On Thursday 19 November, we held an evening dinner, aiming to expand our community and provide an insight into the local food economy here in South East Queensland. Residents of VINE apartments and regulars who frequent Merriweather made up the group of around 25 people who gathered over a shared meal prepared by co-owner and executive chef Jarrod Huey. 

After dinner, Jarrod joined Rob Pekin, CEO of Food Connect, and Phil Garozzo, Urban Farmer, barista and leader of Merriweather’s rooftop gardening project in a panel discussion around our food system. The conversation explored the role that chefs, consumers, and growers play in the food system and how we can make changes that are better for our health, the livelihoods of farmers and small business.

Jarrod’s passion is in exploring the power and influence that chefs now have to introduce change for good. This opportunity for change is driven by chef’s being bought into popular culture and into the home through television and reality show’s. Chef’s are celebrity’s and people will follow the trends that they set. Under Jarrod’s direction as head chef, the role of our menu is to seasonally put the pieces together by using what is provided by our local climate and seasons, and the farmers that work in harmony with them. 

Merriweather sources as much of the produce we use as possible through Food Connect. Rob explains that Food Connect engage local farmers ethically and transparently to supply seasonal and ecological food. Nothing travels further than 400klm before it reaches your plate, and the farmers who grow it are being paid up to four times more for their hard work. They see beyond just “organic” and source from farmers who farm in alignment with local ecosystems, are chemical free, biodynamic and using permaculture principals. 

Phil working with Merriweather, has laid the foundations for a closed loop roof top garden on top of the VINE apartments. Almost all of our food waste is composted, processed by worms, and turned into soil which is now being used to grow staple produce that will be used by the café. Phil has studied permaculture and recently returned from an internship in country New South Wales at Old Mill Road Biofarm, a highly regarded organic farm that offers training to encourage more small scale farming. We are grateful to have him as part of our team, his passion for healthy soils and producing nutrient dense food is infectious. 

Seeing people of all ages and professions gather for this event, hear from our speakers and frequent our café makes us hopeful about the sustainable food movement, for our health and the future of our local farmers. Thanks again to those that came along!

Bec and the Merriweather team.