University of Guelph Hospitality and Tourism grad, Deanna Berry, talks about her exciting experience living and working in Australia and New Zealand and her opportunity to learn about sustainability first hand on an organic farm!
As I approached my final semester as and HTM undergrad, sustainability became a major contributor to my studies, sparking much thought and interest into how I could be involved. I was a student in the 4190 class assigned to put together innovative ideas for PJ’s Restaurant sustainability project. Meanwhile, I was also working on an applied business project to bring local food into the Bullring restaurant on campus. Around the same time, the University of Guelph also started the Better Planet Project. Everyone was thinking sustainability and it really seemed like this word was bringing all disciplines together, as well as further engaging in the community and changing the global platform for our future.
I decided to finish my last semester in Perth, Australia, the land “Down Under”, where everything seemed backwards and upside-down! I was pleasantly surprised that the sustainability movement had also planted its roots there and was definitely not backwards by any means. The advantages of their climate allowed Western Australia to grow and produce almost all fruits and veggies supplied to the public within the State. This eliminated the negative impacts of excessive transportation and maintained beneficial nutrition in their foods. It was also interesting to see that the public adapted very well the seasonality of food, reducing demands on out of season foods being brought into the country. The biggest challenges supplying locally, were price wars between two giant grocery chains. It was evident that in this time of economic rebound, many consumers still choose price over better quality local foods. Fired up with sustainability, I joined an environmental group at my Uni and made great strides with recycling on campus (as local food was clearly already well established).
Once school was finished, I joined the World Wide Organization of Organic Farming. I had the pleasure of volunteering on both an Australian olive grove and vineyard, and a New Zealand sheep farm. Innovation in organics is truly about getting back to simple practices that have worked for hundreds of years. I witnessed everything from fertilizing with fish heads, compost, and animal bones, to manure of all kinds, and lots of tender loving care. I must say that the livestock in this part of the world lead better lives than I do! It was interesting to see that what many would think of as being ‘behind’ in agricultural practices, are actually far more advanced in sustainability. There was very little sign of massive commercial production or over-production. The biggest challenges will present themselves in the future, as more demand is put on Australia and New Zealand’s agriculture industry to feed the world.
I have returned to Canada with new perspectives and a passion for bringing sustainability into our food systems. We have specific demands and circumstances to cater to in Canada; however, there is still a lot to learn from sustainable examples around the world. My next step is to further educate myself in food security and agricultural sustainability, and to explore the contributing health, environmental, and community factors that make sustainability possible. I think we are on the right track to an integrated and synthesized approach to ensuring the wellbeing of our land, while filling our bellies in a sustainable future!