Mo and Noleen at the Fair Food warehouse, 2024
The friendship economy

Three or four times a year Mo Nabaie finishes up the Fair Food packing line on Saturday and heads up to Emmaline Farm in Buxton, Taungurung Country, to help farmer Noleen Glavish pick her produce ready for customers on Monday.

During the mid-2000’s Noleen’s thoroughly inner-city existence running a publishing company ended when her marriage collapsed. Amidst the turmoil she turned her hand to farming.

Nestled in the Cathedral Ranges, Emmaline Farm’s climate and soil was ideal for growing garlic, tomatoes, berries, stone fruit, citrus, apples and pears. It was also ideal for healing a bruised heart.

A chance meeting through a friend at the Fitzroy Urban Harvest produce swap led to Noleen supplying her growing surplus of fruit and veg to CERES.

When Noleen invited Mo to visit in 2021 he was blown away.  The setting was stunning; the towering ranges wrapped around the farm like an ampitheatre and the variety and quality of produce grown by one person had to be seen to be believed.

Not long after Mo’s first visit two pulmonary embolisms almost put an end to Noleen.

With crops needing to be harvested Mo drove out to Buxton each week to bring Noleen’s produce back to the Fair Food warehouse while she recovered.

This act of generosity sealed their friendship.

From the outside the ex-Clifton Hill book publisher and the Iranian asylum seeker turned production supervisor make for odd friends, but their shared love of fresh produce, the Cathedral Ranges and irrepressible work ethics has forged a bond.

Golden Nugget pumpkins grown by Noleen, Emmaline Farm

There’s a growing labour shortage in regional Australia and small farms like Noleen’s struggle to find and keep farm workers.

Before COVID regional job vacancies sat at around 40,000, just four years later they’ve more than doubled to over 90,000.

To get by small rural businesses rely on all kinds of non-traditional arrangements; a kind of friendship economy based on an understanding that social capital is just as critical to survival as financial capital.

The dividend on this sort of reciprocity is community and ultimately you have to say love. It’s the force that compels us to welcome strangers, to help out in a crisis and to simply want the best for one another.

This Autumn Noleen and Mo have been bringing Fair Food, among many other things, blueberries, Gold Nugget pumpkins, lemons, feijoas and kiwifruit.

Have a great week


Mo and Noleen at Emmaline Farm


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