Have you been following our Shop Local series so far? To celebrate the importance of shopping locally, we’ve profiled Bellingen-based Kombu Wholefoods and Bellingen-based Manna Wholefoods, finding out the stories behind both stores that proudly stock Boody.
This month, we’re excited to catch up with Beck Morley, Organic Grocery and Cafe Manager at CERES Community Environment Park, to learn more about the Brunswick-based eco haven. Once you discover what CERES is all about, it’ll be clear why Boody feels right at home there.
Tell us a bit about how CERES came to be and what it stands for.
CERES – Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies, is an award-winning, not-for-profit, sustainability centre located on 4.5 hectares on the Merri Creek in East Brunswick, Melbourne. Ceres is also the Roman Goddess of Agriculture which is fitting for our community of food growers and focus on regeneration.
CERES was established in 1982 through the efforts of many community groups, volunteers and labour market programs that transformed the site. They were concerned about the desolate and neglected land and creek and had a vision to return the land to a place of nature and beauty, inhabited by thriving wildlife and a vibrant community.
Talk to us about the environmental education programs, urban agriculture projects and green technology demonstrations the organisation runs.
Our education programs lie at the heart of what we do at CERES and have grown from humble beginnings into one of the largest suites of sustainability education offerings in Victoria. From primary school excursions and incursions to accredited vocational training to practical courses and workshops for adults to upskill, CERES Education provides an opportunity for everyone to connect with each other and the earth.
Our urban agriculture projects include half an acre of certified organic land known as Honey Lane Organic Farm, which contains a beautiful mix of fruit trees and raised garden beds, worm farms, a propagation area and an outdoor classroom. We plant organic seedlings propagated by our Propagation team, and the organic produce grown at our market gardens is harvested and available for purchase at the CERES Organic Grocery.
All of our produce is certified organic by NASAA, a leading Australian and international organic certifier. We also partner with the best trainers in Victoria to deliver our Permaculture Design Certificate, and Complete Urban Farmer course, as well as a range of training in practical, earth-based skills. We support a local bee group with a hive of 10,000 bees, and 200 gregarious hens, either called Hazel or Loulou, depending on the colour.
Our green technology demonstrations culminated recently in the launch of our Zero Emissions EcoHouse, which as the name suggests, has been retrofitted to become all electric with no dependency on fossil fuels. Gas was replaced with electricity to allow for solar-powered appliances to run, and the most energy-efficient appliances were installed to reduce energy demand.
A recent partnership with Swinburne University has introduced a new kind of tree to our site – one that dwells in a "smart urban forest". Various trees have been fitted with smart meters, which monitor ‘water use’ and ‘water stress’ on the trees, and provide real-time watering data.
This project "is transformational. Instead of trees dying at 80 years of age because they are spending their whole lives in water stress, they’ll live to be two or three or maybe even four hundred years old." We love knowing we are giving urban forests a helping hand.
In what ways does Boody make the perfect fit for the CERES Grocery?
I love the Boody range; the products are organic, ethically sourced and produced, affordable, durable and super comfortable. I can honestly say that I have solely worn Boody undies (Boyleg Briefs in Black) for the past five years, they are simply the comfiest underpants I have ever worn.
What are the bestsellers from your Boody range?
You're the Organic Grocery & Cafe Manager at CERES. How long have you been in the role and what does it entail?
I have been working at CERES for over 15 years now, which blows my mind a little. It is sincerely such a great place to work that staff tend to stay a long time. I became Assistant Manager seven years ago and Manager four years ago. My time at work is split between the working on the floor in the Grocery and working in the office.
My day could entail any mix of the following; making a salad or soup for our Grocery Cafe, sweeping and mopping, chicken wrangling, talking to reps, sampling new products and engaging with customers, amongst other things. There are 17 staff who work in the Grocery and Cafe. We all get along amazingly well and enjoy a chat, a dance and a laugh whilst we work.
Talk to us about the Organic Grocery. What sort of shopping experience can customers expect?
CERES Grocery is an indoor/outdoor shopping experience with a Cafe within the Grocery. We sell organic, local and fairtrade fresh produce and grocery items, as well as a large selection of bulk foods and bulk cleaning products. We encourage reuse, recycling and minimal packaging and offer recycled containers for customers to fill with bulk goods. Our cafe serves food cooked onsite and a range of pastries and goods from a number of local bakeries.
We do not use disposable coffee cups, but offer our customers a free coffee (or hot beverage of choice) when they buy a reusable coffee cup. The outdoor seating area overlooks Honey Lane, which is CERES' market garden, where some of the produce that we sell is grown. Our brood of chickens, The Hazels, reside to the right of the Grocery and provide us with eggs and hours of entertainment for children and adults alike.
We have local musicians play at the Grocery every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday mornings from 10:30-1pm (check our website for band listings) in exchange for free coffee and tea and a box of Organic Produce. On Saturday mornings, there is a Makers and Flea Market which hosts a variety of stalls from local makers and producers. Overall, it is a dynamic environment – there is always something happening.
We recently gave away a copy of the book The Urban Farmer – which CERES released with Justin Calverley in 2017 – to one lucky winner in our Christmas giveaway. Can you tell us a bit about the book?
The Urban Farmer is a fantastic go-to for any gardener that wants to increase productivity in their garden. Amongst many things, it covers growing herbs, veg, and fruit trees as well as pruning, organic pest and disease management and keeping chooks and bees. Written by long-time Melbourne local Justin Calverly, with CERES, it’s a reflection on his vast knowledge and many years of experience.
In what ways can we all be living a more eco-friendly life?
Minimise single-use plastic, Avoid, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and support Aussie farmers, producers and shops by buying local.
What are your plans for the near future as the Organic Grocery & Cafe Manager at CERES?
We are currently in discussions with a Landscape Architect to redesign the outdoor seating area, which is super exciting. I am always looking for ways to improve the space and make it a more enjoyable place to both shop and work, so there are definitely a few ideas that I'm hoping to see eventuate over the next few years.