Waste is a dirty word in the eyes of Alice Star and Phil Garozzo, whose small farm at Draper makes good use of organic material which would usually end up in landfill.
Loop Gowers is not only a business but also a social organisation that brings together chefs and Growers.
Alice and Phil collect from cafes and restaurants fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells and other organic matter, and use it for their worms as a compost or as food. They like to call it yield, rather than waste.
“The waste concept is something humans have created. In nature there isn’t any waste,” Alice says. She says it has become ‘normal’ for people to put organic matter in the bin.
The 'yield' she and Phil are collecting is added to the soil used to grow their vegetables, which are being sold back to the cafes and restaurants that supplied it — the loop is closed.
It all began in 2015 with a 10sq m "patch of nothing" for first generation farmers. Before planting their first cucumbers and eggplants, they spent six months preparing the soil.
Alice says they started to work with one cafe, and now they have links to 15 venues, including Redcliffe's Flock Eatery. While she had no farming experience, Phil was bit of a market garden intern, working on farms in the U.S. and Mexico where people have a different view of waste — it's a resource they manage.
While at West End Phil worked as a barista, and he started a project called Not Waste. He and the chef would divide kitchen scraps into coded buckets of colour. It’s a system Loop Growers’ “suppliers” are using today.
Alice and Phil themselves work on the farm, often with the aid of volunteers who are often staff from the places they work with.
There are no chemicals, or tractors and big machinery being used. “What we’re doing will improve the environment rather than taking away from the soil,” Phil says.
Strong community relationships and education regarding sustainable food production are key to the entire venture. Phil says they are soil caretakers and this should be a partnership of giving and taking. To him sharing this idea is just as important as harvesting. He and Alice would love more closed loop farms across the region and beyond.
It’s a hard slog, they are at the mercy of the weather and the farm has taken over their lives but you’ll hear no complaints from these two. “It’s a lifestyle choice, not a career choice. It’s every minute of every day. It’s challenging and beautiful at the same time,” Alice says.
“It’s given me a sense of place. I wasn’t expecting that,” he says. For Phil, who grew up in the Hills District, setting down roots in Draper has been a surprise.
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