Inspiring Women: Alex Elliott-Howery from Cornersmith

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I first met Alex in person when I went to a pickling workshop at her Marrickville facility, up the road from the original Cornersmith Cafe. Her reputation as a woman of determination, innovation and plant loving spunk proceeded her, and even in Tasmania she was known as the go to girl of preservation and bringing back the fine art of minimising food waste.

I love Alex's story of how preserving and using seasonal food flowed from a thought, to an action to a movement, and has now touched the lives of thousands of people, who are empowered to feed themselves, grow their own food, and see surplus as bounty not bin fodder. It all started for Alex when she decided to spend a year making everything from scratch. As a resident of the inner west and new mum, she would wander the streets of Marrickville with her pram looking at the laden fruit trees in back yards, many planted by first generation European migrants, and watch as the fruit fell to the ground, unused.  

Action so often comes from the moment where opportunity meets inspiration. Wanting to use the produce and reduce the waste, she began knocking on doors, promising pickles and jams in return for the backyard bounty. The rest as they say is history, as the pickling and preserving became an obsession that soon filled the cafe she and her parter ran in Marrickville, and spilled into a sustainable venture of its own. Alex is a straight up pin up girl for the good hustle, as she embodies what makes a hustle and the hustler good: her work is driven by the desire for something bigger.

She wasn't gathering that produce for herself in a selfish motif, she was working to unite a community of people who became connected by their gardens and sharing in season nutritious food without waste. Anyone who has been to one of Alex's workshops can see her teaching of her craft is vocational, it is also honest, she shares the journey she is still on, and in doing so, ignites the fire in us to do that thing that might seem so impossible, but we just have to keep taking step after step and allowing it to unfold in its own perfect time. Alex wasn't attached to the outcome, so when the cafe expanded to a picklery, and then a training school, and then another cafe, and two recipe books she rolled with, and allowed what was to occur.

What I love the most about her approach is that she is always driven by educating generations about how to live more simply, more frugally, more kindly and by doing so, waking them up to the rhythms of their neighbourhood and life. Using the seasons as our guide keeps us in the present. Having food to give and share connects us in love and service, its pure bhakti yoga. Not wasting what we have reminds us what it is to have enough and that there is always another season, and another source of nourishment that will appear. I find Alex deeply inspiring, and cannot wait to see her new ventures emerge.

Polly McGee