Hope has a passion for dirt! She's currently researching sustainable food systems for her PhD and volunteers at Fair Food Brisbane, an organisation that promotes sustainable and resilient food systems. We went to Brisbane and met Hope at one her favourite places, the Northey St Markets. We try to check out the local organic markets in whatever city we're in and this one had one of the biggest ranges of organic produce, products and home made goodies we've seen! After meeting Hope we just could not let her go, so now she also contributes to the Brisbane events that you read on the conscious city guide each week. We are so grateful to have met Hope, thank you lovely lady! x

Tell us a little about Hope and what you are currently studying and hoping to contribute to the world?

My name is Hope Johnson, I grew up in rural Australia, and currently live in the dazzlingly, sunny Brisbane. I live with my sister in a little unit in Woolloongabba, with fading wallpaper and a kitchen that fits one person at a time. I love the big clouds and glorious hills Brisbane has, and the way old, colourful Queenslanders perch amongst it all. Brisbane is big enough to have the benefits of urban-living, but small enough to feel homey. 

I graduated law two years ago with first class honours having studied and worked hard. I’ve always loved playing in dirt, writing and food. While most people headed off to law firms, I started researching sustainable food systems for my PhD thesis. I am in the process of tracking down all the international agreements and regulatory tools that exist from soil through to world trade. I’ll compare the laws and policies against human rights like the right to food and sustainable development. Right now, I’m researching large land investments by foreign organisations and looking at the safeguards in place to ensure that these large-scale land investments do not inhibit the food security of citizens or the ability to sustainably develop. Next, I’ll be looking at the carbon stored in soil and examining where this fits in under the various climate change agreements that exist.  It’s basically the intellectual equivalent of a marathon.

I’ve also been involved in researching environmental justice, which is about how marginalised groups tend to be exposed more to environmental harms (e.g. toxic waste sites, pollution, contamination of food or water).  As well, I’m working on a paper about sustainable diets and critiques Australia’s responses to diet-related illnesses. The argument is that environmental damage like major losses in biodiversity and diet-related illnesses are inherently linked. 

My research is a tiny speck in all the millions of amazing efforts being made to create a future that is ecologically and socially flourishing. My professional work will not have much of an impact in terms of persuading legal reform. Most of it will end up on Google Scholar read by my Mum and a few other people who already agree. It’s more about spending my days contributing to something that is meaningful then trying to fit life and meaning into outside of business hours.  It’s more about effectively adding my voice to the ever increasing, powerful chorus of people seeking solutions and positive change.

What my major contributions are and will continue to be tends to occur in my immediate environment. So, I want my key contributions to be: kindness to people, animals, the environment and myself; optimism tempered by realism and an awareness of connectedness.

Today you took us to the Northey St Organic Markets in Brisbane, what can you tell us about this amazing place & the gardens that they have here?

Northey St Organic Markets sells organic fruit, vegetables, breads, meats, dairy, pantry items and meals. The markets have free yoga classes and live music. It is the first and only market in Queensland selling only certified organic produce. The markets take place in the Northey St City Farm (http://www.nscf.org.au/), a urban, permaculture, four-hectare farm site. The farm has plots for people to grow their own, and provides formal education programs including a permaculture design certificate, along with more casual workshops on topics like making medicine from plants. It truly is an inspiring and vital organisation. 

There was a little section in the market giving Brisbane residents free plants – can you tell us more about this program?

The Brisbane City Council has a ‘Free Native Plants Program’ where they provide up to four free plants to home-owners, two plants per unit for body corporates, up to 50 free plants for schools/community groups and one new plant for each new citizens to Australia living in Brisbane

What other cool ‘green’ initiatives have you seen pop up like this in your city? (Could be food, travel – bikes, recycling centres, compost communities etc)

The Brisbane City Council runs composting workshop. As well, the Council annually runs a ‘Green Heart Fair’ that features activities, workshops, competitions etc with the goal of promoting sustainable living (http://www.citysmart.com.au/greenheartfair). 

The Goodness Inc, a community organisation based in Brisbane, is running a series called ‘Speed Seed: speed-dating for social and environmental change!’ It is an exciting project where ‘matchmaking’ events are held to link those with ideas and connections (‘those with a change-making idea) to those with capital to invest in social or environmental goods (‘changemaker investors’). It is basically an innovative funding model being trialled in Brisbane with the support of the Brisbane City Council. For more details see http://thegoodnessinc.org/speedseed

You are also started and initiative called Fair Food Brisbane what is it and how did it come about?

Fair Food Brisbane is a non-for-profit, volunteer-run community organization (www.fairfoodbrisbane.org; https://www.facebook.com/Fairfoodbne). It’s at the city level that connections and conversations between farmers, producers, growers, chefs and consumers can make a real difference in building a better food system. Fair Food Brisbane is a hub for events and entities that promote sustainable, resilient food systems. 

So far, we have run a series of pop-up dinners featuring local, seasonal produce in Brisbane’s community gardens entitled ‘The Garden Dinner Society’. This was done to raise awareness about sustainable, socially just eating and also to highlight the important work of community gardens. 

Fair Food BNE was also the key coordinator of Fair Food Week, a national series of events run by AFSA, and a contributor to Red Cross Poverty Week cooking school. We’ve just finished running an ethical café competition online- which seems to be the first of its kind in the world! People submitted photos of their food that went beyond ‘food porn’ and described why their meal was ethical.  

