The importance of local food systems Part 2
"A Farmers’ Market is predominantly a fresh food market... that provides an environment for farmers and specialty food producers to sell farm-origin and associated value-added specialty foods..., and plant products, directly to customers.” Australian Farmers market Association
The Braidwood Farmers Market has been operating since November 2013 and is possibly if not the first, cold climate Farmer’s Market that began operating in the region. The SAGE markets in Moruya commenced in early 2013 but located on the coast it is not within our climate zone. The Southern Harvest Markets in Bungendore did not commence until 2015.
The Braidwood Farmers market has very basic rules with a primary focus on local food production. These include that, all produce should be sold by the principal producer; Re-sellers are not permitted; value added produce is to be... derived primarily from the vendors property or from within the geographic boundaries; and cooked/processed foods should... preferable utilise local produce and where possible, obtained from other stallholders. While many other markets across the region have become increasingly dominated by ready to eat food vendors with no connection to food that is grown in the region Braidwood Farmers Market has remained essentially a local food producers market.
Between these three vegetable produces Braidwood Farmers Market has an extensive range of seasonal produce, that ensures market goers can source all their weekly vegetable needs.
Another little known fact is that the Araluen valley, a unique pocket of temperate climate is located within our LGA. The Harrison’s farm is in the Araluen Valley and this ensures that Bradiwood Farmers Market always has a range of produce available well ahead of their cool climate colleagues. Harrisons also operate the last large peach orchard in the valley and for that matter the district.
Braidwood Farmers market is certainly fulfilling its role in the local food economy and provides an excellent opportunity for co-producers (consumers) not only to have a direct link and role in the agricultural process but to purchase an incredible range of truly local food.
The Braidwood Farmers Market is on this Saturday at the National Theater. It operates the first & third Saturday of the month from 8.30 to 12.30.
A Local food system “describes a method of food production and distribution that is geographically localized, rather than national and/or international...In general, local or regional food systems are associated with sustainable agriculture, while the global industrial food system is reliant upon industrial agriculture.”
“Is a collaborative network that integrates sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste management in order to enhance the environmental, economic, and social health of a particular area”
So why is this important?
It is clear that not is all well in our food and farming systems and often our food is causing harm rather than nourishment. We are eating a disproportionate amount of highly processed foods and we have lost any real connection to food production. Mostly we see food as coming from large supermarkets with our food choices being manipulated by advertising and big business. Farmers and the environment are bearing the cost of Coles and Woolies so called 'cheap food'
Let’s look at some basic facts about the current food production system based on industrial agriculture and global food empires. According to information from the FAO (United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation) Global food empires control 80% of world agriculture and promotes monoculture farming. Industrial agriculture is:
Local food systems and local food economies are about changing these appalling statistics
How can we help create this change?
We need to recognise that there is no such thing as cheap food. Up until the 1960’s a farmers received 90% of the $ value of the food produced; today the farmer gets 10%. This has to change. Another economic viewpoint is possible and necessary. It is time to reconsider our role as consumers. We need to go beyond the passive role of consuming and take an interest in those who produce our food; how they produce it; and the problems they face in doing so. In actively supporting food producers, we become part of the production process. The term co-producer was coined by Slow Food to highlight how collectively our consumer choices can bring great change to how food is cultivated, produced and distributed.
As co-producers we do have the power and ability to create change.
A co-producer relationship is one of mutual support and commitment between farmers “consumers” . When “consumers” obtain food from local farmers, they are directly supporting sustainable agriculture in their community as well as receiving the freshest available produce. This relationship between producers and consumers can underpin the kind of understanding that leads to long-term commitment and tolerance amongst consumers. It can also encourage consumers to consider their wider behaviour and practices, perhaps leading to more radical changes to production–consumption relationships. Through our food choices we can collectively influence how food is cultivated, produced and distributed, and as a result bring about great change.
Next week (part 2) I will look at the role Farmers Markets have in (re)developing, sustainable and local food systems.
Where have all the small farms gone, long time passing.
Where have all the small farms gone, long time ago.
Where have all the small farms gone,
Broad acre farming has them, every one.
When will we ever learn, when will we ever learn.
Lyrics by Bronwyn Richards with help from Peter Paul & Mary
It was not that long ago when most farming was mixed and small scale. All towns small or large had small mixed farms producing grains, fruit, vegetables, meat, milk and eggs in their locality. It is only over the course of one lifetime that we have seen large cities such as Melbourne and Sydney loose the market gardens on their outer ring.
How did this come about? An easy answer is to say that population growth in our big cities means that the land used previously for producing food has been needed for housing. Yes this is certainly true of big cities, but what about smaller rural towns, where population has decreased and so have the small mixed farms?
This did not happen by accident, the shift to broadacre (industrial) farming was a world wide agenda endorsed by the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in the late 1960’s known as the Green Revolution. This began primarily as a humanitarian initiative to end world hunger. In fact, Norman Borlaug known as the "Father of the Green Revolution", received the Nobel Prize in 1970 credited, with the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of farm management techniques, the distribution of of hybridised seeds, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. All leading to significant increase in agricultural production that saved over a billion people from starvation.
The industrialisation of farming that resulted from the Green Revolution has developed hand in hand with global food empires. One major example of this is Monsanto, a company that started as a chemical producer manufacturing DDT; Agent Orange and Glyphosate herbicides (Round Up); and is now the leader in genetically modified and hybridised crops; one of the major pesticide producers; and owns 26% of total world seed production.
