By Victoria Stone-Meadows
FOOD glorious food was the overall theme of the latest Casey Cardinia Business Breakfast held at Cranbourne Racecourse on Wednesday 28 September.
Australian culinary legend Stephanie Alexander espoused the virtues of real food and the importance of engaging young people in every step of the food process.
Alexander was one of two speakers at the breakfast who spoke of the importance of engaging young people in the food and agriculture business.
Business representatives from across the Casey and Cardinia regions were treated to a presentation by Jan Vydra, managing director of the Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs that won the Casey Cardinia Business of the Year title.
Mr Vydra told of his experiences travelling overseas while researching different forms of agriculture and how his early childhood had formed the way he runs his business.
“I remember Mum asked my teachers in kinder why I wasn’t learning anything, and the teachers told her to just let me play, that’s how I act and motivate my staff in agriculture,” he said.
“We are trying to take strides in innovation and show farming can be a choice.
While Mr Vydra was travelling overseas as part of the Nuffield 2016 Scholar Program, he discovered the average age of farmers in many places around the world is 60+ years.
“Farmers are ageing, and it is a common problem,” he said.
“We can solve some of these problems with technology, but we need to engage young people in agriculture.”
Stephanie Alexander echoed Mr Vydra’s sentiments about engaging young people in food and spoke of the value she has seen in the kitchen garden project that has been adopted by schools across the nation.
What started as a pilot program at Collingwood College in 2001, the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation now helps 830 schools Australia wide.
“The kitchen garden is more than just a way to fight against obesity,” Ms Alexander said during her presentation.
“Rather than rally students to a cause, it convinces them to move away from junk food with a fun and engaging program.
“There is an important differentiation there, students work in teams, their confidence and self-esteem soars, and they gain a cultural understanding based on food.”