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May 5, 2021
Habits

Introducing Top Soil: A food and wine festival celebrating sustainable farming

The Scenic Hotel will host a festival celebrating local and interstate sustainable growers, featuring food from some of Adelaide's best chefs, educational sessions run by farmers, all paired with low-intervention wines courtesy of Son of Dot.

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  • Words: Luke Teakle
  • Pictures: Johnny von Einem

Top Soil, an event run by wine distribution and events company Son of Dot, will see 25 biodynamic or organic farmers gather together to speak about their industry while punters enjoy their plated-up produce.

Remarks

Top Soil
Saturday, 15 March
The Scenic Hotel
Old Norton Summit Road, Norton Summit 5136
Tickets and more info

Son of Dot founder Jay Marinis says the food will be prepared by “prominent members of the chef community in South Australia”, though he is tight-lipped on the full kitchen lineup.

So far, Josh Dolman of Sunny’s Pizza, Justin Healy of Quality Noods, Dylan Marshall of the Scenic and Andrew Douglas of Bhreu have been announced, with more to come.

While there is a firm focus on food (and the growers thereof), there is also a wine element accompanying the edibles.

Son of Dot’s portfolio will be pouring, which consists of Commune of Buttons, Scintilla Wines, Limus Wine, Travis Tausend and Frankly This Wine Was Made By Bob.

There will also be some non-SoD inclusions, with “two really prominent biodynamic-exclusive growers and winemakers,” Alkina Wines and Gemtree Wines, also in attendance, Jay says.

The farmers Top Soil has assembled includes Nomad Farms, Ngeringa, Maggie’s Farm and NSW’s Boon Luck Farm, and each attending business will participate in discussions and workshops about their farming practices.

Some of Top Soil’s masterclasses will occur in “activated areas” around Norton Summit (short walks away from the Scenic Hotel), including Andrew Douglas teaching techniques to ferment old vegetables you might find languishing in the bottom of your fridge.

Jay has only recently taken over the Scenic Hotel, perched proudly on Norton Summit overlooking the winding valleys that descend toward the city.

While the building is undergoing renovations, its spacious surrounds will act as the staging ground for Top Soil, just like Son of Dot’s previous event, Ute Boot III, which saw local minimal-intervention wine producers showing off their wares through tastings and bottle sales.

 

Son of Dot has branched out from its wine-focussed Ute Boot series after Jay decided he wanted to expand on what he and his friends in the minimal-intervention winemaking community view as important social and cultural issues.

“Sophie Button [of Commune of Buttons] often said to me, ‘Let’s make events that wrap social change in popular culture, because it’s more digestible and you have the ability to change someone’s perspective without being preachy’,” says Jay.

“Our Ute Boots have been really successful, and it proved a concept for us that people are interested in things we believe in.”

Concepts of minimal impact, sustainable farming and food consumption, are, according to Jay, intrinsically linked to land custodianship, which is another topic Top Soil hopes to discuss.

“You can’t pull these two things (land custodianship and sustainable farming) apart. That’s why First Nations people and farmers will be at Top Soil; they’ve been doing it a lot longer than we have,” Jay says.

“My interpretation is that that connection with land, with country, that is what biodynamics is all about, it’s about putting more into the soil than you’re taking, about taking more opportunity for life rather than reducing it, monoculture doesn’t fit in this. There is an intrinsic link.

“Pretty much everyone we reached out to have been really interested; Papershell Farm and Ngeringa, for example, are wonderful places that are truly treating this idea of custodianship with veneration – they put more back into the soil than they take out and the larger environmental impact of what this means isn’t discussed as much as it should be.”

Remarks

Read CityMag‘s feature on biodynamic farming in the wine industry here.

Top Soil’s use of the Scenic Hotel as a community meeting point for the sake of education also ties into the event’s overarching notion of land custodianship.

“Jack Buckskin, a friend of mine, is a Kaurna man, a linguist, and also represents Aboriginal cultural interests. We talked about this land [around the Scenic Hotel] being a bit of a boundary between Peramangk and Kaurna land,” Jay says.

“This was hunting land, a communications space, a real meeting point, and so we’re trying to recreate that in our own way, and that [means] using this space in such a way to convey ideas that are really important.”

Farmers don’t mind a chat over a tipple

 

Jay knows not everyone is inclined to engage with ideas around farming practices and land management, and so wrapping these conversations up with good food and wine, like he has done with Ute Boot, is key.

“People vote with their wallet – anyone can buy a Ngeringa veggie box ‘cause it’s cool, but how do you take what this box represents into the world?” Jay says.

“Carrot farmers aren’t sexy, so we can’t have a carrot stall day like Ute Boot. We’ve got to wrap it in pop culture.

“That’s what we’re trying to do, and it seems to have worked. The response has been great from participants and it’s important because there are so many important topics out there that aren’t discussed, and there’s very little recourse for people in everyday life to engage in these topics.”

Such is Jay’s passion for conscious eating and sustainable farming, he’s willing to waive the entry fee for anyone who’s unable to afford a ticket but is thirsty for knowledge.

“If you’re seeking out information about these sorts of things, but you can’t afford to come on the day, please email me, there’ll be a spot on the door for you,” Jay says.

“How else can we spread info? Otherwise, we’re just talking to the same group of people.”

Top Soil is happening at the Scenic Hotel on Saturday, 15 May. For more information and to purchase a ticket, see the event page.

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