” drank. The irony of this given the blackfellas had been “local” for quite a few thousand years wasn’t lost on us in the bottom pub!

I noticed moving into the Cygnet area some years ago how strongly people can connect to “their” café. Given in small communities this is often a place you drop into during the day and meet people spontaneously, picking the place where “your people” hang is quite important and again becomes self reinforcing. And of course, all this is on top of the rather significant issue of the food and coffee that you like!

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Strange days indeed

It was one of my stranger days. Early afternoon I was with the extended family setting up the paddock for new baby pigs, including chasing an escapee across the paddock! A few hours later I was sitting on a plane disguised as a corporate guy, sipping champagne and flying to Amsterdam to give a speech to bankers on sustainability and finance. I suspect I was the only person on the plane who had crash tackled an escaped pig that day.

Expanding our pig herd seems like a sensible way to go. Asher has an endless need for them at The Apple Shed and given we feed our pigs the scraps from there, there’s a nice circle of life connection. As you can see, our pigs don’t do it very tough. We love them and they get spoilt rotten with lots of contact, fresh pasture, great messy digging opportunities and total freedom to “express their full pigness”, as Joel Salatin calls it.

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Necessity, the mother of creative invention

Necessity as the mother of invention is on display every day with Tasmanian food producers. Over the coming months we’ll tell many stories about their creativity not just in their food but in making a living! The necessity is clear – living on an island at the edge of the world – with long distances and high transport costs – really eliminates commodity agriculture as viable way to earn an income. So even if you wanted to be that kind of farmer, and there’s plenty of other reasons not to, you can’t really do it anyway because to overcome the challenge of distance you have to have a niche that stands you out from the crowd and preferably a way to add extra value to your crop.

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Happy Pigs

Living the dream

To write about this blog’s themes of food, family, farms and friends we really have to start with our decision to move to Tasmania. The first thing you find when you make that decision is the reaction of others, which is usually along the lines of “you’re so lucky, I’ve always wished I could do that.” It’s like a collective Australian dream. Mind you it’s not just Australian, when I talk about living here to people as I travel around the world, most people respond with some combination of admiration, longing or envy.

Now Tasmania really is a great place to live and to visit, and you’ll read plenty about that here. But the strength and consistency of people’s response suggests something deeper is going on – that many people long for something that Tasmania symbolises to them. So I thought that would be a good theme to explore in our first post.

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Huon Valley Mid-Winter Fest

Searching for critical mass

One of the magic things that happens when a group of people build cohesion around values and/or aspirations is that the critical mass builds upon itself, attracting more of the same. We all see this throughout our lives when we’ve worked in great teams, or been involved with a group of people working to a common purpose. It might be a team at work, a group of musicians or a community organization. It’s a great feeling and is an incredible attractor, making others want to join in – to be part of the magic. We all want that feeling of belonging, of being part of something bigger than ourselves.

I sense that happening across Tasmania, both at the local level around towns and regions but also collectively across the state. As I wrote in the last feature, Tasmania represents a dream for many people and what’s happening now is that magical moment of critical mass is arriving, as the dream becomes reality for enough people to make the trend self reinforcing.

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Local beef ribs at The Apple Shed

Meat comes from animals

One of the iconic moments in our first year in Tasmania was driving along and seeing a small group of people in a paddock with some equipment. We took a double take when we realized that hanging from a small crane on the back of their ute was a freshly killed cow, being butchered. We thought it was a great scene and stopped to take a look and have a chat.

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