This week, I have interviewed Mandy Schultz, Luvaberry Strawberry Farmer from the North Brisbane area. Mandy founded the very popular Facebook Group “Our War on Waste” and has been leading the way in fighting food waste on our farms ever since. Mandy is passionately outspoken and has shifted the attitude of the farmers around her to not accept waste as a given.
During this interview Mandy shares how she had a hissy fit in the shed one day when it was raining because rain on the farm during picking meant that the strawberries would be thrown out but this time she had had enough, she went to the shops to get some glad bags and went out to collect the wet berries to freeze and sell as ‘cooking’ berries since they hadn’t been processed or washed.
This was the start of Mandy’s accidental trip into learning and becoming aware of the problem of food waste. Mandy was also sick of seeing her kids eating foods with artificial colours and flavours so she decided to experiment with freeze drying her berries so they could be used to colour and flavour foods instead.
Eleanor is Mandy’s friend who helped to create the “Our War on Waste” facebook group and helped Mandy to connect with the people in the local community who were passionate about stopping waste.
The “Our War on Waste” group grew from 700 people to over 5,000 people in 12 months because other farms in the area came on-board to prevent waste from the Blackberry, Raspberry and Blueberry farms and the people in the group really drive the content and sharing of posts in the group, showing how they use the waste to make things like protein balls, slices and ice-cream. Mandy just puts it out there that she has farm waste and the people in the group come to her.
Mandy has a very good understanding and insight into how and why we have food waste in Australia. She shares how the big retailers may actually be manipulating the market, creating the problem by the way that they operate with the farmers with no transparency. The massive retailers can easily play super farms off against smaller farmers, making hollow promises thereby driving prices down by manipulating farmers into creating the over-supply.
Mandy shares how being a part of the group and meeting the people she has met has really opened her eyes and has become so much more aware of the waste coming from her own home. She shares how she saves on household food waste and has a few tips for others to reduce their overall contribution of waste.
Mandy’s has a bit of a love/dislike relationship with her farm. She loves it being so separated and quiet but the distance, dealing with teenage children and getting pizza’s are definitely a problem. Mandy also shares that the farm work is hard and very intense during the picking season so she has to get off the farm sometimes to get away from the work but the problem is that when they come back, the work is still there and if anything, the work is worse as there is no one slashing and dealing with the work while they are away.
Mandy has a number of collaboration projects she is working on other than the one with Juzcit where we are making Strawberry Kombucha and Water Kefir from her ‘waste’ strawberries. She has Brigid from Kokopod making a special freeze-dried strawberry chocolate that may be made available as a part of a special ‘bulk-buy’ box being release before Christmas.
Mandy has recommended that if there are people out there who want to be involved, the best way is to go onto the Facebook Group “Our War on Waste” and join in the discussion and come along to the car park parties. She has a number of ambassadors who provide their front yards for the car park parties who Mandy explains the group would not work without them.
To wrap up, Mandy shares that there are 2 things that most people don’t know about her, she is a Naturopath and has been practicing Naturopathy for 25 years but she is ready to hang up her hat. Mandy also admits that she is originally a city girl who grew up in Sydney, she met her husband, Adrian who happened to be a horticulturist so she ended up on the farm.
Credit for Podcast intro: http://www.purple-planet.com