The Real Dirt on CERES

CERES has provided inspiration, information, fresh healthy groceries and great coffee to the Melbourne community for more than 2 decades now. The organisation always been a great support to the MCCG, and we’d like to show our support for it by getting this response out and inviting you to pass it on – either by email, verbally or however you please. It’s important that we don’t let a poor piece of journalism critically damage this important Moreland institution.

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The Real Dirt on CERES

What’s the worst thing that can happen to an environment park that educates kids and grows food? A contamination scare that breaks in the city’s most trusted paper.  

Appearing on page three of The Sunday Age, March 5th edition, just the week before CERES Organic Farm was given the all clear by Moreland Council and the EPA, a feature article reported, “produce grown at CERES banned from sale”  because of lead contamination.  The timing of Steve Holland’s article could not have been worse or more mischievous.

If The Sunday Age had bothered to check their story, the real but far less newsworthy story would have revealed that Moreland Council and EPA testing had found five privately leased community garden plots with lead levels slightly over ANZFSC  limits and that produce from CERES Organic Farm had never been contaminated or banned from sale. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story they say. 

When I read the article, including a quote from CERES chairperson, Robert Larocca, which seemed to back up the story, my first thoughts were, “That’s not right and why would Robert confirm it?” 

And then I found out how some journalists work and it all became clear. At the time of the interview in January the final Moreland Council test results hadn’t come out but Steve Holland obtained a leaked version of the preliminary results. The document had the test results but not the locations of the tests. Wrongly assuming the results referred to the CERES Organic Farm instead of the community garden plots, Holland used the report to ask Robert Larocca what he would say to people who could have eaten contaminated CERES produce? Larocca’s reply was, “It is unfortunate it has happened and we are sorry for that. A very small number of people will have purchased that [contaminated food], including myself.” It was an honest answer to a hypothetical question but Holland used the quote make it seem like CERES had actually been selling contaminated produce without ever checking his story was correct. 

Two months passed before the article was finally published. It would have only taken a simple phone call to discover that Council and EPA test results had cleared produce sold at CERES and isolated the problem to five 4x4m community garden plots not accessible to the general public.  But no phone call was made, the story went to print and all hell broke loose. 

I’ve been feeling sick about this for the last fortnight. I used to trust The Age. I read it every day, but now I feel like CERES’ good name has been destroyed by sloppy journalism and a paper eager for a controversial story.  Two weeks later and it’s all old news; Moreland Council and the EPA  came out with their test results clearing CERES Organic Farm, new articles have been written with the facts but fear is a powerful motivator and people are turning away from CERES.  The damage has been done.

The outcome has been immediate for CERES; Fair Food orders are down, the Market is quiet. We are reducing what we buy from the 50 plus Victorian farmers and processors who depend on us for their income. Our packers and drivers are losing shifts and CERES will need to take money away from environmental education programs to cover the financial losses of Fair Food and Market. So much damage caused by a few careless words.

We can’t beat this alone.  CERES has always lived and died on the support of our community, so we’re asking you to tell your friends the real story, to share it through your networks.  We’re asking you to stand by our farmers and our packers & drivers by placing your Fair Food orders and by shopping at CERES Market.  We’re asking you to stand up for CERES.

Chris Ennis
CERES Fair Food and Organic Farm


Autumn Busy Bee – Sunday 4 March

Hello MCCG plotholders and friends,

Autumn is on the way (although you wouldn’t believe it with this heatwave!) and we have a seasonal busy bee coming up next Sunday 4 March.

This year we’re limiting the Busy Bees to only four a year, with some impromptu get-togethers thrown in – like the recent twilight gardening sessions during the week over summer. So if you haven’t been to a Busy Bee for a while, this will be a perfect opportunity to get your hands dirty and help knock off a few jobs around the garden while chatting to your fellow gardeners and neighbours about what you might do for your winter plantings.

As always, there will be something for everyone, and you’re welcome to pop in for a bit or stay on longer.

Tasks include:

*      Compost mixing
*      Mowing the verge
*      Whipper snipper boundary edges
*      Shed clear out
*      Levelling of tank area

Time is 9.30am until midday, bring a nibbly to share for morning tea if you’re so inclined.

See you down at the garden, corner Donald and Harrison Streets, Brunswick East.

Happy gardening,


Twilight Gardening Session – Thursday 12 January

Happy New Year MCCG-ers,

A few of us will be at the garden this Thursday 12 January 5-6pm to do a bit of weeding and tidying up on the northern verge. We’d love you to join us.

A reminder we all need to keep on top of weeds on the paths and around the fruit trees. If you could spend 10 minutes weeding and spreading mulch it’d make a big difference. Huge new piles of mulch are on the northern verge. Thanks to the elves who’ve been watering and tending to the communal beds and sensory garden. They’re looking great.

Finally, there’s a load of garden soil on the northern verge for plot holders who need to top up their plots. Its between the olive trees, under black plastic. Get in quick. It’s nearly all gone.




November Busy Bee & Christmas Catch-up BBQ

Hello Merri Gardeners and Friends,

As the weather is heating up, the Busy Bee activity is cooling down – we will have our last Busy Bee for the year next Sunday 27 November at the Merri Corner Community Garden, corner of Donald and Harrison Street, Brunswick East.

Between 10am – 12.30pm we’ll be tackling the following jobs – there’s something for everyone here:

– raking out Tuscan topping/gravel in the entrance area
– levelling soil and laying newspaper and mulch next to tank
– mulching paths
– hanging hooks for storage of tools in the shed
– turning and chopping up compost
– Snail Blitz (wear your best snail smashing shoes!)

