Working for a greener south coast

LIVING SUSTAINABLY: Middleton’s Andrew Barker grows his own seedlings and produce to eat and share with others.
LIVING SUSTAINABLY: Middleton’s Andrew Barker grows his own seedlings and produce to eat and share with others.

Most young adults are too busy studying at university to find the time and motivation to care about becoming more sustainable. But for Andrew Barker, sustainability and working towards a more environmentally-friendly worldwide community are among themost important things.

The Middleton local is a past geothermal energy student, and while he is no longer studying at university, his interest in leaving the world in a better condition than he found it is paramount.

Andrew quit his PhD in geothermal activity, not because he didn't enjoy it, - "I loved studying it and I got so much out of it," - but because he realised the government's resistance to swapping Australia to a cleaner, cheaper renewable energy option.

"My project was not a loss however. I was studying formations in India for their geothermal properties, and during my three stints there, I got to meet people who lived in straw huts, with next to no possessions whatsoever," Andrew said.

"I met with people living completely under what we would classify as the 'poverty line', yet they had the joy, hospitality and sparkle in their eye that I've not ever seen in the middle or upper class of Australia."

After quitting university, Andrew moved to a 10-acre vegetable and fruit farm at Meadows where he helped with growing and gardening, and lived in a tent with friends. Despite already being a keen gardener, Andrew's love for plants and reaping the benefits of homegrown fruit and vegetables grew exponentially.

Andrew wanted to increase his farming skills, and became part of a phenomenon known as Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) work - he would work for six hours a day to earn his food and accommodation.

"I ‘Wwoofed’ around central Victoria to expand my farming skills, where I inadvertently stayed with Buddhists, meditation teachers, yoga instructors, many organic farmers and generally people wanting to nurture and heal the Earth, rather than plunder it," he said.

"I just sort of fell in love with growing and farming... It was fantastic; I'd probably go back and do it again."

Since moving back to the south coast, with a huge amount of seeds from the Meadows farm in tow, Andrew has been helping out at the Victor Harbor Natural Resource Centre, growing his fruit, veggies and herbs in the Goolwa Community Garden and trying to educate locals about organic farming and eating sustainably - something he is passionate about.

His aim is now to supply organic, GM-free food to people for free, through sharing locally-grown, organic produce amongst the community.

"We know that we're not being sustainable, and that says a lot," he said.

"It's almost like it's alternative to be sustainable, to eat organically.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the prevalent illnesses we now see today, along with the multitudes of medication and drugs prescribed like lollies, is due to our consumption of the toxins and poisons we see on the supermarket shelves.

"We vote every single day by what we spend our money on."

Andrew said the best way for people to become more sustainable in their everyday lives would include becoming more conscious of what they're doing, "especially with plastic".

He said people need to look at their items at the checkout, and reduce the amount of single-use plastic wrapped products they're buying, in particular.

"It's hard to do that, but there comes a time when we need to stop relying on others to do it," he said.

Using produce from local growers would reduce transport and emissions, and sharing fruit and vegetables grown in our own backyards with neighbours would, in turn, benefit the community and people's health, he said.

"I can see a time when people are growing and sharing locally," he said.

"I think growing our own food is a mini revolution in itself.

"There's really nothing stopping us from having a small amount of houses growing enough produce for the whole community."

Andrew also believes in educating children about the benefits of sustainability, and has been working with local schools to develop vegetable gardens and teach kids about growing and sharing their produce. He also has plans to do the same at Victor Harbor Scout Hall.

"It's a passion... it's turned into a bit of an obsession," he said.

"I do it because I love it."

If you'd like to get involved in a venture to get a group of local growers sharing their produce, and donating the surplus to local charities, schools and people in need, contact Andrew on 0404 281 635.