Charlie Arnott chats to Rebecca Sullivan who grew up in a family with conventional attitude to food. A life changing incident at an Italian feast rocked her appreciation and reverence for food culture and tradition, setting her on a trajectory of championing the rights of farmers, rediscovering long forgotten food traditions and the creation of a co-culture indigenous food production business.
Rebecca Sullivan and her partner Damien Coulthard live on a small farm near Clare in South Australia near where she grew up. Their farm represents a project of regeneration. Rebecca grew up in a very conventional food culture. She travelled to London for 6 weeks after school and stayed for 10 years. She worked in sports journalism and PR in the UK. A significant turning point in her life was eating a traditional ‘live maggot’ Italian cheese called Casa Marzu in Italy, when she realised the importance of food culture and tradition to the strength of a community.
She became an activist for farmers almost immediately and worked on many food festivals and initiatives before realising her activism was too preachy. She worked with many legends of the emerging food world, such as Jamie Oliver Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Michael Pollan, Dan Barber and Alice Waters. Closer to home she has worked with Maggie Beer, Stephanie Alexander, Rodney Dunn & Séverine Demanet, Costa Georgiadis, Bruce Pascoe, Charlie Massy, Palisa Anderson.
She was inspired by her great grandmother who was an award winning baker in UK in the 1930s, and created Granny Skills when she returned to Australia and met Damien and felt fraudulent in her appreciation and understanding of really ‘traditional’ foods. In 2016 Rebecca and Damien founded Warndu, a ‘co-culture’ business growing, supporting and selling indigenous products. Plants are a great way to reset and engage in a relationship with indigenous culture. She is irate that government hasn’t been more proactive re bushfires and indigenous use of fire. A Climate Resilient Community Project and development of Warndu Co-operative are her next big projects.