All are welcome. Come down for an hour or so,  or a bit longer if you like – we don’t expect you to stay all day!

From 12.30pm – 2pm we’ll have an end of year BBQ to catch up and spread some early Christmas cheer and we’d love to see you there.  Snags and vegetarian options will be provided, please bring a plate of sweet treats or a salad to share.

And from 2pm – 4pm there’ll be an afternoon shift to finish off any remaining Busy Bee jobs.

See you down at the garden,


October Busy Bee – cancelled!

Hello MCCG Gardeners and Friends,

As we’ve been so productive at Busy Bees in recent months and there’s been lots of action on the raised beds and northern verge project we will take a rest in October from Busy Bee-ing.

Stay tuned for news of the November Busy Bee, which will be the last for this year. We will combine it with an end-of-year BBQ so we hope to see you there for some shovelling and snags.

Happy gardening,


Merri Corner Community Garden Inc, Annual General Meeting for 2010-2011

Date Saturday 22nd October 2011
Time  11am to 12.30pm approx.
Venue Merri Corner Community Garden, corner Harrison & Donald Streets, Brunswick East (if bad weather is predicted we will advise of an alliterative location via email in the week before)

Other activities on the day will include:

10am Planting of the raised beds sensory garden in the entry way more information will follow
12.30pm Post AGM BBQ and seedling swap gardeners are encouraged to bring along excess seedlings and swap them for plants with other gardeners to round out your summer crops.

The BBQ food will be supplied (sausages, veggie burgers and bread) however if gardeners would like to bring a plate of salad or something sweet to share that would be great.

Voting for the new committee will also take place on the day we are always looking for new blood, all positions up for election

  • President
  • Vice President
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • Public officer
  • plus 4 general committee positions

We also need a volunteer to take up the position of Garden Manager as well if anyone is interested.

The committee currently meets once a month and is the group that keeps the garden running, we would welcome job sharing for any of the office bearing positions.  If you want to speak to someone about nominating and what is involved please feel free to contact myself as the returning officer by emailing [email protected]. All committee members are expected to take on portfolio areas as part of the their involvement these include garden management, communications, construction & design, governance, membership and finance.

Otherwise a nomination form is included with the 2011 AGM papers please complete and return it to myself as the interim returning officer at [email protected]. You can also bring the form along on the day of the meeting if you are having troubles getting your nominations completed.

The other major part of the AGM meeting will be members approving the proposed Rules and Guidlines for the Garden.  These are attached.  When gardeners signed their plot holders sub lease forms you are asked to agree to abide by this document so it is important that members/ gardeners read and understand this document and any changes made to it.  If you have any questions relating to this please feel free to contact me to discuss it.

We look forward to seeing you at the meeting,

Eleisha Mullane
Merri Corner Community Garden Inc.


The next Merri Corner Community Garden BUSY BEE is this Saturday 24 September.  We’ll have two shifts this time, from 10.00am to 1.00pm then 2.30pm to 4.30pm.

There’s no rain expected and it will be cloudy and 18 degrees so we’ll have ideal conditions for Busy-Bee-ing!

It’s the second to last one for the year so we’re making a push to get compost moving, prepare communal beds and put some plants in the ground.

Here’s the wish list:

–       finish moving soil & compost into raised beds

–       distribute compost to plot holders and start a new load

–       weed and mulch the perimeter and paths

–       prepare communal beds near woodpile

–       transplant poppies & herbs into raised beds and rhubarb from plots into communal beds

If there’s time and enough people we might also cut the grass on eastern verge, and level and mulch the area next to the tank.

If you have a spare hour or so please join us.

Next year there’ll be less construction so we’ll hold busy bees only four times a year (phew!).

See you down the garden this Saturday in your best work gear,


MCCG August plot holders meeting – Sunday 28 August

Hi there Merri Corner Plot holders and Plotholders-in-waiting,

Mark your August calendar because the next Busy Bee will be converted into a plot holders meeting.


1. Welcome and introductions – get to know your neighbours

2. Getting organised – compost, fruit trees, shed, etc

3. What’s happening in the communal beds – sensory garden, other areas?

4. Plot holder fees

5. Water tank and update on construction

6. Celebrating our success

The meeting will be followed by morning tea, please bring a plate of food to share.

Stick this one onto the fridge door now:

MCCG Plot Holders Meeting
When: 10.30am – 12pm, Sunday 28th August
Where: North Brunswick Football Club, Allard Park, Donald Street, Brunswick East

The meeting will be followed by morning tea, please bring a plate of food to share.

And later on, we’ll have a short busy bee down at the garden from 12 noon to 1.00pm.

See you there!



Saturday 30 July – Busy Bee Reminder and Northern Verge Briefing

Next Saturday 30 July there’ll be a Busy Bee down at the Merri Corner Community Garden, corner of Donald and Harrison Streets, Brunswick East from  9.30 – 12.30pm.

We’ll commence preparation work on the northern verge project by laying newspaper and mulch, plus there will be a number of other small jobs around the garden to get stuck in to.  Please bring your old newspapers down to the garden and leave them just outside the shed area.

Annabel’s been busy making plans for a garden of olive and fruit trees on the northern verge and there will be a short presentation at 11am of the concept plan – so if you’re interested, do come along!

Thanks to all who’ve contributed ideas so far and to those who have helped with taming the black plastic over the past few months.  If you are interested in helping to maintain the garden on the northern verge please contact Annabel at [email protected]

Come down for a short stint, or for the whole Busy Bee – all are welcome!

See you next Saturday.


MCCG (Merri Corner Community Garden)