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The Community Food Movement: Soft, squishy and sweet

The Community Food Movement: Soft, squishy and sweet

The Community Food Movement: a series about the emerging social movement around food…



OH, LOOK“, she said as she held up the fruit, “It’s soft and ready to eat”.

“Yeah, at last”, I responded, reaching over to take it from her and feel how over the past few days what had been a hard, green fruit the size of a large orange had become a soft, darker coloured fruit that was easily dented when I touched it.

How it starts… the unripen black sapote is rock-hard and needs be left to ripen for some days.
How it starts… the unripen black sapote is rock-hard and needs be left to ripen for some days.

“Yep”, ready to eat”, I said as I placed it carefully back into the bowl it had sat in these past couple weeks. “Maybe tonight?”.

The green fruit was hard when I had taken it out of the Ooooby delivery box, our regular drop of food mainly from Sydney-region small farms. Finding it was a surprise.

As the sapote ripens it starts to discolour, becoming darker and softer.
As the sapote ripens it starts to discolour, becoming darker and softer.

Ooooby is an iteration of the CSA, the Community Supported Agriculture model. It is the go-between for farmers within a few hours’ farm truck drive of Sydney and urban people who like their fresh food to be local food.

Unlike CSA’s that source from only a single farm, Ooooby, Brisbane Food Connect and CERES Fair Food source their supplies from a larger number of farmers. This provides continuity if a farmer drops out rather than risk closure of the CSA, as has happened in Sydney in the past.

Now soft and squishy to the feel, it’s time to open our black sapote and learn why it is known as the ‘black pudding fruit’.

“A black sapote!”, Fiona called out in surprise at seeing the fruit when we opened the box.

“But… not from Sydney region farmers”, I said. “Sapote forests are about as plentiful around Sydney as the banana plantation Ooooby gets the bananas it supplies from. Both come from up in the subtropics further north”.

“But the rest of the stuff is from Sydney region farms”, said Fiona.

“Yeah”, I relied. “If you look at the list on the page accompanying the box of food Ooooby delivered you see that it comes from up to five or so hours farm-truck drive of the city. Much like Food Connect up in Brisbane”

“That taps into a range of regional microclimates spanning the warm areas to the north and north-west to the cooler climate around the foothills of the Snowy Mountains down south and to the different farm products those regions grow”, she said.

The sight of the opened black sapote is eough to make you say ‘yum!’ in anticipation of eating it.

“Which defines what really is ‘local food’ for Sydney. That distance supplies the varied range of products than help make a nutritionally balanced diet”.

That distance will be different for other cities as it depends on how far the market gardens are from the cities. Sydney is fortunate in that the agricultural soils to the north west and south west of the city, which were where the first farms were established in Australia, are among the most fertile and productive in the state. It is this productivity that makes imporant preserving them for farming rather than for urban development. Those urban fringe farms, many are small, family-owned market gardens and orchards, feed the city with much of its fresh produce and sustain a fresh food industry based on regional foods.


That black sapote was too tempting to me, and after Fiona set off to walk to work I couldn’t help but carefully cut the thing open to see what was inside. Black gooey stuff. The peculiar thing about the black sapote is that it is ripe and ready to eat when it gets soft and squishy and resembles some kind of dark pudding. And that, its appearance and texture, is why it is also known as ‘black pudding fruit’.

Now, there it sits in the fridge awaiting Fiona’s return. Tempting it might be, but to eat it by myself would be to tempt too much trouble.

Comments (4)

  • Peta Hudson
    November 8, 2015 at 5:46 am

    Isn’t it possible to eat a balanced diet that comes from closer around Sydney? OOOBY started here in Aotearoa/NZ and I thought it would have been sourcing produce closer than 5 or more hours away? Perhaps that is easier here.

  • Russ
    November 8, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Hi Peta…
    Five hours isn’t too bad for a sprawling city of four million. Much of Sydney’s market gardening zone on the urban fringe has been consumed by urban development and much of what remains is threatened with a similar fate. This pushes the farms that feed the city further away.

    Brisbane Food Connect, which is similar to Ooooby, finds the same thing up their way. Sourcing from farms four or so hours distant allows them to access a variety foods from the warm subtropics up the coast, the cool uplands on the Great Dividing Range and do into coastal northern NSW.

    For Australian cities three to four million this effectively defines a realistic understanding of what local, or as I call it, regional food is.

  • Jane Mowbray
    November 11, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    Of course Community Gardens and backyard gardens can provide lots of very local greens, salad veg and herbs. Great crops of mustard, parsley, lettuce, lemons and turmeric this year!

  • Russ Grayson
    February 20, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Hi Peta…
    Thanks for commenting. Yes, from what I have seen of New Zealand I suspect it is easier there.

    Sydney this year welcomes (or otherwise for some) its five millionth resident and for years there has been a battle over the fate of the city’s urban fringe farmlands and the implications to urban food security and food industry employment if they become yet more distant suburbs. The advocacy group, Stydney Food Fairness Alliance, has led this for some time though their’s is not the lone voice. Periodically, mainstream media reports on the issue.

    I don’t find a problem with Oooby sourcing its food up to five hours or so from the city because they access the different food products of different regional climates and, doing so, supply a nutritionally wide range of foods. I still get a regular delivery from Ooooby and they have naintained their quality and service, building on the earlier Sydney Food Connect, the CSA (community-supported agriculture) scheme that they bought out.

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