A Walkley-award winning journalist with the ABC, Louise FitzRoy has gone back to her farming roots by establishing From Paddock to Plate. What began as a radio series and book has morphed into an educational program that is an integral part of more than 100 schools across Australia. Louise spoke to Vegetables Australia about this highly successful project, and what it aims to achieve.

Fast facts

Name: Louise FitzRoy
Location: Bunbury, WA
Works: From Paddock To Plate
Role: Founder and Director

Louise FitzRoy spent her early childhood mustering sheep with her father and taking charge of the vegetable garden and fruit orchard for her mother.

Years later, as an ABC reporter travelling around Australia, the passion that Louise held as a youngster inspired a food and farming series on ABC Rural radio in Bunbury, Western Australia.

“Local farmers in the ‘food bowl’ of Western Australia proudly showed me around their properties, educating and entertaining ABC listeners about local produce, where to source it and the ‘from paddock to plate’ journey of that fresh food,” Louise said.

“The response was overwhelming and this prompted the radio series to be published into a book that I called, From Paddock to Plate. The brand was born and there was no looking back.”

An evolving program

The book has since stemmed into the national From Paddock to Plate (FP2P) Schools Program, which is now an integral part of high school curriculums in more than 100 schools across Australia, with plans to extend this to every school curriculum in Australia.

“Food and farming education is essential for every student, no matter what subjects they elect to study. That’s why at FP2P we have developed a national online portal of resources that can be implemented into seven different subjects for Year 7 to 10 students,” Louise explained.

“We need to be able to demonstrate the breadth and depth of careers in the food and fibre value chain.”

The main objectives of the FP2P Schools Program are to:

  • Increase awareness and knowledge of where food comes from.
  • Encourage healthy eating.
  • Improve mental health and wellbeing.
  • Reduce food waste and food miles.
  • Provide social benefits and a sense of community.
  • Stimulate creative thinking in a variety of subjects.
  • Remove misconceptions that food education is only for food technology and agriculture classes.
  • Retain and attract youth in the agriculture sector.
  • Offer more agriculture education and career inspiration.
  • Inspire greater support for Australian farmers.

Louise is also trialling the Paddock to Plate app, which connects users with local farmers in their area to source local ingredients for nutritious homemade recipes.

“The demand for food is expected to double in the next 35 years. Therefore we need resources that will educate the next generation about the importance of food, food sustainability and food security so that we can continue to feed the world,” Louise said.

"People are hungry for good quality food and if it comes with safe, ethical and environmentally friendly farming practices, their hunger grows."

A natural progression

The challenges in establishing FP2P have been constant and varied for Louise, who felt it was her role to pass on the passion, excitement and knowledge of farmers who are feeding the nation.

These challenges range from creating strategies to stimulate people’s interest about where their food comes from, writing and filming educational materials that teachers can assimilate into their school curriculums with ease, and convincing farmers to get in front of the camera to promote their stories.

“The brand has grown quickly, indicating the demand that’s out there for this educational platform, and ensuring the ongoing sustainability of FP2P,” Louise explained.

“People are hungry for good quality food and if it comes with safe, ethical and environmentally friendly farming practices, their hunger grows. FP2P fills this knowledge gap, bridging the rural-city divide and giving people greater opportunities to make better food choices and improve their overall health and wellbeing. This has driven its success.”

Project highlights

Louise has spent the last 12 years learning from hundreds of farmers, teachers, students and consumers around Australia and she has worked tirelessly to incorporate all of these lessons into FP2P to create a one-stop shop for food and farming, health and nutrition, and environment and sustainability education.

“A major highlight has been witnessing the positive effect that FP2P has had on young people to help them make healthier eating decisions and discuss topics like food miles, sustainability and the environment with their parents, friends and family,” Louise said.

“The domino effect on society has been the most overwhelming and rewarding aspect of this entire FP2P journey and I beam with pride knowing that our Australian farmers have led the campaign to make this happen. FP2P would not exist without them and I am forever grateful.”

This profile first appeared in the leading magazine for the Australian potato industry, Vegetables Australia. If you’d like to subscribe to receive a new edition of Vegetables Australia in your mailbox every two months, use our online subscription form!

Photography credit: From Paddock to Plate