MOUNT ZERO HERO | Felicity Jacob, Common Ground Project

April 11, 2024

Jump on Common Ground Project’s (CGP) website and the first thing you see are these powerful words of intent and vision: 

“A regenerative farm and social enterprise on a mission to connect and empower our community through food & farming."

It’s a statement that weaves through all aspects of the initiative, located at Freshwater Creek near Geelong. Common Ground Project is a regenerative farm, cafe and social enterprise from The Mulberry Group, one of Melbourne's leading hospitality groups.

The produce grown goes to the group’s restaurants in the city and is also served in the Common Ground Project Café, a rustic, welcoming space nestled by the veggie crops and chook shed. 

The menu is built upon what comes in from the farm; veggie galettes and frittatas change with the weather as well as sandwiches and eggs, served with farm produce, too. 

Not only is the café serving seasonal, fresh food to locals and visitors, but the farm is also a hub of educational programs – for refugee women and school students – offering skills training, community support and education around a sustainable and delicious future. 

“We have training and employment programs,” Felicity says, "we want to eliminate barriers to access to local food so we have classes for school kids, courses for migrants…we have a range of programs to access inclusion and empower those people.” 

This holistic and passionate focus on regenerative farming, community and education meant it was a pleasure to ask Felicity Jacob, the CEO of CGP to feature as this month’s Mount Zero Hero. 

Common Ground Project's CEO, Felicity Jacob.

Felicity oversees the farm and the café, working with a thoughtful, passionate team. 

“I started here at the end of 2021 as a farm hand, I had my hands in the soil from day one!” she smiles, “Connection is always at the core of our regenerative farm, producing nourishing gorgeous food for our community. Everyone who dines at the cafe is directly contributing to the whole organisation and project.” 

At Mount Zero, we love that we are contributing to this community, too. CGP uses our Frantoio Extra Virgin Olive Oil in all their salads, soups and some of their baked dishes. 

“The farm writes our menu,” says Felicity, “whatever is coming off the farm, say Roma tomatoes that become part of a bruschetta, the Frantoio EVOO adds that rich aroma and flavour to that and other dishes. We roast a lot of our veg with the olive oil, too.” 

The team uses our Australian Mixed Olives for the farm board, a seasonally changing selection of farm produce, local cheeses, and pickles the cafe makes in-house. 

Mount Zero olive oil in part of every main dish,” says Felicity, and what is it she likes best about the Frantoio?

“It’s quite bitter; it is aromatic and fruity but it has that wonderful bitterness that cuts through,” she says, “we might add a vinegar, mustard or honey to it for a dressing and that bitterness holds up and adds complexity.” 

The recipe that Felicity has chosen for us highlights all she has talked about, a tumble of seasonal veg, “We’re making this a lot at the moment; it’s our roasted pumpkin, carrot, beetroot and baby kale salad, with walnuts, goat’s cheese and coriander pesto dressing. It’s full of flavour and nutritious ingredients.” 

Common Ground Project's Autumn Farm Harvest Salad

The Fast Five

1. If you weren’t the CEO of CGP, what would you be doing?  

I’d be involved in outdoor education.

2. Last place you dined out?

A la Greque in Aireys Inlet, where we live. My husband and I got married there last year. We love it!

3. What's your favourite Victorian restaurant? 

Henry Sugar in North Carlton. We used to live in Carlton North and always recommend it to anyone who’s visiting Melbourne. 

4. Favourite season/s of the year for produce? 

Autumn for me, in general, and for produce. I do love the peak summer harvest that comes through in March, that late summer abundance coupled with root vegetables coming on. I just drink in Autumn. 

5. Do you have any special projects scheduled for this year or beyond? 

We have a few things coming up. We’re hoping to do a series of Winter popups with The Mulberry Group restaurants. 

We have more student placements happening this year and we’re looking forward to growing the Staying Grounded program that provides training and employment pathways in farming and hospitality for people facing disadvantage in the Geelong region.

By Hilary McNevin

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