Local Sprouts is really excited to share an interview with Alexandra Iljadica & Joanna Baker from the Youth Food Movement. We had a chance to be inspired at Reel Foods night, an awesome event the YFM organised full of local food, film and engaging conversation. So, without any further ado, let’s get on to the show!
LS: Who are you? What makes you tick? Any special details Local Sprouts readers should know about you?
YFM: Jo and I run the Youth Food Movement, which is about ensuring young Australians have the capacity and motivation to make choices that demand and support a healthy, secure and fair food system.
Doing stuff, as opposed to talking about stuff is what makes both Jo and I tick! We know that soon it will be our responsibility to feed our family and friends, so we want to be sure we have as many skills and as much knowledge that is possibly needed to be able to make good of what is handed to us.
That being said, we don’t preach to have the answers to the issues we identify, and we’re not very big fans of finger-pointing either. We want to learn more about the food system, create solutions with our peers (young and old) and move forward. We will say we are a brave bunch though, we will try new things, challenge held values and beliefs for the greater good. This is also why we are such a great (untapped) resource when it comes to changing the food system to one that has the well being of the community, the environment and producers at its core.
LS: Where is your local community/neighbourhood and what do you love about it/how could you describe it?
YFM: We define our community not by who we are physically near to, but we define our community as those who share our values, beliefs and vision. The beauty of this being, that you can be any age, ethnicity or reside is any city or country across the globe and be a part of the YFM family!
We also see our community as kind of like an onion – there are layers of them, some close to the everyday activities of the movement, and other a little more further away, but just as important to making us who we are, and helping us to do what we do.
Our core team of volunteers are like our siblings, we love that they give of themselves above and beyond what they may have done in the past. We love sharing with them the fruits of our work, and the opportunities that come forward.
The other layers of our community include local food champions and other do-ers. This includes our members, and a few other social enterprises that have been very supportive of us over the last year or so. They are willing to put a hand up for the cause, as are we for theirs. Then we have the slightly further away outer layer, who are a little older and wiser than we are. These guys have been around long enough to see if something is a new idea or something old repackaged. They really help us not to repeat the work of others or reinvent the wheel. We love that although they are super important and busy, they can still spare some time and some of their brain space for us.
LS: If you were showing someone from out of town around your local area, where would you take them?
YFM: We would invite them to one of our monthly meetings of course! Although they’re not widely publicised, you only have to look at our twitter photos to see that we have the biggest feast before each monthly catch up. It’s a nice mix of home-made, locally sourced, and international flavours (most of us have a soft spot for khao nieaw geaw). It’s also pretty nourishing for your brain too, because as we eat we share what new places we’ve been, things we’ve learnt or people we’ve met.
For the past 3 years, each October we have hosted a Ride On Lunch where we take people to visit, learn from and be fed by local food champions. In the past we’ve visited Michael Mobbs’ sustainable house while picking mint from the verge gardens outside his place to add to our smoothies; we’ve planted seedlings at James St Reserve Community Garden; savoured the thoughtful treats at Kitchen By Mike and Youeni Provides; and witnessed the magic that is Eveleigh Farmers Markets. So, I guess I would take someone on a personalised version of the 3 rides!
LS: What does ‘local’ mean to you/your work/your family?
YFM: Local to us means: something that can be obtained with much less effort than normal. This could be because it is physically closer than alternatives, for example the farmers market is closer than the farm itself. It could be personally close through friends or family, like learning a cooking skill that only your Grandma knows. Or it could be cultural – shared traditions or a shared ethos on life, these kind of things are such a great magnets for getting people together, which is really what makes something local – people!
LS: Hidden local gem?
YFM: I think any edible plant or tree you find when walking the streets of Sydney is a local hidden gem! When we were riding the streets of Redfern looking for a spot to film our crowdfunding campaign video, we found this small yet golden banana tree (so bananas!!). On my street in Annandale, I found this grapevine and was waiting for the grapes to ripen hoping the owners of the property the vine was draped over didn’t want the fruit. Unfortunately I’m not the only grape lover in town because every day I walked past on my way home, there were none there!
We also think local gems, be it a food shop or not, is one that is run by someone who also lives in that suburb or area. Because they are creating something for a place that is already personal to them, what they make and sell seems truly genuine.
LS: Local person, cultural or food experience Local Sprouts should seek out?
YSM: Diego Bonetto runs some mean foraging tours through various parts of Sydney! This is a good place to begin to challenge yourself on what you think is edible or not.
We’d also recommend you hop in a car and drive 45 minutes to an hour away from the CBD in any direction to take a look at some of the farms and meet some of the farmers that feed sydney. Down south you can pick your own mushrooms (we produce enough mushrooms in Sydney to feed ourselves. Along with lettuce, this is one of the few foods we are self sufficient at supplying the hungry people of Sydney). If you head west, before you get to the mountains you can go fruit picking in Bilpin, apples will be coming in shortly, and then later in the year you can pick a range of stone fruits. If you want to meet a farmer yourself, there are plenty of city groups who run tours frequently, or you can DIY and get a map from Hawkesbury Harvest and make a day of it with your mates!
We are also great fans of making stuff from scratch! Think bread, jam, pasta or any other staple that you eat daily but most likely don’t know how to make yourself. We can tell you, that making these things is incredibly easy (each of the above are made from only 3 ingredients!), and nothing can compare to that proud smile you have on your face when presenting your achievement to your family or friends to be eaten together.