How to support your local food system in 5 easy steps

If you’ve been to a farmers market — especially our farmers market, but any farmers market — then you know first hand how great they can be. Sure, they have their drawbacks, like no strawberries in winter, but when you shop at a farmers market, you feel like you’re part of something.

Yep, something really down-home feel-good, that’s for sure… but what, exactly?

I believe that warm satisfying glow you feel as you hand your $2.50 over to the person who grew that bunch of herbs is the result of you knowing, consciously or unconsciously, that you just played your part in strengthening our local food system.

I just did what?

You just spent $2.50 on a bunch of herbs. That was an important act. You vote (I assume). That small purchase was the same thing. Spend $50 at a farmers market or spend $2.50… each spend is as important as the other. They’re both supporting our local food system.

Local food systems are vital, particularly in rural and regional areas, as they can be a significant employer, often form the bedrock upon which local economies are built and — pretty obviously — are essential when it comes to working out how the hell we’re going to feed ourselves when the oil runs out. OK, that might be a long way off, but how long do you think it takes to rebuild a local food system? 5 years? 20 years? Makes you think, right?

The Eurobodalla was once a very productive food region. There’s enough fertile land in this shire, but these days, not much of what it produces ends up on our plates. There’s quite a bit of beef around, but many butchers down here buy mostly carton meat (sectioned meat that is removed from the carcass and just needs to be portioned) from Sydney or Canberra, which seems a bit crazy when there’s an abattoir at Moruya… but the reasons why are another conversation.

Dairy was on the brink up until 18 months ago, due to the devastating impact of $1/lt milk. It was thrown a lifeline by a cooperative at the eleventh hour, so that local industry is now surviving (just), but it produces a tiny fraction of the volume it did in its heyday. Other than one or two notable exceptions, all the milk produced now either goes to Sydney for bottling or to Bega for making cheese. The local fishing industry is also a pale shadow of its former self, but given the complexity of the issues of sustainability surrounding fishing, I’m not going to venture into a discussion about whether that’s a good or a bad thing here. And there’s barely a smattering of vegie growers.

Whichever way you look at it, our local food system is… weak. Hey look, it’s better than it was even 5 years ago, make no mistake, but over 30,000 people live in this shire and our market is feeding a miniscule proportion of that. If ever there was a growth industry in the Eurobodalla, producing food is it. Pun intended.

Every economy based on consumption requires consumers or the whole thing collapses. That might sound blindingly obvious, but it’s worth stating because it is such a literal concept when it comes to local food. Without people buying the food that’s produced, growers are going to stop growing. The entire system depends on us. But hey… no pressure.

Still got that down-home feel-good glow?

I hope so, because I get really excited when I think about that. If we keep eating it, they’ll keep growing it! It’s simple! It’s empowering! It makes me feel incredibly fortunate to be part of this community, because there is an increasing number of people intently rebuilding a local food system for your and my benefit. The benefits are multiple, traversing the economic, social and environmental. It’s a big deal. And you thought it was just a $2.50 bunch of herbs.

Queen-Street-Growers-busy

So if the system is dependent on us, then the big question is, how can we support our local food system? As with our last post giving 5 reasons why you should shop at a farmers market, in this post, we’re going to lay out 5 easy steps for you here, then get further into the nitty gritty of what each step means in later posts. So, for now:

HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FOOD SYSTEM IN 5 EASY STEPS

  1. shop at the farmers market first, then shop at an independent grocer/butcher/baker, then shop at the supermarket
  2. shop regularly, at least weekly
  3. shop first, buy what’s on offer, then find a recipe for those ingredients
  4. ask for local food at your independent grocer/butcher/café/restaurant
  5. bring a friend to the market

Of course, as soon as my fingers tapped the last letter of that list on the keyboard, I started hearing the tsunami of reasons why Person A can’t do the first step, or Person B can’t do the third step… I get it. I really do. But the steps are easy. The only hard part is making the decision to make the changes necessary to take the steps. That decision is possible and I intend to explore that further as we keep this conversation going.

Which it is, by the way. A conversation, I mean. You’re welcome to leave a comment below, share this blog with your friends, show it to your Uncle Fred… talking about it is another great way to support your local food system.



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