Dec 132022

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Amarantha Robinson, Jemma Stefanou, Juliet Honey, Karen Cheah, Krystal Navez-John and Perri Hillier.

This is the last newsletter for the year. We’ll be back in early January.

Want a job?

Eltham Primary School is seeking a part-time Gardener for its Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program. As well as gardening, the job seems to include organising/managing aspects of the program as well as interacting with parents, students and colleagues. Closing date: Sunday, 11th December.

The Heathmont Crop Swap is no more

The Heathmont Crop Swap (aka food swap) ceased after the November swap.

The Local Food Connect annual report

View/download as a pdf.

Oakhill Food Justice Farm

Oakhill Food Justice Farm now have a page on our website.


At 233 Tyler Street, Preston. This community garden is open to the public, but only 9-11.30am on Monday mornings and 3.30-6pm on Wednesday afternoons.

To discuss any aspect of the garden, contact Leila Alexandra by email ( or phone (0420 329329). Also, see their website.

Oakhill Food Justice Farm came into existence in September 2021 and is a demonstration of how you can turn a disused 800sqm block into an urban farm. It is a ‘food is free’ initiative, utilising skills of local food-growers and farmers to produce vegetables, herbs, salads for community members. Food is harvested weekly in partnership with DIVRS and distributed through DIVRS emergency food relief program.

People can sign up through Oakhill’s website to become a volunteer at the farm. The volunteer sessions run on Monday mornings (9-11.30am) and Wednesday afternoons (3.30-6pm), where the volunteers can learn about all aspects of food growing as well as chat over fresh farm tea breaks.

Oakhill runs a number of programs throughout the week. Preston Primary School students walk to the farm weekly to design and grow their own ‘Preston primary passata patch’, where they learn how to grow and take care of soil, produce compost and worm farms, grow crops, sow and save seeds, pot-up tomatoes, plant them, manage water, trellis them, grow beneficial plants such as herbs and flowers and eventually harvest and make passata.

Oakhill also runs a paid-internship program for youth converting lawn to food; works in partnership with Bridge Darebin to create and facilitate their gardening programs; and organises various workshops.

There are now 16(!) community gardens in Darebin, each with their own page on our website.

The year in review

This newsletter

In 2022, post the lockdowns, the newsletter reverted to its traditional focus on advertising upcoming local, face-to-face, food-related events. In any one week during 2022, there were a large number of such events in North East Melbourne – around 120 per week – and each was advertised in the newsletters.

As I have said before, the heart of these newsletters has always been the advertising of such events. If only one person learns about, and then goes to, an event as a result of reading about it in the newsletter then, as far as I am concerned, that newsletter was a success.

In addition, each weekly newsletter contained the news of the week and at least one article on a food growing or food eating subject. Particular thanks are due to regular contributors Ann Stanley, Jaimie Sweetman, Robin Gale-Baker and Megan Goodman. Read some of:

Since the start of the pandemic, around 450(!) different people have contributed to the newsletter. See the list on our website.

The more people who contribute material, the better will be the newsletter. If you would like to be an occasional, or even regular, contributor of articles in 2023, please email me.

Almost 4,000 people now receive the newsletters, up from 3,500 a year ago.

Over the course of the year, around 25,000 links in the various newsletters were clicked. The most popular links were:

As in previous years, the municipalities with the most events were Darebin and Merri-bek (aka Moreland).

The website

The main purpose of the website is to be a source of information about local food organisations and activities, where local means ‘North East Melbourne’.

The website is closely entwined with the newsletters. All the events in the newsletters first appear in the website calendar. When an article appears in a newsletter, it is usually linked to a longer version of that article on the website. All past newsletters are available from the website.

The website is centred on a number of databases, namely:

  1. Upcoming local food-related events: all the upcoming events of various types, around 400 per month.
  2. Local food producers: pages on each of around 130 producers, both farmers and makers.
  3. Local community gardens: pages on each of the 60 community gardens in the area
  4. Local food swaps: details of the 30 food swaps in the area.
  5. Local food justice organisations: including ‘food is free’ sites, free food distribution organisations and free community meals.

These databases are brought together into an overall Local Food Directory which contains pages for each of 300 or so local food organisations.

The number of people who visit the website varies according to how high it ranks in various Google searches but currently averages around 9,000 people each week. A majority of these people live in Melbourne.

