Story telling from Australia
Most of us take it for granted that we can nip to the corner store or drive to the supermarket and do the weekly shop, normally in less time than it takes to watch the nightly news (unless you’re trying to park at Woolworths Balmain, in which case set the recorder and settle in for a long wait.)
But where does that food come from? If we’re lucky it comes from Australian farmers, most of whom live a long way from the nearest corner store; if we’re unlucky it comes from overseas. Recent reports about contaminated frozen berries reveal a staggering lack of quality control over the import of foods into Australia.
There was a time in England – where I grew up – when most people grew their own food. During the war, and in the years of rationing that followed, people dug up their front gardens and replaced the paving stones and roses with fruit and veg.
Some of that’s coming back. I’ve passed front gardens planted with tomatoes here in Balmain; there are tours of ‘edible streets’ in some Australian cities (there’s even a google map to show you the exact location); community gardens have sprung up and farmers’ markets are flourishing.
Of course, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of food we buy from supermarkets, where pork from China can be packaged in New Zealand and brazenly labelled ‘imported from New Zealand.’
I love a bargain as much as the next person – the legacy of parents who grew up in the war years and who knew the meaning of food shortages and who learnt to scrimp and save – but when I scour the shelves for cut-price joints of meat I rarely think about the farmers who live hundreds of kilometres from the nearest supermarket, and whose lives are governed by weather events entirely out of their control. At least I didn’t think about them until I embarked on my latest project – Australian Farming Families, due to be released in early May.
The point I want to make is that there are better ways of finding a bargain. The Conscious Farmer delivers grass fed beef that’s been raised on chemical free pastures, in two-person packs as small as 10kg, to pretty much anywhere in New South Wales.
I’ve just ordered an eighth of a cow with all the most popular cuts (don’t ask me what though, regular readers of this blog will know I’m a vegetarian so it all gets a bit hazy when it comes to the back end of a cow – or the front end for that matter. I rely on Clyde the Carnivore to spot the difference between a T-bone and a rump steak.) Our small chest freezer is plenty big enough to take all that pre-packaged meat and it will cost far less than it would from a supermarket. Most importantly, I know exactly where that meat came from.
There are plenty of other farmers throughout Australia who are willing to deliver locally, or further afield, and when it comes to berries right now I can buy a kilo of fresh blueberries for $20 at Orange Grove market. A kilo!
From now on I’m shopping at farmers’ markets and direct from suppliers whenever I can, and I’m doing my own little bit with a fig tree planted down the sunny side of the house, a plum tree at the front and lemon, lime and grapefruit at the back. (Typing that last sentence made me smile, I grew up at number 1 Sunnyside).
I’ve pledged to buy as much Australian produce as I can, direct from Australian farmers and growers.