UNRULY might not be the right term to describe Robert Pekin. In fact, he’s anything but unruly if the success of Brisbane Food Connect is the measure. Casual, for sure. Unruly? Nope.
Robert started Brisbane Food Connect in 2005. An ex-dairy farmer, Robert had been forced off his farm in the late 1990’s. Separation in place and time from traumatic events can sometimes clarify life, so it was that after losing his farm Robert went away for a time to mull things over and came back with an idea. What if he could create a fairer food system for everyone, including farmers? And, so, Brisbane Food Connect was born.
Food Connect is now a social enterprise providing fresh Brisbane region fruit, veg and other foods to the city’s eaters. Significantly, it employs people in the incipient community food industry and provides a fair return to the farmers that supply it. It’s an example of a fair food business and it’s managed by a rather smart and enterprising young woman by the name of Emma-Kate Rose.
Amory Starr — a US emigre living in Sydney who taught a food systems course at an American university and is now discovering the Australian fair food movement — joined Robert, Fiona Campbell and myself last night at the Oneness Cafe in Coogee for a catch-up and so that Amory could meet Robert. It was one of those relaxed, informative and friendly nights of which there are too few in life.
THE DIRE NEED FOR ENJOYMENT, FUN AND GOOD COMPANY
Speaking of that, Robert said something that resonated with me. We had walked from where we live to Coogee Beach in the early evening humidity, and it was when we were cooling off before dinner at the Coogee Bay Hotel with one of those artisan microbrewery beers that offer a refreshing alternative to the products of the big, multinational brewing corporations, that Robert said that people engaged in social programs like the fair food movement spend too little time socialising.
His suggestion seemed to be that they were mission-focussed and that the social side of their working relationships was often lacking. I couldn’t agree more. People need to become colleagues who know each other well or, better still, friends. Working in social change needs to be an enjoyable experience in the company of good, creative people.
THE BROAD ROAD TO THE FAR NORTH (apologies to Basho)
It’s Saturday morning and Robert has just left us here in Randwick in Sydney’s cool, cloudy and showery Eastern Suburbs to start his journey back to Brisbane. While his drive back will be one of those pleasant sort of adventures that come with a road trip, there was a mini-adventure even before he left when he realised he had left his phone on the living room table. What would have been the simple task of retrieving it became a little more complicated when Fiona realised that the wind had slammed the front door closed — and she didn’t have a key to get back in. Fortunately, the builder working in the upstairs apartment managed to remove the insect mesh panel over the rear windows and, levering himself up from the top of a ladder, gain entry.
Robert has done much for the fair food movement in this country and its good to know him. Now, his phone retrieved, he could get into his van and drive off. He was on his journey north.
“The journey itself is my home.” Matsuo BashoVisit Brisbane Food Connect