Albany offers Food For Thought

My family and I recently took off on a four-day road trip to Albany, five hours south of Perth, ostensibly to attend the third annual Food For Thought Festival, which was held on Sunday in the Town Square.

The Food For Thought Festival is all about connectivity. By celebrating and showcasing local food in a fun and educational way, the festival promotes sustainable, healthy and vibrant food systems in the Great Southern region and supports the development and strengthening of fair food networks across the country and internationally.

There were plenty of things that could have derailed our long weekend in Albany:

  1. rainy, cold, windy weather
  2. camping in a tent in rainy, cold, windy weather
  3. my son vomiting all through the night (and the next day) while stuck in a tent in a campground in rainy, cold, windy weather

But despite it all, on balance, we had a good time. The main game was the Festival on Sunday. I wanted to check it out because it sounded like it represented all the interests I have regarding the celebration and promotion of healthy, local, fair and resilient food systems. I also want to start meeting and learning from the movers and shakers in this industry and so introduced myself to and had a lovely chat with the Festival Director, Evelyn Collin, of Community Food Events. I have a huge amount of respect for organisers of projects like these, which are a massive undertaking, run on a shoestring budget and staffed entirely by volunteers.

 

There were a couple of interesting speakers too including Jude Blereau of Wholefood Cooking who gave an impassioned speech about the importance of seasonality, and healthy soils creating healthy food. Soil health was the topic du jour and was reiterated by visiting US farmer and speaker Rick Bieber.

The highlight of the entertainment, in my family’s opinion, was the Albany Shantymen, a group of hirsute men who sang sea shanties with great gusto. There were a couple of other great bands and singers, plus a delightfully eccentric MC who kept the vibe fun and engaging all day. Of course, there was plenty of tasty local food offerings and “tent talks” with local producers.

The rest of our mini-break we spent dodging rain showers and rugged up to the hilt. We played regional tourist and checked out the stunning National ANZAC Centre and walked up to the top of the War Memorial to capture panoramic views of the Albany harbour and archipelagos. We cuddled ridiculously cute baby bunnies and got mobbed by flocks of Rainbow Lorikeets at the Old Marron Farm. We discovered Six Degrees, an awesome pub with great live music and fabulous food, where we caught up with good friends who drove over from Denmark on Saturday night (and went back there again the next night to play cards, drink beer and eat fish tacos).

Albany pano

Storm’s a-comin’! Panorama from the top of the War Memorial.

It’s a long way to go for what was essentially two days away, but that’s WA for you; nothing is close by. But little trips like this remind me that we live in a pretty amazing corner of the world.