Diego Bonetto

"The Weedy One"

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I grew up on a dairy farm in northern Italy when it was still common practice to collect the wild produce of the land. Springtime was all about dandelions, nettle and lovertin (hop bush young shoots), summer was about mulberries and blackberries, autumn was the time of chestnuts, hazelnuts and a host of edible mushrooms.
I learned this ancient craft of gathering from the fields and woods while caring for resources in Piedmontese, my mother tongue. I am one of the last generation in my family to carry this language.


When I moved to Australia in the mid 90s I spent many years working in orchards and garden centres. I soon learned that my knowledge was a rare practice in modern societies and I sensed in the people around me a longing to rekindle their untapped connection to nature. Indigenous knowledge loss and a disproportionate mistrust for wild produce, gave way for a country of disconnected living. We no longer know the names of the plants living on our doorsteps; we distrust and dismiss some of the most important food and medicine plants that have always walked with us as our co-evolutionary species.

I then followed my passion for the arts and graduated with a Bachelors degree. As part of a performance art class where I had the opportunity to make films, contribute to festivals and present my own unique artworks, I found the platform to highlight the misuse and waste of these ‘weeds’ by land managers. I saw many of the plants I valued being wasted. The knowledge I had brought with me, began to emerge through these stories, returning botanical literacy and therefor reconnecting communities.

The dandelions, nettles, mulberries and edible mushrooms of my childhood are also here in this country, alongside some incredible native produce.

To tell the story of plants is my passion and by now I run public and private workshops every week. In 2017-18 I offered in excess of 150 workshops and events, talking personally with over 3000 people.

I collaborate extensively with chefs, herbalists, environmentalists and cultural workers promoting new understanding of what the environment has to offer. I love to enable conversations around belonging, sustainability and agency, while eating food. The old stories and flavours offering an alternative for people to re-engage with their neighbourhoods and ecologies.

As a contemporary artist some of my exhibitions and commissions have included Foodfight (a C3West commission in partnership with the MCA and Liverpool Council, Sydney, 2016); The Rocks Windmill (2013, workshops and public sculpture); Wild Stories (two years of workshops and a solo show, Casula Powerhouse Art Centre, 2012); and State of the Arts (group exhibition, Italian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2011). 

As a change maker I collaborate with a cluster of developers, web producers, foragers and horticulturalists to create Wild Food Map a community to identify public domain food and medicine plants living in the landscape. Following from that I am now working to create a market place for wild produce, Wildfood Store, connecting farmers and chefs while providing an avenue for up-cycling byproduct of agricultural practices: weeds.

There is more to the story, there always is. Come for a walk, listen to my story and share yours so that we can all rejoice in awe of the wonderful narratives of nature.

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Diego has been featured in a substantial amount of media including articles in Collective Hub, Marie Claire, GQ Australia, LonelyPlanet, SMH, ABC Radio and TV and SBS Radio and TV.

Recent clients include: City of Sydney, Randwick Council, Marrickville Council, Leichhardt Council, Innerwest Council, Liverpool Council, Blacktown Council, Western Sydney Parkland Trust, Sydney Foreshore Authority, Bundanon Trust, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

 
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Wild Food Foraging, Jess Klajman, 2SER Radio,
July 2018

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Sydney’s best tours, Claire Finneran, TimeOut Magazine
April 18

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Encounter Food Fight, Museum of Contemporary Art of Australia, Educational Resource
February 2018

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Where The Wild Things Are, Rachel Read, Ambrosia Magazine, September 2017

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Wild Food Mapping as Global Cultural Maintenance, Laura Fisher, Artlink Magazine, March 2017

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Eat Your Enemies, Ally Jackson, Gardening Australia Magazine, Feb 2017

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Land, Labour and Food, Laura Fisher, AXON Journal, November 2016

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For the Love of Weeds, Robin Powell, Your Garden Magazine, pgg 98-101, Winter 2016

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Diego the forager, Ed Halmagyi, Roughcut Magazine, pgg. 45-59, June 2016

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Interview with Diego Bonetto, Emma Bowen, The Slowpoke, 23 April 2015

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Boys, C. (2014, June 24). A Guide to Finding Food In Your Own Backyard. The Sydney Morning Herald – Good Food 

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Priest, G. (2014, March 26). RT PROFILER 2: The Arteffect. RealTime Arts – Special Features

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Han, E. (2013, October 26). Where the wild things are: tours stem from foraging revival. The Sydney Morning Herald – Good Food

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Gardening Australia - (13 October 2012): Costa Georgiadis meets a man with an unusual perspective on weed control. ABC TV

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Moy, E. (16 August 2011). Big Fag Press. Time Out Magazine Sydney - Around Town / Arts / Woolloomooloo

 

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‘Try it, it’s like chocolate’: embodied methods reveal food politics. 
Andrew Wilbur & Leah Gibbs,
Social & Cultural Geography
July 2018

