This is somewhat of a confession. You see we’re in a bind.
Before we left Sydney to embark on this exciting and challenging adventure, we were clear about a few key matters:- we would definitely obtain organic certification; and we would sell to the Sydney market.
I must say that since then, our anecdotal evidence on the first issue of organic certification has us questioning the validity of that course of action, certainly in the immediate future. Sure we’ll always adhere to biodynamic and organic practices – that’s a given – but it seems the return on the time and effort required for certification has some other growers not taking up that opportunity. We’ll continue to grapple with the certification matter, and report on it in a later post.
Then there’s the subject of travel and transport to Sydney, our biggest market, and location of our families and many friends. It’s exactly 410 km (250 miles) to the centre of the city from our farm gate, a 4.5 hour drive that is continually being shortened time-wise as the Pacific Highway is upgraded. And it’s not the matter of the rising cost of fuel that is paramount in our concerns, although that will increasingly become a larger issue.
What the big stumbling point is the moral issue of food miles and localism.
Put simply, ‘food miles‘ is a measure of how far food travels
– from paddock to plate, or farm to fork – and is an indication of how
environmentally-friendly it is.
In March 2007, Time magazine ran a cover story Forget Organic. Eat Local.
We were in the midst of searching for a piece of land to commence our
dream on, so naturally it caught my attention. In the article, My Search For The Perfect Apple,
journalist John Cloud details his dilemma, stating that "Eating organic
has become a religion for some. But is it really worth it?" He followed
an apple from farm to table, and discovered the pleasures of buying
food from neighbours, and posed the questions "What’s the most
efficient way to grow food? How do our food choices affect the
environment? and What tastes better?" The article raises matters like
trucking food across the country giving consumers the choice of organic
produce with additional food miles versus locally grown non-organic
produce, and a myriad of other points including the validity of eating
strawberries all year round. In the end, John ends up visiting and
joining a ‘local’ CSA farm, 300 km from his apartment in Manhattan,
where Ted, the farmer, grows his produce following organic principles
but has not sought certification. The closing paragraph from John
Cloud’s article sums the matter up succinctly:
locally also seems safer.Ted’s neighbours and customers can see how he
farms. That transparency doesn’t exist with, say, spinach bagged by a
distant agribusiness. I help keep Ted in business, and he helps keep me
fed – and the elegance and sustainability of that exchange makes more
sense to me than gambling on faceless producers who stamp ORGANIC on a
package thousands of kilometres from my home. I’m not a purist about
these choices, but in general, I have decided that you are what you
The concept of of local food really took hold when two Canadians in Vancouver, Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon commenced their experiment, a 100 Mile Diet
on the first of spring in 2005. They declared that for the following
year they would only eat produce that came from within 100 miles of
their apartment – that’s every ingredient in every product. It proved
to be quite a challenge – to quote their book The 100 Mile Diet – A Year of Local Eating
would be a year without ice-cream. A year without salad dressing. A
year without all-purpose flour, soup mix, olives, olive oil. Without
tomato sauce, peanut butter, Philadelphia cream cheese, Tabasco, …"
has become a worldwide phenomenon, with a dedicated website, and
notoriety for Alisa and James. In Australia, local ABC reporter Kim Honan took on a similar challenge for the month of September 2007, causing publicity for many local producers and Farmers Markets.
You know the message is getting into the mainstream here in Australia when the likes of Sam de Brito post about it at his Sydney Morning Herald blog All Men Are Liars. Early in April this year, Sam raised the point in his post The New ‘ism "Consider then another ‘ism’ …that may well be the global trend of the future, ‘localism’".
contends "that globalism, though faceless, is largely about you: it is
set up to give you what you want, when you want it and cater to the
innumerable niche variations that exist in our population. Community,
on the other hand, is about other people – and though you’re not going
to be able to get black cherry lime Powerade from a locally-stocked
store or Prada or Ikea or Atlantic salmon – you do get a story – and
that is that your tasty fruit juice is made from oranges grown down the
road (or 50kms down the road) and bottled locally."
There are even new research studies
from a Ohio State University Professor of agricultural, environmental
and development economics that suggest that the average supermarket
shopper is willing to pay a premium price for locally produced foods,
and that shoppers at farmers markets are willing to pay almost twice as
much extra as retail grocery shoppers for the same locally produced
The dilemma we are grappling with here is "how local is local?"
How correct do we want to be?
What do you think about the matter of Food miles and Localism?
Does Eat Fresh Buy Local have meaning to you?
Or will you continue to purchase organic produce regardless of how far it has travelled?
Is food grown on a farm 400 km from you ‘local’?
We’d love to
see your comments on this issue – it’s important to us, and you’ll be
influencing what we do with this enterprise. So jump on in to the
Comment area below – the water’s fine.
(If you receive these posts by email, you need to go to the Biodynamic Treechange website and click on this story to leave a comment. And thanks for reading.)
photo credit sarahivy