Our goals are to:

1. Advance and gain support for a localised food systems in Brisbane;

2. Support farmers from small to mid-scale farms who employ agro-ecology practices;

3. Identify, build and strengthen positive connections between actors within the food system, local government and the Brisbane community. 

4. Inform people about food issues and solutions in an accessible, participatory way;

5. Increase social inclusion in Brisbane’s emerging sustainable food system;

6. Work towards creating a coordinated food policy for Brisbane. 

What is the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance?

Fair Food Brisbane is the first regional-specific wing of Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA). AFSA is a national non-for-profit working that coordinates and collaborates with organisations and individuals working towards transforming the Australian food system. It’s purpose is to work with organisations and individuals to create an equitable, sustainable and resilient food system for all Australians. 

AFSA aligns with the international movement for food sovereignty. Food sovereignty is:

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. (La Via Campesina 2007). 

Food sovereignty is a movement led by those who grow food, raise animals and capture fish in ways that are very different from those utilized in the industrial and trade-based system.  Acknowledgement of food sovereignty by international institutions and national governments is increasing. 

AFSA was formed in 2010 as a result of a number of community food organisations getting together to produce a response to the Australian Government’s announcement that it was going to devise a National Food Policy. The alliance supported the plan but wanted to ensure that it be a transparent, inclusive and participatory process, given how vital food and agriculture was to every Australian. As it became clear that the National Food Policy was being dominated by big agri-business and advocating a ‘business as usual’ approach the coalition decided to form itself into a more coherent voice and AFSA was established.

You can find more information about AFSA on their website (http://www.australianfoodsovereigntyalliance.org) and through their policy document Peoples Food Plan (http://www.australianfoodsovereigntyalliance.org/blog/2013/02/16/peoples-food-plan-working-paper-launched)

What are some of your favourite fair, organic, sustainable places to eat in Brisbane?

  1. Sourced Grocer (http://www.sourcedgrocer.com.au/): grocer and café specialising in organic and/or locally-produced food  (local in the sense that it is from Northern NSW or South East Queensland).  Sourced Grocer uses Cup Coffee (http://www.cupcoffee.com.au/) a local coffee roaster with transparent and seasonal sourcing practices.
  2. Mondo Organics (http://www.mondo-organics.com.au/): Mondo organics is run by Brenda Fawly, author of Wholehearted foods. Brenda has been promoting and selling organic food since the 80s. Mondo Organics is the model of transparent, local (or Australian), organic sourcing and they share their knowledge through cooking classes and accessible explanations. 
  3. The Depo (http://the-depo.com/): The Depo sources some of their food from Food Connect, a community-supported agriculture organisation (https://www.foodconnect.com.au/). They also have bee hives on their rooftop to produce their own honey.
  4. Merivale Café (http://merriweathercafe.com/#home): These guys are awesome. They source a lot of their food from Food Connect. As a result, they often change their brunch and lunch menus to use the seasonal food available. They make a lot of food in house including jams, and they use Cup Coffee Roasters.
  5. Wild Canary Eats (http://wildcanary.com.au/): This café is connected to a nursery, and it has its own kitchen garden where they grow their herbs, edible flowers and some of their produce. They use organic, permaculture principles and grow over 40 types of plants that are then used in the café.
  6. Rogue Coffee (http://rougecoffee.com.au/): These guys just established a large, long closed-loop aquaponic system to grow produce for their café, and a vertical garden. With the help of Seven Positive (http://www.sevenpositive.com/), they used locally-sourced, upcycled materials to make their garden. They also roast their own coffee beans and describe their sourcing policies online.

What are your hopes for the future of a sustainable Brisbane and what are your top 5 recommendations that people could get involved with who live in Brisbane? 

  1. Go to Northey St Markets: they’re on every Sunday from 6am (http://www.nscf.org.au/markets/)
  2. Support local community groups by going to their events or volunteering: from tutoring refugees through the Romero Centre through to joining the closest community garden, there’s so many groups doing amazing things and most will need your particular skills. 
  3. Walk: our Brisbane has so many life-sustaining, majestic trees, parks, clouds and rivers. One of the best things you can do is connect with these natural elements on a deeper, conscious level - carrying that knowledge throughout your life in Brisbane. 
  4. Get involved in the ‘Reclaim the Curb’ Competition (http://reclaimthecurb.org/competition/): This is a competition in which you and your street ‘activate an existing curb-side’ by e.g. planting fruit trees or making plant boxes in a way that enhances our streetscapes. It a great way to enthuse people and teaches participants about edible gardens and creatively using spaces to enhance community well-being. 
  5. Buy some of your food from a community supported agriculture group or from a food co-op: Food Connect is the major, most established community-supported-agriculture group. They source their produce from a maximum of a 300km radius of Brisbane. Food Connect has a flexible ordering system (so you can pick and choose different fruit, veg and herbs available) and have cheese, bread, olives etc that you can get in your box as well. Other schemes include Munch Crunch Organic (https://munchcrunchorganics.com.au/). Food Co-ops can be found around Brisbane- Contact Fair Food Brisbane (fairfoodbrisbane@gmail.com) and we can tell you about what food cops are near your suburb. Otherwise, you might be able to find them by searching on google or facebook. 

Visit Fair Food Brisbane & Northey St Markets:




Photos + interview produced by thebharanieffect - our talented photographer is Maclay Heriot.