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Wild food advocate Diego Bonetto leads western Sydney foraging workshop.
Chloe Ngo, Liverpool Leader
April 18

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Casula Commons,
Diego Bonetto Ian Milliss Lucas Ihlein, Runway Journal, Issue#35, December 2017

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Diego Bonetto: Sydneys extremster Sammler,  Georg Hoffelner, Rolling Pin Magazine, August 2017

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The Wild Bunch, American Way Magazine, March 2017

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Hungry for more, Collective Hub, March 2017

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Top guides who will take you on food tours to uncover Sydney’s hidden culinary treasures, Daily Telegraph, 30 November 2016

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Lost and Found, Sarah Norris, Virgin Australia Voyeur, pgg 122-129, June 2016

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Forager Diego Bonetto reaps the benefits of edible weeds, Georgina Safe, The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 July 2015

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Urban Forager: Diego Bonetto, Will Reid, The Feed, SBS2, 24 March 2015 

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Reid, G. (2014, Issue 4: Myth). Diego Bonetto: The Weedy One. The Plant Hunter – Conversations

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Pike, A. (2013, April 9). The Food Forager. Green Lifestyle Magazine

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Werner, J. (16 December 2011). Urban Foraging. ABC Radio National - Off Track

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Westbury, M. (2007, October 23). Not Quite Art (Season1) : Weedy Connection and Un-collectables. ABC TV - Not Quite Art

Testimonials

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“Bonetto’s work is a barometer of our times, exploring nature, fragility, sustainability and how we integrate ourselves in the natural environment. The work is particularly apt at this point of time with what is going on ecologically, economically and politically,” --  Selection Committee, 2008 Helen Lempriere Scholarship

"Diego... It was an absolute pleasure to spend the day in your world yesterday, eyes down and mind open to the possibilities, the stories and above all else the honesty and sharing of your wealth of information and experience. It is great to know that you are putting the perspective out there, challenging the status quo and helping inspire a new level of respect for plants, our medicine and our food. Walk far and wide, lead people onto the path and continue to gather more stories. You are a wild weed in a world that needs your minerals and resilience... Tap deep into the riches and reach high to the sunlight. Every story shared builds a vibrant inquisitive future. Thanks for what you do !!!" -- Costa Georgiadis, ABC - Gardening Australia

"Fantastic! Thanks Diego and Agnieszka. Was thrilled to go home and start identifying some of the plants we covered in the workshop. Definitely the beginning of a great journey for me. Look forward to future walks :)" -- Harriet

"Diego, I absolutely loved Sunday's Mushroom Trip :)  I was an avid wild-crafter back in my homeland, Michigan and have deeply missed that sense of connection since moving to Australia a few months ago.  Thank-you so much for introducing that simple magic into a new immigrant's life." -- Felecia

"We really enjoyed our visit to the Penrose and the Belanglo forests and learning about which mushrooms we could pick. I especially appreciated your generosity with your knowledge, and that you acknowledged the communal and cultural roots of the practice. We shared most of the mushrooms we picked with work colleagues; and we kept a little for ourselves and made them into a delicious ragout." -- Robyn

"I have made an observation about what I have learned from you. By introducing the dimension of the different tastes of the different plants into my experience I'm am relating to my environment in a totally different and much richer way.  When I walk into my backyard I no longer see different shaped green things, I am distinguishing between plants by look and taste. Thank you for giving me those eyes." -- Nigel

Thanks Diego. Loved yesterday’s talk. You do such a great job of communicating your knowledge in a fun way. -- Melanie

"There is magic and miracle woven into the stories of the land, water and air. Right where you are now.💫  When I moved to the UK several years ago, a foraging walk was one of the first things I did. It ignited a passion and thirst for knowing more of the wild. To become an explorer of both this world and the wild which lives inside of me. 
We had the joy of attending Diego's (aka @theweedyone) seaside foraging workshop last weekend. Half of my notes ended up being plant nerd facts and the other half were Diego's beautiful words about the importance of us taking responsibility as stewards of the land and more specifically, our own little patch and neighbourhood in which we live. 
To see "foraging as communion" and to start to learn what generations before us knew instinctively. That nature is a gift which provides us with incredible medicine and resources to thrive. He spoke about our yearning for a deeper connection to our environment through knowledge and understanding which leads to respect and care. For when we understand something, we then have the opportunity to deepen our relationship to it; whether that be with other humans, plants or animals. The youngest and cutest participant was the most curious of us all. He was about 2 years old. Nibbling on dandelion and searching rockpools. Reminding us that allowing children to explore and engage with the wild is the only way these precious ecosystems will survive. As we nibbled on some pigface and sea lettuce while walking back to the bus stop, I gave thanks for these 'plant people' who so generously share their knowledge and passion for the wild sacred earth upon which we live. The ones who remind us of the magic right beneath our feet. 🌎” -- Tee