'Melburnians' Lead The Way In Sustainable Farming

ustainability efforts and minimising the carbon footprint, especially in food production, are not merely topics of discussion in Melbourne, Australia.

Rather, the citizens of Australia's second-largest city, especially the farming community, take sustainability seriously.

From growing organic fruits and vegetables to producing compost fertiliser and using solar power, the city's farms also undertake educational programmes to nurture young people to conserve resources and reduce their environmental footprints.

Undoubtedly, even in suburban and rural areas, the concept has been well embraced by the community and put into practice effectively.

Tourism Australia representative Renae Denny.

The way Melburnians – the Australian nickname for people living in Melbourne – practise sustainable farming was indeed an eye-opener for ASEAN journalists who recently went on a media tour of several farms in the Mornington Peninsula located in the southern part of Melbourne, organised by Tourism Australia, the Australian government agency responsible for attracting international visitors to Australia.

The journalists were in the Victoria state capital to cover the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit on March 4-6.

The journalists from Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Philippines, Vietnam and Timor Leste learned how sustainability has become the new norm and an important element in the country.

And, their visits to a honey farm, fruit and vegetable farm and vineyards underscored the use of sustainable farming practices and consumption of locally-produced food products.



Tourism Australia representative Renae Denny said sustainability practices took on a more feverish fervour after the COVID-19 pandemic subsided.

"Australians are always looking at ways to educate and encourage everyone to take part in caring for our planet in sustainable ways and adopting better practices," she said.

Although sustainability practices here are done on a small scale individually, they nevertheless have a significant impact, when combined, on climate change and the environment.

Torello farm gate in White Hill Road, Dromana, a one-stop store run by Mark Brancatisano and Sophie O'Neill, provides locally sourced produce such as organic vegetables and fruits, poultry, beef, and free-range lamb to the local community.

O'Neill said the farm gate concept encourages closed-circle farming practices or reusing resources in a sustainable way. (Closed-circle farming refers to recycling and preserving nutrient and carbon levels within the soil to enable farming to be carried out sustainably using fewer inputs.)

"Here (in this area), we have eight local producers who grow different varieties of organic fruits and vegetables, using self-produced compost fertiliser. We also have livestock (products) from nearby breeders. Bread sold here is from (the nearby) Tuerong farm (that grows its own wheat and bakes its own bread)," said O'Neill.

She also said Torello conducts an incubator programme for young people to encourage them to be involved in food production, adding there is also a need to get them to produce food in a sustainable manner.

Mark Brancatisano (in the middle) at Torello farm gate.

William Guymar, 18, a participant in the incubator programme, said he is keen on agriculture and wants to become a farmer.  

He and his mentor Claire Barnes are currently cultivating vegetables organically on a 5.7-hectare plot belonging to the owners of Torello.

Barnes said the incubator programme has been running for many years now and provides opportunities for youths to either work on a farm or run their own farm.

She stressed that participants are taught a wide range of skills to operate their farms without the use of chemicals.

“We teach them to nurture the soil so as to get a healthy farming ecosystem going,” she added.



At Pure Peninsula Honey Farm in Derril Road, Moorooduc, the ASEAN journalists learned about the important role of bees in an ecosystem. In the case of this farm, the bees help to pollinate other crops in nearby canola farms.

Meanwhile, Green Olive Farm in Red Hill, which has been in operation since 2002, has a vineyard as well as 500 olive trees, and herb and vegetable gardens spread over 10.9 hectares, all organically cultivated.

Media team at the Green Olive vineyard.

Green Olive Farm general manager Sophie O'Donoghue said they also have a restaurant that gets all its ingredients fresh from the farm.

“Other ingredients (we don’t have) are obtained from local producers here,” she said.

"We really strive to be a sustainable property in Mornington Peninsula as evidenced by the fact that we have a 39-kilowatt solar panel on our roofs producing electricity.

"When the sun shines, we run the whole property on solar, and any solar (power) we don’t use goes directly back to the grid."

She said the Green Olive also promotes its sustainable farming practices by conducting tours for local and international visitors regularly.

The visiting journalists were also taken to Point Leo Estate, a 121.4-ha sprawling property with a vineyard, two restaurants – including Laura, a fine-dining establishment – and a sculpture park.  

One of the menu served at Laura.

The entire estate takes sustainability very seriously. Its general manager Roger Lancia said considering the size and nature of its businesses, Point Leo Estate is aware of its carbon footprint.

"We receive more than 200,000 visitors yearly, so we are mindful of our carbon footprint. In acquiring ingredients, we work closely with local farmers, businesses and producers.

"We have an edible garden near our restaurants while protein comes from Philip Island and our fish from Australian waters. For us, it is not only sustainable but also guarantees the freshness of our products," he said.

Point Leo Estate culinary director Josep Espuga said the chefs at their two restaurants curated their menus based on ingredients provided by local producers according to the prevailing season.

The private estate is also home to 70 indoor and outdoor sculptures, estimated to be valued at A$100 million (about RM313 million). The sculpture park is among the top five private parks in the world.


Edited by Rema Nambiar

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