We are the Ecosystem

For a couple of days in late October, we joined the Australia Food Sovereignty Alliance Convergence in Canberra. We heard about grazing, geography curriculums, alternatives to organic certification, workers’ rights, and blood products from pastured pigs.

How is that relevant, we hear you ask?

First, a bit of background.

Established in 2010, AFSA was formed as a reaction to food production regulations in Australia weighted towards large scale producers, and unfairly disadvantaging small-scale production. As a body, it is “a collaboration of organisations and individuals working together towards a food system in which people have the opportunity to choose, create and manage their food supply from paddock to plate.”

The AFSA Convergence is an annual get-together for members to meet, share ideas, encourage each other, and shape the agenda and direction for the next year’s board activities.

So why were we there? To learn, and to participate.

As part of a movement towards local and sustainable textiles, Fibreshed Melbourne is working towards the same goals that AFSA is rallying for: sustainable, local agriculture, from farm to consumer, that provides consumers with informed choices in the yarns, textiles and garments they procure.

Not only is AFSA educating the public about food sovereignty issues, and connecting parts of the food processing chain, it is also lobbying government for better policies. It also has a producers’ arm, Fair Food Farmers United (FFFU) established in 2014, to“represent farmers who are at the sharp end of the impacts of free trade, raise awareness about the impacts of cheap imports on farmers, advocate for fair pricing for farmers selling to the domestic market, connect Australian farmers for farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing, and to be a voice for farmer-friendly regulations and standards.”

Huge props to the AFSA Convergence organisers for making a strong connection with the traditional owners of the land. The event was held at the Burrungiri Cultural Centre in Canberra. Issues of land management and custodianship without traditional owner input were frequently discussed, by traditional land owners. Bruce Pascoe, in facilitated conversation with AFSA president Tammi Jonas, provided insight into what the future of farming in Australia could be, if we included First People in more than just the odd conversation.

The local textile movement is still in its infancy, and we have much to learn from the successes and failures of the local food movement.

 

This site visit was generously supported by Fibreshed California and photographed by Andrew Lance.


Mirrormere Alpacas

It started with sheep. Paula had been experimenting on her permaculture bush block in the ACT. The sheep were part of her strategy towards self sufficiency. Paula’s flock was supplying her with food, but their safety weighed on her mind. She bought an alpaca to guard them…and then bought more, with a few llamas as well. She fell in love with these curious creatures and their range of natural colours.

Paula and her alpaca

Photo by Andrew Lance

Paula values community and relationships. She smiles shyly remembering the friendly welcome the alpaca community gave her. She appreciated and benefited from their help and advice as she learnt the ropes. One relationship she’s developed is with experienced farmer Val, at Qozqo Alpacas. Together, they’re able to contract an alpaca shearer to the district each season. With each shearing, the pile of raw fleece in Paula’s shed grew larger. Paula’s hand spinning couldn’t keep up. Something had to be done. The opening of Boston Fine Fibres mill provided the perfect opportunity. Paula sent some fleece over for processing.

Mirrormere Natural Dyes

Photo by Andrew Lance

For colour, Paula looked close to home first. She made her first dye baths with the wattle and native indigo already growing on her bush block. She expanded into experimenting with eucalyptus leaves, bark and mushrooms. She repeats the hues she likes best. Paula’s quiet modesty belies the stunning results of her work. Warm greys, vibrant terracotta, palest olive green and exquisite taupes.

At each step, Paula has expanded her skill set. She weaves scarves, and would love to make rugs next. Her current experiment is a merino alpaca blend, working with Millpost merino. Watch this space; if successful, the trial might expand to a new, all local product range. Mirrormere is her passion project, squeezed into weekends and spare time when she’s not at her job in the city. Mirrormere is more than a business for Paula. It’s also about loving her animals and finding a way to use the fibre they produce.

Paula has built up an enthusiastic following for her local, traceable products. Mirrormere roving and yarns – both natural colours and hand dyed – are available to buy online.

Paula Mirrormere

Photo by Andrew Lance

The Farm

Stock – 14, with plans to expand

Farming principles: local, sustainable and low impact, while aiming for a high quality fibre product.

Contact

Paula and Graham

Phone: +61 (0) 467 347 279

Location: ACT

https://www.facebook.com/mirrormerealpacas/

 

This site visit was generously supported by Fibreshed California and photographed by Andrew Lance.