Rural communities and farming regions have been devastated by the ferocious bushfires that raged across Victoria last weekend and continue to burn today, including at least four Slow Food convivia in the most seriously affected areas north and east of Melbourne.
Slow Food Australia chairman Leonie Furber said it was difficult to know what to say in light of such a devastating situation: ‘The very fabric of so many country communities has been engulfed by these fires. Small farming and timber communities – the symbolic heart of so much of Australia’s rural life – have lost families, farms, homes, livestock, crops and wildlife.’
Miranda Sharp of the Victorian Farmers Market Association (VFMA) confirmed that none of the 500 stallholders from the Melbourne Community Farmers’ Markets – including the Slow Food Melbourne Farmers’ Market – have lost their lives, although many have suffered major damage on their properties and/or have lost their livelihood.
‘Victorian farmers have already faced years of drought. Two weeks of a scorching heat wave destroyed many crops across the state, further stretching their scarce water resources. Now many have been hit with almost apocalyptic bushfires. It’s hard to imagine how they will recover and rebuild, but the amazing thing about Australian farmers, and rural communities in general, is how resilient they can be in the face of adversity,’ said Kelly Donati of Slow Food in Victoria.
Farmers across Australia are assisting by collecting money, fodder, fencing and other farming supplies. 150 semi-trailer loads, or 2,000 tons, of hay are on their way into devastated areas from across Australia and the Victorian Farmers Federation has set up a toll-free number for farmers and is organizing stock adjistment for badly damaged properties.
Slow Food and VFMA are encouraging residents to assist Victorian producers through this period by buying directly at local farmers markets, which will inevitably have less variety, fewer stallholders and more expensive prices in months to come. In addition, the VFMA will begin fundraising this Saturday February 14 at local farmers’ markets and Slow Food Australia has encouraged members to donate to the Red Cross Victorian bushfire appeal.
In conjunction with Slow Food convivia in Victoria, Slow Food Australia is also looking to provide more practical support for the food communities affected by these bushfires in the weeks and months ahead. There have been terrific expressions of support from Terra Madre Australian producers and chefs already, who want to use their foods and skills to contribute to the rebuilding effort in these communities.
For more information, or to find out how to donate, please visit the Slow Food Australia website.
Australian staff in the Slow Food offices in Bra, Italy and students at the nearby University of Gastronomic Sciences would like to extend their heartfelt compassion to the affected rural communities.