By far the most popular page is the planting guide of what veggies to plant when (120,000 unique page views in the last year). After that, the most popular section is our how to grow guides (collectively 150,000 unique page views). A page that is becoming ever more popular is that on food-related proverbs (20,000 unique page views).

Local food activity around North East Melbourne

At first sight, it appears that we have fully bounced back from Covid during 2022. There are now lots of face-to-face events (similar in number to that pre-Covid), most of the community gardens have re-opened and most of the food swaps have re-started.

However, many of the free community meals that were happening pre-Covid have never re-started. More specifically, I am aware of 18 current, regular free community meals compared with around 30 pre-Covid.

More generally, I suspect that attendance at events is well down on pre-Covid levels. Whilst this is more of an impression based on personal experience rather than a fact, here is one piece of evidence: whereas the number of people receiving the newsletter almost doubled between 2019 (the last pre-Covid year) and 2022, the number of people clicking event listings has nowhere near doubled over the same period. Taking my impression one step further (and at risk of generalising much too much): Covid has changed how many of us live our lives; we are still interested, but at least some of us are less inclined, or at least less in the habit, to actually participate.

For me, the saddest event of the year was the demise of the Just Picked farm in Yan Yean, with the owners transitioning into a well-earned retirement. This was sad partly because Just Picked had a unique place in food production in North East Melbourne being the only local farm that grew and sold direct to the public a wide range of both vegetables and fruit. But it was also sad because, whilst a lot of us talk about the importance of local food production, collectively we made little or no effort to retain what was one of the most important farms in the area.

Congratulations to some vibrant new and newish community gardens:

Congratulations, also, to some new and newish local food producers:

(In this lists above, ‘new and newish’ means ‘newish to me’ and not necessarily ‘newish to this world’!)

Recipe: Hubert’s hot pot from Yarra Valley Dairy

From the Visit Yarra Valley website.


Yarra Valley Dairy Hubert’s washed rind cow’s milk cheese
Cunliffe & Waters posh pickled onions
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped into 2cm wide pieces


Pre-heat your oven to 200degC.

Unwrap the Hubert’s and place it in a ceramic or oven-proof dish. Using the tip of a sharp knife, score the top of the cheese in a crisscross pattern so that the hot air can escape whilst cooking and not dry out the cheese.

Scoop a very generous tablespoon of posh pickled onions (or your favourite relish of choice) over the cheese and top with the rosemary.

Place it in the centre of the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the aroma of melted cheese starts to fill the room.

Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was the Gateway Yarra Valley page in our Local Food Directory.

Joke (or pun) of the week

Submitted by Olaf Falafel: It all starts innocently, mixing chocolate and rice bubbles. But before you know it, you’re adding raisins and marshmallows – it’s a rocky road.

As a bonus, here are some Christmas jokes:

A gingerbread man went to the doctor’s complaining of a sore knee. “A sore knee?” the doctor said. “Have you tried icing it?

What did the snowman say to the aggressive carrot? ““Get out of my face.

I got a Christmas card full of rice in the post today. I think it was from my Uncle Ben.

What is Santa’s favourite kind of pizza? One that’s deep-pan, crisp and even.

What do you call an old snowman? Water.

Read more jokes.


Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ markets

Here are the known changes to the normal schedules over the holiday period:

  • Abbotsford: not happening on 31st December.
  • Alphington: not happening on either 25th December or 1st January. An extra market on Thursday, 22nd December, 4-8.30pm.
  • Carlton: not happening on either 25th December or 1st January.
  • Coburg: not happening on 31st December.
  • Eltham: not happening on either 25th December or 1st January.
  • Heathmont: probably not happening on 1st January.
Food swaps
Community gardens

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Beeswax wraps; Saturday, 10th December, at 1-1.40pm and again at 2-2.40pm; $10; Forest Hill.

Learn how to make beeswax food wraps to keep your food fresh. Take along your own cotton fabric square to add your own personal touch to your wrap, or use fabric scraps provided.

Create healthy soil with compost; Sunday, 11th December, 3-4.30pm; free; Thornbury.

Join Kat Lavers for a look into compost, worms and bokashi, with options for small spaces and renters. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of each, how to avoid common mistakes and diagnose common problems. Organised by Span Community House.

In December
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

In December
Regular classes