It has also become clear in the 21st century that industrialised farming has failed to feed the world. The FAO estimates that the amount of food produced in the world could currently feed 12 billion people. (world population is estimated at 7 billion) Nonetheless, more than 1 billion are still suffering from hunger, whilst 1.5 billion adults are overweight. It also estimates that 40% of the total daily global production of food is wasted. 80% of the worlds soya bean production is used to make stockfeed primarily for intensive poultry and pig production for the 1st world. This is putting the Earth’s resources under increasing pressure and are symptoms of an unhealthy and unequal food production system.
Miguel Altieri, Professor of Agroecology at the University of California, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, summarises the major problems with industrial agriculture and global food empires:
They control 80% of world agriculture and promote monoculture farming. Industrial agriculture is:
(Terra Madre, 2016)
350 million small and peasant farmers are producing 50% of the worlds food. It is not about the quantity of land farmed but the key factor is productivity and energy efficiencies per hectare. Small farm inputs of 1 kilocalorie can produce between 15 to 30 kilocalories while the average energy of industrialised agriculture food production is 1 kilocalories to produce 1.5 kilocalories. (a kilocalorie is a measurement of the amount of energy in the foods you eat.)
We need to become conscious consumers and educate others to go beyond the passive role of consuming and take an interest in those who produce our food. In actively supporting local food producers, we become part of the production process. The term co-producer was coined by Slow Food to highlight how collectively our consumer choices can bring great change to how food is cultivated, produced and distributed.
We need more small farms and more farmers. Our food choices can make small scale food production a reality. So do go to your farmers markets and producer street stalls, introduce yourself, ask how the food is produced, and where it comes from, buy what you can. Support farmers who are creating clean, fair and local food on a small scale. Form a critical relationships with your local farmers because as co-producers this is how you can bring small farms back into our towns and cities and maybe take some steps toward making the world a better, more delicious and healthy place.
This is our small market stall in the courtyard of Provisions Deli & Grocery in Braidwood, NSW. Every Saturday morning we sell our vegetables and preserves and enjoy a chat with our friends and customers. We love exchanging recipes and introducing new and interesting vegetables each season.
Having a chat in the shade with vegetable and produce lovers, and dear friends Tim and Suzie.
Conventional wisdom says that small family farms are backward and unproductive. This is just not so. There is undeniable evidence that small farms are much more productive than large farms, if the total output is considered rather than the yield from a single crop.
Diversified farming systems, in which the small-scale farmer produces grains, fruits, vegetables, fodder, and animal products in the same field or garden, out-produce the yield per unit of single crops such as corn grown alone on large-scale farms. A large farm may produce more corn per hectare than a small mixed farm, however polyculture productivity in terms of harvestable products per unit area is higher than under a single crop with the same level of management. In the United States the smallest two-hectare farms produced $15,104 per hectare and netted about $2,902 per hectare. The largest farms, averaging 15,000 hectares, yielded $249 per hectare and netted about $52 per hectare. (Source:http://monthlyreview.org/2009/07/01/agroecology-small-farms-and-food-sovereignty/)
Polyculture has long been recognised as highly productive. Simple season extension practices and intensive polyculture were used by the market gardeners of Paris in the mid 19th century. Occupying 6% of the land within the city limits of Paris the maraîchers (market gardeners) produced enough food for the inhabitants of Paris (1.5million) as well as exporting to England. They averaged between four to eight harvest per year from the same piece of ground. The modern proponent of intensive market garden polyculture is Elliot Coleman.
Our small village farm in Braidwood is much much less than 1.5 acres (0.6 of a hectare). Yet from that small market garden we produce 2.0 tonne of produce annually. This does not include the meat and eggs we also grow. Small is definitely bountiful.
By managing fewer resources more intensively, small farmers are able to make more profit per unit of output, and thus, make more total profits—even if production of each commodity is less. In overall output, the diversified farm produces much more food.
Not only do small-to-medium-sized farms exhibit higher yields than conventional larger-scale farms, they do this with much lower negative impacts on the environment. Research shows that small farmers take better care of natural resources, including reducing soil erosion and conserving biodiversity. So in terms of converting inputs into outputs, society would be better off with small-scale farmers.
According to United Nations Food & Agricultural Organisation (FOA), small farm food production can feed the world. Every person that supports their local farmers market, their regional food producers and grows some food in their garden is changing the future of our world, one meal at a time.
The art of cooking and eating seasonally was showcased with an "Aperitivo" on Tuesday in the early evening at Wynlen House slow food farm, Braidwood. We invited local chefs and restaurateurs for drinks (Aperol spritzers of course), a garden tour and canapes made from our garden produce.
The idea was to help local chefs connect with local, seasonal food and understand what is growing now and what will be ready In the next few weeks as the Autumn season deepens into Winter. We also needed to understand how chefs work out menus and decide what vegetables to use so we can adjust planting and plant selection. Gathering such mutual understanding makes working together a real possibility.
We served garlic bread with three different garlic varieties - and yes, people could taste the difference between the varieties. We also served spanakopita with our greens of nettle, sorrel and silverbeet. We added kohlrabi slaw, parsnip puff, and skewered pumpkins (3 varieties) which went down well too.
Representatives from Slow Food Canberra (4C's), Caroline and Cindy came along to help which we really appreciated. They are real drivers of the slow food movement in our region and work endlessly towards creating an understanding among consumers (co-producers) and growers of clean, local and fair food.
Feedback has been terrific and we have already had produce orders from the chefs who attended. Couldn't have asked for a better result. The best part was spending time getting to know the people who serve us such great food all year around and sharing with them the joys of growing the best vegetables we can for them to serve to the local community.