Franco Cencig and his daughter Bonnie have watched the tiled roofs marching towards their 12 acre Redland Bay farm for a long time. It is now surrounded in houses. This is in marked contrast to Franco’s childhood experience of growing up on this farm where he was bordered by other farms. These farms are now all gone and Franco is the last farmer standing.
Franco reckons it is only a matter of time until he is gone also. He used to pump water from the local creek to grow his tomatoes, corn, lettuce, shallots, spinach, broccoli and the like. However, dry times in our region have led authorities to limit his water use. He is now thinking of finding another farm in South-East Queensland where he has better access to water.
Franco was born into farming and he loves growing food. As they say, it’s in his blood! However, for many years farming was tedious because growing produce for the mainstream food system left him feeling both insignificant and out of touch with those who ate his produce. In particular, he did not appreciate the way he was treated by the middle people at the markets and the financial returns were poor.
In recent years this has all changed. He became fed up with the agribusiness approach to growing food and decided to do things differently. He became involved in farmers’ markets and with Food Connect, which in turn, has rekindled his love for growing food. Franco now feels he has a relationship with the people who eat his food. He says this relationship is crucial because everything becomes more real and he gets great joy through people expressing their appreciation of the food he grows. Furthermore, he feels that he is now receiving a fairer return for the hard work and skill it takes to consistently produce quality, organic food.
In the end it is a necessary relationship. We need people like Franco to grow our food, and he needs us to both appreciate and fairly recompense him for his labours.
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