The Tucker Patch is a community initiative based in Gloucester, NSW, and is managed by Gloucester Food Hub Ltd (GFH), an organisation specifically set up for that purpose.
GFH is deeply committed to supporting a local, ethical and fair food system that takes into account significantly more than just price, and more even than just ‘organic’. This means considering all steps in the food chain ‘from paddock to plate’.
Our members include both growers and consumers. Our growers, as well as our producers of jams, pickles, preserves, eggs, honey and bread, all reside within a short drive of Gloucester, and some of our growers – as well as growing on their own land - also grow at the Tucker Patch, an 11-acre patch of crown land licensed to us for horticultural purposes. We welcome anyone with skills in growing food to take a small plot of this garden to grow for themselves or for the local market.
A section of the Tucker Patch is set aside as a Food Forest and demonstration gardens, and these are managed by local volunteers (as is our Farmgate Stall). We also encourage tourists to and learn about our growers' organic and permaculture methods and our values.
We bring value to both consumers and growers in many ways.
1. Consumers and growers get to meet each other.
As a consumer, you know how they grow your food, trust that they won't use chemicals or other toxic materials such as contaminated mulch/compost.
You can provide direct feedback to them, learn how to cook not so common vegetables and learn about their journey of bringing your food to you.
2. You minimise waste. The food comes free from packaging (our plastic bags for salad mix are biodegradable). You reuse your own bags each week. No part of the profit is allocated to branding and packaging so all the money (with a small percentage to GFH for administrative costs) go directly back to the grower.
3. You eat fresher food. Your vegetables and fruits are picked and packed within a few hours of when they are sold to you, minimising nutritional loss and giving them a longer shelf life in the fridge.
4. You minimise transport. Our growers are all local. They fill the backs of their cars or utes with their produce and bring it direct to the Farmgate on Friday or the Pop-Up Stall on Tuesday, removing the need for freighting across long distances.
5. You keep your money local. All our growers are based no more than a 40-minute drive from Gloucester, which means when you support their market gardens the dollars are kept in this immediate locality without any middle men taking their cut. GFH only takes 20% to cover our costs.
6. Both growers and consumers are contributing to ecological biodiversity and responsibility. Because we know our growers we trust that they are hard working, protective and proud of their growing practices which hold the condition of their soil as their absolute priority so rather than managing with broad-scale herbicides, fungicides and pesticides, they are using ecological solutions instead that ultimately leave the soil in better condition than when they started. By supporting our growers, our consumers are also making a contribution to this ethic.
7. You are contributing to seed biodiversity. Rather than choosing single seed varieties (used by broad-acre growers to suit the needs of supermarkets (long shelf life, easily transported, blemish free) our growers are confident to experiment with heirloom varieties, new varieties and varieties they create themselves, ensuring our seed banks do not become depleted monocultures.
8. You are building a resilient community. The more educated we are about the food we eat, how it is grown, the conditions that impact its growth and the coming together to purchase and eat this food, the more connected we are to the most important and life-sustaining act we undertake - eating!
9. You are setting us up to be strong in the face of adversity. With the ever growing concerns around peak oil, we are stronger in the face of change if we have established systems of genuine localisation and are deeply connected to our food source and one another.
10. You get to think outside the box. Rather than growing or buying 'the same old', this approach to local food teaches you to eat seasonally and to eat broadly. So, rather than always using onions, why not consider leek, or Jerusalem artichoke instead of potato, purple carrots instead of orange?
11. And finally, you can enjoy the benefits of belonging to a supportive community, participating in growing together, learning together and even eating together (we share morning tea with all our customers on our Friday Farmgate days).
Gloucester Food Hub Ltd had its origins in The Gloucester Project, which was centred on Gloucester, NSW, but embraced the mid-North Coast region of NSW. The Gloucester Project conducted a Stage 1 development program designed to demonstrate the value of developing food production, value adding, distribution and a direct marketing approach for the food future of the region and of the larger markets outside the region including nearby metropolitan markets.
The Gloucester Project created a demonstration market garden at Gloucester to put its concepts into practice. Dubbed the Tucker Patch, the garden became a training and skill-building centre with potential as an employment builder for the food industry. This element of the Project promoted increased self-employment, coupled with supported access to markets, thereby reducing dependence on imported capital.
Stage 1 of the Project, largely grant funded, was deemed a success.
Moving to the future required that the concepts and practices of Stage 1 be developed as a self-sustaining model, capable of replication by other communities and regions.
Gloucester Food Hub Limited was formed as a continuing community-based organisation in the Gloucester region to develop that self-sustaining model. The Tucker Patch has been self-sustaining for almost three years now, and with the help of our friends and dedicated band of volunteers, we hope to remain that way for a long time to come.
If you support our philosophy of a local, ethical and fair food system and the promotion of Gloucester as a food producing area we invite you to become a member of The Tucker Patch. As a member, you may choose to support us in a variety of ways, from simply paying your annual fee to volunteering to help with maintaining infrastructure (sheds, watering systems, equipment), to looking after our permaculture Food Forest or demonstration gardens, to helping sell at our Farmgate Stall, to running workshops or other events, or even to writing material like this for our web site!
For enthusiastic would-be farmers, you could take up a few beds in the market garden to try your hand at being a grower.
All members receive an monthly newsletter with updates on what's happening in our organisation and on our 'Patch'.
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