The Youth Food Movement was started about 5 years ago in 2011 when my now business business partner, Joanna Baker, and I held a dinner in a restaurant in Sydney where we invited anyone we knew who was young and curious about Australian food and agriculture.

Today we have 5 staff and just over 100 volunteers across the country. Our national team of staff work out of our office in Sydney, and we have 3 volunteer chapters in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and 2 university chapters at Western Sydney University and the University in Tasmania.

We often get asked – what is it in YFM’s approach that makes us tick? Here are a few things I’ve observed that makes us a little bit spesh.

  • We’re positive and talk to solutions. We stay away from feeling bogged down in the issues, how complex and overwhelming they are.
  • We’re inclusive. For us it is counterproductive to exclude anyone from the conversation. We work hard at bring the views of both big and small ag to the table. We work hard at trying to talk to retailers, understand what it is they’re up against as opposed to pointing a finger of blame.
  • We’re about young people talking to other young people. We are harnessing the collective capacity and intrinsic motivation of young people to speak to and engage other young people.
  • We’re non-prescriptive. To us, food doesn’t belong in good or bad categories. We simply try to give ourselves as much info as possible on the impacts of choosing this potato over that potato for example, to empower ourselves to make a conscious choice each time.
  • We’re mainstreaming ag issues. We talk about things like the aging farming population, what are the benefits of tilling soil, what’s stopping young people from choosing agriculture as a career. The types of conversations usually relegated to country towns, not city pubs.
  • We value a young voice and believe it is a crucial, but often missed part of the conversation about our future.
  • We reject certainty. Having all the answers means that you can’t ask any more, and that’s not something we’re a fan of.

We know that the people who come to our events change their behaviour. We know that people feel hopeful that they can do something positive and constructive to tackle the issues we’re all facing. We know that after young people participate in our experiential food education they feel more connected to and understand where their food comes from, they have a greater value for agriculture. We also know that 62% of our community, who come from cities, have considered a career in agriculture, but aren’t too sure where to start.

Our event series Meet the Maker is a great example of all these things applied. We bring farmers to a pub in the city where young people can ask all their burning questions, with no journalists in between. At the core of Meet The Maker is the desire to connect producers to their consumers in a meaningful way. We want to break the stereotypes of farmers and farming in these modern times. We want consumers to be able to pose questions to producers, the type of questions that can’t be answered elsewhere. However, we can only have a small, specific part of a discussion within a much larger system. The night’s discussion focuses around these farmers in particular and how they exist within a larger industry. We’re privileged to have these farmers attend the event so our focus is on what makes these farmers unique and what a day in their shoes is really like. Find out where your food comes from and about the people who grow it, feed it, produce it. Taste their produce and understand the story behind the man, chicken or cow that made it.

It’s a new type of food education that’s experiential. It gives the people in the room the chance to hear something new, and test it in real time if it is something they want to believe and act on or not. There are no pamphlets in sight. No experts (other than the farmers) telling people what to do, what to buy, what to eat. And it’s damn fun! Look at us, we’re in a pub talking about the ins and outs of dairy production.

If this is getting you excited – check out how you can be part of a new approach to behaviour change by volunteering!

Image credit: Nikki To 

Alexandra Iljadica