Where does my food come from?Posted: December 24, 2009
A couple of years ago, I started giving serious thought to the question of where my food came from. Not where I bought it from – that was easy, the local supermarket – but where they bought it from. It kind of worried me that here in Australia (in NSW, anyway), we have a bit of a duopoly of supermarket chains, and that they were the biggest suppliers of fresh produce. Surely, that can’t be healthy for anyone – the producers or the customers anyway, I’m sure the big supermarket chains like it just fine.
After conducting some research, I was horrified to find out a) that a lot of our fresh produce comes from overseas, even though we have one of the best climates for growing a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and grains and b) that the supermarket chains had locked a lot of the farmers in to contracts where they got paid a minimum amount for their efforts. Not only that, but the produce in the supermarkets looked scarily identical and had a minimum amount of taste (hello, pesticides to the max, cold storage and horrible tomatoes). I decided then and there that I would find other options for our produce. I didn’t want to contribute to the duopoly of the supermarkets, and I didn’t want any more tasteless tomatoes.
I began shopping at a local organic produce market that came to our suburb once a week. The difference in quality and taste was amazing. I would organise to pick up a box of mixed fruit and veggies each week, and I loved the surprise of finding out what would be in there and then organising my meals around what we got.
I was, however, intrigued by the idea of eating local food – food that was grown within a short distance from where I lived. I was inspired in part by the 100 Mile Diet movement started by Alisa Smith and BJ McKinnon. They spent a year eating only food that was grown within 100miles of their home. At the beginning of this year, I began a new job and to get there, I drove through a semi-rural area. I had always known that this area was here, but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what was there before. I began paying attention and realised that 15 minutes from my house was an oasis of fresh, local vegetables and fruit. I had no idea that my local area produced such a diverse range of food! I was converted. It was local food for me from now on.
Each week on my way home I stop at the little farmgate stalls, have a chat to the people who grow my food and come home with the freshest and tastiest produce you can imagine. To give you an idea of the range of vegetables and fruit available, yesterday, my sister and I picked up between us tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, snow peas, green beans, corn, potatoes, beetroot, carrots, spinach, pumpkin, capsicums, onions, cucumbers, garlic, peaches, plums, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, bush honey and purely free range eggs (the chickens are scratching around the yard!). In winter time, citrus fruits (oranges, lemons and limes) abound, as do apples, persimmons, cabbage, broccoli, bok choy and plenty of other vegetables.
Our meals are now seasonally dependent and we love creating new dishes that show off the flavours of the produce. Once you have tasted home-made pasta sauce made from purely local ingredients, you will never have it from a jar again.
I like that we don’t rely on the supermarket chains to dictate to us what we buy, I like having a relationship with the people who grow my food and I like knowing that I’m not contributing to the excessive carbon production that huge numbers of food miles creates. But most of all, I like to know where my food comes from.